Jiang Wen is a Chinese actress living in Japan. She is a graduate of the Beijing Film Academy. Remarkably, her first role came in the 2006 movie “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” directed by the great film director Zhang Yimou. It was a big chance for her and one that does not come around often. She would be acting alongside Japanese star Takakura Ken. She went to audition and was chosen out of over 20,000 applicants. She became the focus of the Chinese Media at the time and was only a second year college student.
It was an amazing start for an talented young artist but being thrust into the limelight had its disadvantages. When started dealing more with the entertainment industry she found she had a lot to learn and became nervous and introverted.
She moved to Japan and has lived there for 5 years. Sometimes people will ask her why she left China where she might have had more opportunities in her chosen field but she does not know how to answer. She just felt the need to go somewhere far away. She enjoys the feeling of living as a foreigner in Japan. No one knows her there.
She has joined a theatrical company and performs in plays and accepts an occasional film role. The roles are small parts but she enjoys them. Sometimes she confuses Japanese rules and manners but it does not seem to be a big problem.
When she is not acting she works as a model and enjoys painting.
She wants to continue acting but sometimes questions her decision and thinks that she may concentrate on her art.
“This is my story, a little negative perhaps,but I think that we should stand beautiful even if there is no high light.This is what I learned from life.”
Jiang, it is a pleasure to meet you. Can you tell us a little about yourself and where you grew up?Â When you were young did you always dream of becoming an actress?
I had a very strict education by my family and school when I was a child. Â After school, I had to learn classic ballet, drawing, foreign language… and be used to be compared with the other children, like “Look at ***, she is a good example for you”, orâ You should do it like ***”, orâ Very good, but can you do it better like *** did?” Â And so on.
As a result, I never felt I was good enough at any of my studies or talents but I became really good at being someone else.Â Actually, I didn’t like myself when I was a child. I thought when I become someone else, people will like me more. Â Become another person and acting as one who is expectedã¼I really loved it and I did it so good that I had forgotten my origin.
Acting was not a dream but a necessary skill in my life, because if I wasn’t someone else, I would be nothing.
You attended the Beijing Film Academy. What types of classes were you taking?
It was a full experience in Beijing Film Academy. For someone who loves film it’s just like heaven. I learned film history, Â film theory, scenario writing, acting…all the things I wanted to know about film. In school, I acted in several student movies, wrote 3 scenarios, directed one of them to a completed movie, and saw more than 2,000 films.
Tell us about the casting call you answered that ended up getting you the role in “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles”.
That was my second year inÂ Beijing Film Academy. A classmate who worked as the directors assistant for “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” asked me, “There is guide role in the film, they need to speak Japanese, would you be interested? ” I said “Yes”.
Then I went audition, for four times. Camera test, acting test, Japanese test, and at last I was brought to Zhang Yimou’s office. Before that, I didn’t know who the director is. It was like a mystery movie, I really enjoyed the audition. Â When Zhang Yimou told me that I was be chosen and asked me how I feel now, I told him my true thoughts. The great director smiled and said, âGood, just enjoy it.”
How did you feel when you had learned you had gotten the role?
In fact, there are two stages in how I learned about it. When I learned I had gotten the role, I just felt excited. Then, when I learned it is a Zhang Yimou film, I felt there would be a big change in my life. I worried about that change because I had known I was not mature enough to face the entertainment world.
The character you play is an interpreter. Did you already have strong Japanese language skills then?
Yes, I learned Japanese as a teenager.
What was the shooting like and what was it like to work with Zhang Yimou?
He is a super man in work, I never saw a man that could work so hard!
In fact, during the two months of shooting “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles”, after one day’s shooting, he always continued on editing the film all the night. I don’t know when he slept.
He is very strict when working, but usually he is unassuming. He liked to tell us some real stories which happened in his life. I think those stories are the inspiration for his films and I liked them very much.
I understand the press and media pressured you. It must have been very difficult for you to get so much attention so quickly.Â What prompted your move to Japan?
After I getting the role of “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles”, I became the focus of the Chinese media. I had to face the real entertainment world and the media world. There are so many hard facts and rules that I had never known. At that time I began to realize that I will never be a good actress if I only know how to act. To be an actress, I needed to be a mature person first. Not to act like someone else, I needed to be myself first.Â So I went to Japan, left my country and my family, and now live in a place where no one knows me, so I can concentrate Â and face myself once again.
Since you have moved to Japan you have appeared in many roles in film, television and on stage. Some of the films you have appeared in are, “Kidnap Anderson” - Directed by Wang Qi, “The Aroma Of Happiness” - Directed by Mituhiro Mihara and Â ”Henro” - Directed by Gao Xiongjie. Can you tell us a little about the roles you played in these films?
Yes, here is some of the still of the movies and stages I acted.
In “Kidnap Andersonâ, I acted in the role of a young wife who planned a kidnap affair to
kidnap herselfÂ to win back her husband’s heart because he was leaving her.
In “The Aroma of Happiness”, I acted as a secretary who worked in a Shaoxing wine factory. My role was a small part
but was a key role because I was the one to convey the hero’s message to the heroine.
“Henro” is a road movie. It was shot by documentary style and told the story of a Chinese woman who experienced the Japanese culture Â ”Henro” . She traveled around the 88 temples in Japanese Shikoku land, met a lot of people, faces nature and the soul, and mentally develops. It is very close to my own experience in Japan.
âParanoiaâ is a short movie which was made by myself. I acted as a paranoid woman who believes she can fly. It is a psycho suspense movie.
Stage play - âSay good-bye to Huckleberryâ, I acted as a publisher who falls in Â love with a writer of a fairy tale.
Stage play - âNight on the Moonâ, I acted the part of a young Japanese lady who was very rich and very arrogant.
You have also been seem in a number of television shows and on stage. As an actress which do you like more. Film, television or stage?
I like both film and stage. They are both amazing to me. Film uses a camera which can be moved and used close up, so actors can express very delicate emotions. Stage is acted in front of spectator, can’t progressing backward or NG, Â limited times of showing and every time there is a new experience, just like a real life.
A part of television show is too fast for me. I don’t like immediate communication very much something like TV talk show. I think as a means of communication, it is a too fast for thinking, expressing and understanding, it is apt to be perfunctory.
“Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” was made in 2005 but you met up again with Zhang Yimou in 2008 when you appeared in the NHK’s Â ”Zhang Yimou - Talk About Beijing Olympic” Talk Show. What was it like seeing him again?
At the time the Beijing Olympics had just finished. I went to Beijing with the Japanese television station NHK to have an interview with Zhang Yimou.
Even though he had just finished the Olympic opening, he had began to prepare to shoot a new film with his creative team. He looked tired but as always, was full of energy,Â unassuming and humerous. He looked happy to meet me again, and after asking me some questions about my life and work in Japan. He said, “You look more beautiful and mature, I’ m so glad to see you have grown up to a real actress. But if you looked like now, I wouldn’t have chosen you to act in Â ’Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles’, ha-ha.”
I’m so thankful for he gave me a chance not only to become a real actress, but also to become a mature person.
Now that you are in Japan how it has been to adjust culturally? What differences have you had to overcome?
I love Japan, I think Japan has a lot of great culture. The Japanese are very polite and modest. Living here, I think it is very easy for me because there are many different culture from China. But for work, even now, some of the culture confuses me. The problem I met is hierarchy. In Japanese society, there is a hierarchy culture what is based on age, school class, the time you join a company for example .The older ones, the one who enter a group earlier, have the superior positions and have authority. There are so many manners and rules in this system and I think it is easil to restrict creativity, heart and imagination, the most important things for an artist. But I also think I should “When in Rome do as the Romans do”, so now I know how to take the balance the problem I’m facing.
When choosing a role what do you do to decide what is right for you and how do you prepare?
First of all, I’m not a star so there’s not so many roles waiting for me to choose. If I can choose, I would choose a fresh scenario and a role in which rich space can be created.
For me, creatingÂ a role means making myself believe the character I play is real. I will imagine when and where she was born, her family, her friends, what does she like and dislike, her identity, faith, political view, philosophy about life, her work, what is she interested in, what kind of fashion does she like…everything I can imagine, then get myself into it, so I can think or take actions as the role requires. It’s just like a self-hypnotism. If there’s something about the role I don’t know well, I will research or have a real experience. Â For the role of “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles”, I went to Yunnan and worked with the local guide for one month.
Personally, what kinds of films do you like to watch? Have you seen anything you have enjoyed lately?
I watch many kinds of film, I think no matter what genre or country or times the film is made in, if it is made with sincerity, it will have the power to move people’s heart.
Lately I had a chance to watch a film which is called “3 women”, directed byÂ Robert Altman in 1977. The film is so impactfull, controllable, imaginative and realisitic. Like in the dream world or in a perfect cosmos, Â I only can say that it is an exquisite masterpiece, a genius work. I love genius!
What do you like to do when you are not working?
When I have free time, I like to work as a model and enjoy painting. The former help me finding the relation between the world and me. And the latter is a way that leads to my soul.
A work for the picture album âTo the bright futureâ
What are your hopes for the future?
I believed I must be an actress but now I’m not so sure. I used to feel empty except when I’m acting, but recently I begin to like my real life. In the future, besides acting,Â I think I can do some art work for a more global audience, like drawing, or like life itself.
Where can we go to find out more about you and your work?
Please check my homepage.Â candyjane.com