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Chen Kaige: more environmentally conscious
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Having been slapped with a large and embarrassing fine for damaging the environment while filming his last picture, Chinese director Chen Kaige is taking no chances with his new movie -- a biopic of late Peking Opera master Mei Lanfang.

Last year, Chen was fined 90,000 yuan (US$11,250ollars) for littering and destroying vegetation while shooting his 42-million-dollar mythological epic The Promise at a scenic nature reserve in Shangri La, in southwest China's Yunnan Province.

Chen has already started shooting the Mei Lanfang movie in Beijing's Forbidden City, the imperial palace built in 1406 and a major tourist attraction in Beijing.

Chen was careful about the environmental issues this time, Friday's Shanghai Morning Post quoted a member of the film crew as saying. "A meeting was held before we started shooting in the palace. Smoking, littering, touching and damaging cultural relics are strictly forbidden," he said.

The Forbidden City has been off limits to film shooting for many years. The report said the green light to Chen's new movie was given after the palace's management office seriously reviewed the film company's application.

"The office believed that Chen's new movie will help showcase China's unique culture and artistic charm to an international audience," the report quoted sources with the office as saying.

The first Western film shot in the Forbidden City was 1987's The Last Emperor, which was directed by Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci and showed in China. It garnered a whopping nine Oscars in 1988.

Mei Lanfang was a revered figure in China, best known for his performance of female characters. Born in 1894, he was a pioneer in promoting Peking Opera abroad. He died in 1961.

Chen had picked mainland actress Zhang Ziyi and Hongkong actor Leon Lai to star in the movie.

Chen has previously shown interest in Peking Opera and Mei Lanfang on film. His Farewell My Concubine, about a tragic story between two Peking Opera stars, won the Golden Palm award at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival and two Oscar nominations in 1994. It was about a fictional Peking Opera master's life, in some ways similar to Mei Lanfang.

(Xinhua News Agency October 20, 2007)

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