Actress Zhao Shuzhen, who has captivated audiences with her performance as the grandmother in "The Farewell," is essentially unknown to most American audiences. Go to her IMDB page and it looks as though writer-director Lulu Wang's real-life family drama is her only credit. But that couldn't be further from the truth. In her native China, the 75-year-old is not only a veteran of stage and screen, she's also a big star.
It was a pivotal role for the film and for Wang personally. "The Farewell" is based on the filmmaker's actual life, in which her family discovers that their beloved grandmother is terminally ill, decides to keep that fact from her and stages a wedding so they have an excuse to gather everyone together to say goodbye. The heart of the film, which is currently available on home video and has awards buzz behind it, is about the relationship between Wang's alter-ego Billi (Awkwafina) and her grandmother Nai Nai.
Shuzhen got her first awards season recognition on Thursday when the Film Independent Spirit Awards nominated her for an acting prize; "The Farewell" was also nominated for best feature.
Word of mouth led Wang to Shuzhen, who had never acted in an American production before. Diana Lin, who had already been cast to play Billi's mother, recommended her to the director.
"I worked with her before and she was a great person to work with. Zhao is a great friend as well," Lin said. "She was the first person I thought of! I used to call her Cat-y Auntie (like Kitty) because the way she smiles is warm and soft and sweet. Also, when I was a little girl, probably about 14, I watched her theater plays because we were in the same theater company in Harbin City."
Shuzhen fell into acting almost accidentally. At age 16, she accompanied a friend to the Harbin Grand Theater in northeast China and ended up auditioning for the drama school as well.
"I didn't intend on becoming an actress," she said through a translator on a recent afternoon in Los Angeles. "The chief examiner gave me a scenario to play with and I very quickly entered into the mindset of the character and he thought I did a good job. But it's not as though at the time I had a particular passion for acting or interest in the career. It just sort of happened."
Over the next 40 years, she'd appear in over 100 plays with the company. But it wasn't until China Central Television (CCTV) launched in 1978 that she'd even have the opportunity to start acting in front of a camera. After that, she started making appearances on various television shows and dramas. Then in 1993 everything changed when she was cast as the mother on a popular show set during China's Cultural Revolution.
"People started to recognize me in the street. I became very popular and very famous because the show was a big hit," she said. "That was the first time I'd experienced being mobbed by fans who wanted my autograph or to take pictures.
And she hasn't stopped working since, but that work never took her to Hollywood, nor did she even think about trying to make a go of it on her own. So when she received word that Wang wanted to speak to her about the role, she was a little hesitant at first. In fact, Wang was told that they wouldn't be able to even afford her.
"I called and begged her, basically, and cried," Wang said. "(I) said, 'This is based on my own grandmother and I really need somebody who is as compassionate as she is strong. And I feel that you have both of those qualities. That makes you sort of iconic.' To me, she feels like my grandmother, your grandmother. She feels like everybody's grandmother."
"I became very moved and I started crying and it was at that juncture where I said I'll do this," Shuzhen said. "I could really sense her love for her grandma."
As a grandmother to two grandsons from her two daughters, it wasn't a stretch.
"I'm always concerned with the well-being of my grandchildren, asking them "Are you cold? Are you warm? If you're going out, drive safely. Do you have boyfriend or girlfriend yet?" Shuzhen said, laughing.
In fact, it is this kind of selflessness that makes her suspect that Nai Nai didn't even realize she was ill.
"She's not concerned with her own well-being. She's only concerned with the well-being of her children and grandchildren," she said. "She never thinks about herself."
Shuzhen is only now realizing the kind of impact her "Farewell" performance has made stateside, making the rounds in Los Angeles attending awards season parties, screenings and doing media appearances.
"I'm so grateful and delighted by the attention from the media, from the audiences, people asking for autographs and pictures," she said. "I know we're supposedly campaigning for awards season — we have similar kinds of events and interviews in China — but this is LA and Hollywood. As an actor, you can't help but be excited and inspired by being here."
A rare near-mint condition copy of the first Marvel Comics comic book has sold at auction in Dallas for $1.26 million.
Heritage Auctions says the Marvel Comics No. 1 from 1939 sold Thursday. Heritage says the buyer wished to remain anonymous.
Ed Jaster, senior vice president at Heritage, calls it "a historic copy of a historic comic book." The issue features the first appearances of characters such as the Human Torch, Ka-Zar, Angel and the Sub-Mariner.
Heritage says the comic book was first purchased at a newsstand by a Uniontown, Pennsylvania, mail carrier who made a practice of buying the first issue of comic books and magazines. Jaster says that since then, the issue has only changed owners a handful of times.
In offering tribute to Toni Morrison, speakers from Oprah Winfrey to Fran Lebowitz on Thursday each shared a very different, but equally special portrait of the late Nobel laureate, who died in August at 88.
Angela Davis remembered a dear friend who as a Random House editor helped launch her writing career and would jot down notes for what became the classic "Song of Solomon" as she cooked eggs for her family. Lebowitz marveled at Morrison's seemingly photographic memory of the bad reviews she had received. Poet Kevin Young once went to the movies ("The Five Heartbeats") with her and otherwise proudly sat at her feet. Winfrey spoke of Morrison's majestic, sometimes intimidating presence, and of the complexity of her work, novels such as "Beloved" for which a single reading was not enough. She also acknowledged that her heroine, so down to earth on some occasions, was well aware that she really was Toni Morrison.
"She told me once, 'I've always known I was gallant,'" Winfrey confided to thousands gathered at sundown at Manhattan's historic Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where more than 30 years earlier Morrison had been among those saying goodbye to James Baldwin. "Who says that? Who even goes there?"
With its massive rose window and nave ceiling reaching more than 100 feet, the cathedral was suitably grand for an author who may well endure as the essential American literary voice of her time, one who universalized the stories of black Americans and raised American prose to poetic heights. Attendees were young and old, of diverse genders and races, members of the publishing world and longtime fans. They filled the front seats, and the back seats. Some sat quietly through the roughly 100-minute ceremony, others murmured, affirmed and cheered out loud.
Speakers stood in the cathedral's pulpit and hailed the spirit of Morrison. Jesmyn Ward, a two-time National Book Award winner, outlined the long history of how blacks had been robbed and usurped and called Morrison a kind of prophet who found a wandering people "in the desert of the self" and saved them, deeming them "worthy to be heard." Author Edwidge Danticat, fondly speaking of Morrison's smoking a cigarette at the Louvre in Paris, noted her identities as a mother, grandmother, sister, editor and teacher, and now, in her passing, an ancestor.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, not even born when Morrison published her debut novel "The Bluest Eyes," acknowledged his jealousy that some got to know her so well. Morrison's impact on him was through her printed words. He spoke of being startled by the landmark "Black Book," a scrapbook of black American life that his father kept in the family's bookstore in the 1970s. He praised the economy and poetry of her language, her sense of humor and the wisdom of what he called "grown folks literature."
Coates, 44, best known for his prize-winning meditation on race and police violence "Between the World and Me," called Morrison a challenge for other writers, the "queen of them all." One of her messages was, he said, "Black is beautiful, but it ain't always pretty."
Words on Thursday were interspersed with music, from the dreamlike saxophone solo of David Murray to singer-pianist Andy Bey's reflective take on "Someone to Watch Over Me." But the deepest music was in the words of Morrison, in a passage from "Song of Solomon" — selected by Winfrey — about the power and possibility of land.
"'You see?' the farm said to them. 'See? See what you can do? Never mind you can't tell one letter from another, never mind you born a slave, never mind you lose your name, never mind your daddy dead, never mind nothing. Here, this here, is what a man can do if he puts his mind to it and his back into it," Winfrey read, her voice rising into a fierce chant.
"Grab it! Grab this land! Take it, hold it, my brothers, make it, my brothers, shake it, squeeze it, turn it, twist it, beat it, kick it, kiss it, whip it, stomp it, dig it, plow it, seed it, reap it, rent it, buy it, sell it, own it, build it, multiply it, and pass it on — can you hear me? Pass it on!"
Although it is not a mega event like World Cup or any other regional tournament, the Board of Control for Cricket in India made every possible arrangement to make the match memorable.
There may have no formal opening or concluding ceremony, but there will have a musical show where legendary singer Runa Laila will mesmerize the audience her songs.
BCCI president Sourav Ganguly at a press conference in Kolkata on Wednesday revealed that the audience will have the opportunity to enjoy the melodious voice of one of the best-known singers in South Asia.
Indian music director, singer and composer Jeet Ganguly will also perform at the Eden Gardens, BCCI boss Ganguly told the media.
The first day of the Kolkata Test will start with Para-trooping by the Indian Army who will land at the match venue to hand over the balls to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee and the captains of both the teams, he said.
The first-ever pink-ball test of the subcontinent will take place in Kolkata on Friday between the two neighbouring countries.
Renowned Bangladeshi singer, musician and actor Tahsan Rahman Khan has announced joining as the latest member of Mostafa SarwarFarooki’s upcoming film “No Land's Man”.
Tahsan recently revealed a surprising new look of himself with a ‘Van Dyke’ styled moustache and beard, and revealed his character name ‘Masud’ for the film on his official Facebook page and Instagram account.
This is the second time Tahsan persuaded his passion for acting in films. The talented actor debuted in Mohammad Mostafa Kamal Raz‘s ‘Jodi Ekdin’, released in March 2019.
The eighth feature film of Mostafa Sarwar Farooki and second of his ‘identity series’ (first one is being ‘Saturday Afternoon’), the much anticipated “No Lands Man” has already created buzz for casting the star of critically-commercially successful movie ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ and Netflix’ series ‘Sacred Games’, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, earlier this year.
Alongside with Tahsan and NawazuddinS iddiqui, the debuting Australian actor Megan Mitchell is also a confirmed name for the lead roles.
Siddiqui will also produce the movie under the banner of his production house ‘Magic If Films’, alongside award-winning US producer Shrihari Sathe, director Mostafa SarwarFarooki, actor NusratImrose Tisha, Square Group Director Anjan Chowdhury and Bongo.
A long-awaited and critically acclaimed project for its vision, “No Land’s Man” won the Motion Picture Association of America and Asia Pacific Screen Awards’ Script Development fund in 2014 and also became part of the Asian Project Market at Busan, South Korea. The film was also chosen as the best project at India’s Film Bazaar, the same year.