Michelle Chen 'too fat' for Xiao Long Nu

TAIPEI - Attacked for being too fat to play otherworldly Xiao Long Nu in an adaptation of Return Of The Condor Heroes, actress Michelle Chen Yan-hsi is staying positive and says she believes "pigs can fly".

The casting of Chen as the idealised heroine of the wuxia novel caused an uproar last week, after Chinese television producer Yu Zheng confirmed it and posted on Weibo a photo of the Taiwanese star in character.

Chen was called the "fattest Xiao Long Nu in history" by netizens and compared unfavourably with Idy Chan, Carmen Lee and Liu Yifei, who played the role in other television series. It was a turnaround for Chen, 30, who rose to stardom as the sweet heroine of 2011 romance You Are The Apple Of My Eye and was then hailed as a goddess to Taiwanese geeks.

She took the criticism in her stride, however, and said on Weibo last Friday: "Don't forget to imagine, don't forget to dream, don't forget to believe in endless possibilities." She added in English that "I believe that pigs can fly", in a post she published with a picture of pigs with wings.

Yu said 66 actresses did a costume test and two of them, Chen and Angelababy, were deemed most suitable for the role. But Angelababy had no time for the show, he added. In defence of the casting, Chen's agent said to China Times: "Her face is the size of a hand, but it isn't long, so it looks rounder on screen."

The star plays a teacher and lover to wayward Yang Guo, who is portrayed by Chinese actor Chen Xiao. Singapore actor Christopher Lee, who played Yang in a previous MediaCorp version, has been cast in the new show as the eccentric Huang Yaoshi.

He, too, has a more ideal Xiao Long Nu in mind. He told China Times that his wife, actress Fann Wong, who played the character opposite him in the 1990s, is "of course" the most beautiful Xiao Long Nu.

"I've married her and taken her home with me," he quipped.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.