China actor Huang Xiaoming is too good-looking to play a country-bumpkin loser. That was Hong Kong director Peter Chan's initial reaction when casting for the drama American Dreams In China. Speaking over the telephone from Hong Kong, Chan, 50, says: "I did approach him for the film, but the role was not fixed. It was he who insisted on playing the role."
The director admits that he had his doubts when Huang plumped for the part of loser Cheng Dongqing, one of three friends who meet at university and later run an English language school together.
He says: "When you are good-looking, you have a different experience in life, so it's very hard for you to understand what life is like for a loser and Cheng Dongqing is a loser who is looked down upon by others."
He was moved by Huang's persistence though and suggested that he gave it a go. And the actor came through with flying colours.
Chan muses: "He must have had such experiences in life as well, otherwise, it would not have been possible to act that part."
Indeed, he adds that Huang, 35, had shared his experience of how, since his days as a student at Beijing Film Academy, "there've always been people who look down on him and think of him as unsophisticated even if they think that he is good-looking".
Chan once called his regular leading man Takeshi Kaneshiro "the most handsome and most non-threatening man" in an interview.
What about his three leads in American Dreams: Huang as straight arrow Cheng, Deng Chao, 34, who plays confident Meng Xiaojun, and Tong Dawei, 34, as ladies' man Wang Yang?