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Bright days for Summer
Publication Date : 10-10-2012
She does not speak English well but this did not stop Chinese actress Summer Qing from landing a part in time-travel epic Looper.
The 43-year-old stars alongside two generations of Hollywood actors - veteran action star Bruce Willis and up-and-coming leading man Joseph Gordon- Levitt.
Better known as Xu Qing to mainland Chinese movie fans, the Beijing-born actress plays the part of Willis' wife. And she credits director Rian Johnson with not putting any pressure on her during filming, allowing her to be "happy and relaxed".
"The director asked me to speak half in English, half in Mandarin, because he felt that in extremely emotional moments, I should speak in my mother tongue," says the actress, who is speaking in Mandarin and through an interpreter.
"Also, this is 30 years in the future, in a setting where China is the dominant power. Bruce was also supposed to speak to me in Mandarin at some points."
She adds that the nature of her small but pivotal role in the film allowed her to get by with minimal dialogue.
"My role is part of a love story with Bruce's character, which is a key part of the film. Many of the scenes were shot in a dreamy kind of way, with not much language involved. It's very romantic."
Her speaking scenes evidently ended up on the cutting room floor, as she does not have any lines in the movie.
Speaking to Life! from Beijing, she says she was "really moved" by Willis' performance.
"We are so used to seeing him on screen as a tough man who fights and kills people, but in our scenes, he's very tender and gentle."
She first came to prominence in 1990 as the female lead in acclaimed director Chen Kaige's Life On A String, which competed at the Cannes Film Festival. She also starred in Chen's Farewell, My Concubine (1993), and is a graduate of the prestigious Beijing Film Academy.
But it was her role as revered historical figure Soong Ching-ling in The Founding Of A Republic (2009), alongside Asian superstars Andy Lau and Jackie Chan, that brought her to Johnson's attention.
While agreeing that there are few big roles for Asian actresses in Hollywood, Qing says she waited for the right role to come along.
She says: "I had been offered roles in productions both before and after Looper, but I chose this film even though the character is not very colourful because she links the movie from start to end.
"I believe that there will be more opportunities for Asian actresses in future because Hollywood wants to work with them."
But while this is her first Hollywood role, she is no stranger to the industry. She voiced the part of Mulan in the Mandarin version of the 1998 animated film.
And she will continue looking for more opportunities to work in the West.
Asked if she will work with Chen again, she says: "I hope to work with many other directors. I don't like to repeat myself."
She adds that she is working hard on improving her English, as she mulls over two Hollywood scripts.
She says: "I hope to go back to school soon to improve my English, perhaps in Singapore."