By Qiao Yi
Famous comic Ge You joined the cast and crew of Gasp Tuesday evening in Beijing to promote the premiere of the low-budget film in which he plays a very different role.
Lead actor Ge You in a scene from Gasp.
In the cross-cultural black comedy from first time director Zheng Zhong, Ge plays investor Li Qiang down on his luck. When frustrated American businessman Frank Dreibelbis tries to solve his mid-life crisis by finding someone to buy his bankruptcy-bound cheese factory, he comes to Beijing and meets Li who shows interest in purchasing his factory. Through his journey in the film, Li is forced to face his own problems: losses from his failed business and a dysfunctional family.
Gasp is a departure for Ge, who is known for playing lead comic roles in Spring Festival movies, especially those directed by Feng Xiaogang (usually the most profitable films of the Spring Festival season) such as 2009's If You Are the One, 2004's A World Without Thieves, Cell Phone from 2003 and Big Shot's Funeral from 2001.
With over 40 films under his belt and the winner of numerous Best Actor awards, Ge could be considered a superstar. However the veteran actor prefers to keep a low profile. “I do an actor's job and live an ordinary person's life. That's all,” he said.
“I am grateful for the applause and recognition from the audience over the past decades. But the complete work belongs to the director. I don't want people to go to the cinema just because my name is on the cast list,” the 52-year-old actor said humbly.
Apart from working with established directors such as Zhang Yimou in To Live in 1994, Chen Kaige in The Emporer's Shadow in 1996 and Feng Xiaogang, who has created several box-office hits since his 1997 Dream Factory, Ge also likes to cooperate with young directors such as Lu Xuechang in Cala, My Dog!
Already an established actor at the time, Ge worked with Feng Xiaogang on Dream Factory when Feng was unknown and he won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his role in Zhang Yimou's To Live made when Zhang was still emerging.
Gasp saw Ge work with young director Zheng Zhong after a promise he made to producer Liu Xiaodian 10 years ago when they met during the shooting of Feng's Be There or Be Square.
Unlike Ge's previous work in comedies, with much of the witty dialogue becoming popular, his role Li Qiang in Gasp is markedly different. “He is a serious guy who has many difficulties in his life. Thus, he is always depressed and helpless,” Ge explained.
Not only is Ge's role a more serious one, his typical style of appearing bald with a cap and speaking in a fast Beijing dialect mixed with poor English is noticeably absent. Gasp sees Ge don a wig for his character and speak in fluent English.
“The sister of the director taught me English and I repeated the words minutes before I began the scenes,” he said.
Hollywood actor John Savage co-stars alongside Ge as Frank. His previous films include The Deer Hunter and Hair. Gasp is the first Chinese film for Savage. Kerry Berry Brogan plays Frank's drug-taking daughter. Brogan has been described as the hottest foreign actress in China and has appeared in 42 movies and TV series since arriving in the country six years ago.
Savage and Brogan both said that despite Ge's lack of English, dialogue in the film went smoothly.
Ge's next role sees him team up with director Jiang Wen in Let the Bullets Fly. Once again he will take on a more serious role.
“Some audiences think of me as a comic. It's fine to be stereotyped but now they will see me play more serious, sad characters,” Ge said.
Gasp is slated for national release tomorrow.
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