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17-year-old Student Becomes Zhang Yimou's New Starlet
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Li Man, 17, has become the new "Mou Girl," actress selected by Zhang Yimou to appear in his new film, which began shooting on Wednesday, a sign that she has potential of becoming another Gong Li or Zhang Ziyi.


The film, whose title translates as The City of Golden Armor, is set in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and is based on the renowned Chinese modern playwright Cao Yu's classic drama Thunderstorm.



Li, 17, a student of the Central Academy of Drama, joined the cast including Gong Li, Hong Kong heart-throb Chow Yun-fat, mainland actor Liu Ye and Taiwanese pop singer Jay Chou, Xinhua News Agency was told by Zhang Weiping, the film's distributor on Thursday


He said her "personality shown in the screen test" answers for the decision made by Zhang Yimou and other related staff.


"She is our most satisfactory candidate in terms of both acting and age," he said, adding that she also has a good basic training of dance.


In her film debut, Li will play a girl aged from 15 to 17, the counterparts of Si Feng in the drama Thunderstorm.


Zhang Yimou is adept in boosting new actresses in his films, so his selection of the new actress, dubbed "Mou (Yimou) Girl," often triggers hot topics of the public and media.


World-famous Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi made their film debuts in Red Sorghum and The Road Home, both from Zhang Yimou, with Dong Jie and Jiang Min known by Chinese audiences after first appearing in his films, Happy Times and Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, respectively.


Li Man, a schoolmate of Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi, is expected to meet reporters soon, Zhang Weiping said.


Zhang's US$45 million new film will become the most expensive film in China, surpassing the US$42.5 million The Promise, directed by Chen Kaige.


The film will be shot in Beijing, Southwest China's Sichuan Province and East China's Zhejiang Province and will be released at the end of this year, Zhang Weiping said, adding that his goal is to beat the American box office takings of Hero in 2004.


"The story of Thunderstorm and the setting of the Tang Dynasty epitomize the classic elements of ancient and modern Chinese culture, which easily attracts a Chinese and non-Chinese audience," he added.


(Xinhua News Agency February 23, 2006)

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