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Huang Xiaoming: The Next Big Thing

Praised by veteran directors and a superstar legend, Chinese actor Huang Xiaoming is set to scale greater heights in his career. -TNP

Sat, Dec 29, 2012
The New Paper

You can't go wrong with choosing Huang Xiaoming as the leading man to represent the future of Chinese movies.

That's the praise heaped upon the 35-year-old Qingdao native by veteran film-makers and cinematic greats.

The graduate of China's prestigious Beijing Film Academy has won many industry seniors over with his charisma and acting chops.

Back in 2009, acclaimed Chinese director Feng Xiaogang even predicted that Huang would "be hot property for at least 10 years".

With two of Huang's major blockbusters - martial arts epic The Guillotines and action period drama The Last Tycoon - opening back to back in China last week, his name is on practically everyone's lips.

At a recent event in Hong Kong, The Guillotines' executive producer Peter Chan said unabashedly, albeit half-jokingly: "This is Xiaoming's era... I'm putting all my remaining money on him."

Echoing similar sentiments was Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun Fat, Huang's co-star in The Last Tycoon.

The gregarious 57-year-old thespian praised Huang effusively in front of reporters.

"I would say that his portrayal of Xu Wenqiang (iconic Shanghai mobster in drama The Bund) is actually better than mine. He gives the role more attitude and it is more grounded," said Chow.

Both actors have played Xu Wenqiang to rave reviews - Chow starred in the 1980 original TVB series, while Huang reprised the role in a 2006 Chinese TV remake.

Added Chow cheekily: "Xiaoming is such a pretty boy. If I'm a girl, I would definitely fall in love with him."

The pair share wonderful camaraderie as mentor and mentee.

Just two weeks ago at the Shanghai press conference for the film, the veteran actor pushed the wheelchair-bound Huang on stage in-between fast-flowing jokes and laughs.

The latter had fractured his leg while filming swordfighting flick The Bride With White Hair and had undergone an operation last month.

Due to his injury, he skipped the world premiere of The Last Tycoon in town earlier this month. It was attended by Chow, producer Andrew Lau, director Wong Jing and Chinese actress Yolanda Yuan.

In an e-mail interview with FiRST to promote The Guillotines, which opens in local theatres today, he said: "Haha, if Fat Gor (Cantonese for brother) really wants to date me, I'd readily accept it.

"He called me personally after the Singapore premiere (of The Last Tycoon) to tell me that the audience response was great and that he was personally very touched after watching the film.

"I've always seen him as my idol and to have him as my teacher now, I'm extremely happy and honoured... I don't think I can ask for anything more."

The Last Tycoon opens here on Jan 3.

Difficult task

But before that, fans of Huang can catch him on screen in The Guillotines, where he plays feisty anarchist Wolf.

Set in the Manchurian-ruled Qing Dynasty, Wolf is the prime antagonist of a secret assassination squad led by stoic leader Leng (Ethan Ruan).

Getting under Wolf's skin was "a difficult task", said Huang.

"Although I'm pretty familiar with the historical time frame, Wolf's character is a highly complicated one.

"He's a little crazy, a little over the edge and his emotions are like a roller coaster, yet he tends to repress them," he explained.

"Basically, it called for me to be suitably subdued. Many times, I had to use just my eyes to convey Wolf's feelings, which was tough.

"I read the script over and over again, practised a lot in front of the mirror, till I managed to feel the essence of Wolf inside my body."

Wolf's long-haired, unshaven appearance and part swordsman, part Zen master-like white robes helped ease Huang into his role.

"For some reason, once I slipped into Wolf's striking attire, I felt like a man on a mission," he said.

Filming the movie was fun for Huang, as the other cast members are his bosom buddies.

"Ethan (Ruan), Shawn (Yue) and myself are the Ming-Tian-Le Gang," said Huang, who used the last character of each actor's Chinese name to form their 'gang name'.

"We have a tight chemistry, plus we share the same star sign, Scorpio.

"When the three of us are not filming, we always hang out together to eat and drink."

Huang spent several years cutting his teeth in television productions before hitting the big screen with prominent film roles in The Banquet (2006), The Sniper (2008) and The Message (2009).

And now, he's THE A-lister to watch out for.

Does he intend to follow in the footsteps of fellow Chinese stars Zhang Ziyi (Memoirs of a Geisha), Li Bingbing (Resident Evil: Retribution) and Zhou Xun (Cloud Atlas), and head West for the bright lights of Hollywood?

Not at the moment, was Huang's firm reply.

"I want to build up a stronger base in China and do more films here... There are still many roles that I yearn to play but have not had the chance to," he said.

"I'd like to play a homosexual, I'm sure it'd be very challenging."

Huang, who is rumoured to have been in a romantic relationship with Hong Kong-based actress Angelababy since 2009, is also devoting part of his time to the running of his production company, Huang Xiaoming Production Studio.

In April, his company released its first movie, gritty actioner An Inaccurate Memoir, which Huang produced and starred in.

"As an actor, your responsibility is an individual one, to act your role well. But as a boss, you can't just think about yourself anymore. I have to consider the whole team, the style of my team, what makes us unique.

"When I'm a producer, I'm more mindful and I deliberate before making important decisions," he said.

" I want to build up a stronger base in China and do more films here... There are still many roles that I yearn to play but have not had the chance to." - Huang Xiaoming

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