Winner by unanimous decision

By Xu Fan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-03-15 08:04
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A scene from the film YOLO shows director-actress Jia Ling's character training with her romantic interest, a boxing coach portrayed by Lei Jiayin. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Box-office hit YOLO beats its competition to the punch, becoming the year's highest-grossing film so far, Xu Fan reports.

In the summer of 2021, action choreographer Wang Cheng received a call from Jia Ling, one of the most successful female filmmakers in China, offering him the opportunity to join the team for her new movie, YOLO.

During their first meeting, Jia revealed her seemingly incredible plan. To portray the protagonist — a woman named Du Leying, who rediscovers her self-esteem after a boxing competition — Jia intentionally gained weight and then spent over 10 months shedding 50 kilograms.

Wang was a student at a sports school before working for more than a decade as an action choreographer for the domestic film industry. He tells China Daily that he has become accustomed to seeing people endure physical difficulties and engage in extensive exercise to shape their bodies.

"However, it's still very challenging for me to imagine that Jia — who also needed to be heavily involved in her directorial and acting roles — could achieve this goal in just 10 months. I know it must have been a very tough and difficult time," says Wang.

For almost a year, Jia disappeared from the public eye, making YOLO — an anagram of the phrase "you only live once" — one of the most highly anticipated blockbusters when it made its Spring Festival debut on Feb 10.

Thanks to headlines about Jia's herculean effort and the down-to-earth tale resonating with many theatergoers, the 129-minute film has earned over 3.4 billion yuan ($472.3 million), soaring to the title of highest-grossing blockbuster of the year so far.

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