First John Malkovich, then Colin Firth, now Jang Dong-gun.
In the West, the big star in the Mandarin-language version of Dangerous Liaisons is surely the luminescent Zhang Ziyi, known to movie fans for playing the title role in Memoirs of a Geisha and one of the leads in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
But at the film’s TIFF press conference on Monday, Chinese-language news media mainly wanted to hear from Jang Dong-gun, the Korean heartthrob who is hugely popular in China. He plays the lady killer Valmont, or Xie Yifan as he is renamed in the most recent adaptation of the 18th-century French novel (this time it’s set in 1930s Shanghai).
Is Jang not accepting more comic roles now that he’s married? How is his Mandarin coming along? How was the chemistry with co-star Zhang since they don’t share a common language? And, to much twittering, if he had to chose between his two beautiful Chinese co-stars – Zhang, who plays the upright Madame de Tourvel and Cecilia Cheung, who plays the scheming Marquise de Merteuil – which one would he pick? Not surprisingly, Jang dodged that one, saying through a Korean translator that he had worked with Cheung since she was young and so considered her something of a kid sister while he looked up to Zhang as a mature talent.
The role of the libertine Valmont is something of a departure for Jang, who has a nice-guy image in Korea and China, but he got a huge laugh when asked about his favourite line from Dangerous Liaisons. The translator explained that, roughly translated, it meant “Any woman, I can conquer her.”