Interview Liu Ye

Just after the shooting of Painting Spirit in France, we managed to ask some questions to Liu Ye in the car driving him to the airport where he was going to take a plane back to China.

Alain : We don't have a lot of information about your background. You are born in Jinglin, right?

Liu Ye : Yes, I'm born in the region of Jinglin. My parents were working at the national Century studio, and I grew up there. When I was 18, I succeeded in entering the Central Theatre Institute of Beijing.

Alain : About this theatre school in Beijing, there must be a difference between Chinese and Hong Kongese actors. What are the methods to learn acting in China ?

Liu Ye : This is a very thorough training, which lasts 4 years. The first year deals with personnality developement of each student, and the second year focuses on observing the everyday life of people in China. During the third year, we work on adaptations of novels, famous books, and during the last year, we prepare an end-of-study project, which is a play. In Hong-Kong, that's the contrary: you learn on the job, not in school.

Alain : After your degree, was it easy to find a manager to connect you with the people from the movie industry ?

Liu Ye : It's the same for all actors in every country: there are a lot of poor actors, who are always trying to find an agent. It's always possible to catch their interest, with our experiences, our skills, so with the time we can proove our ability.

Alain : Before accepting Lan Yan, were you afraid that this gay character could make you blacklisted in the movie industry ?

Liu Ye : My work and my place as an actor in a team don't let me think too much about what people will say about me. Especially as it would disturb me in my work, I must concentrate on what I'm doing as an actor.

Astec : Was it difficult for you to appear in nude scenes, especially in an homosexual context?

Liu Ye : Nudity and sexuality are still taboo topics in China. So that was a problem for me, and my parents were disagreeing about it.

Astec : Do you think you had reach a new level as an actor thanks to this movie ?

Liu Ye : That's just a stage in my career. Now this project is over, and I try to find new projects offering different characters in order to try new things each time.

Liu Ye during the shooting of Floating Landscapes

Alain : After the international success of Lan Yu in festivals, did you receive a lot of offers from foreigner producers or directors?

Liu Ye : Until now, I receive quite a lot of offers, but they come mainly from asian people, like for Pupler Butterfly, even if the movie has international ambitions. But for the moment, I didn't receive any interesting offers from western people.
Alain : About The Little Chinese Seamstress, the main topic is the cultural revolution. As you didn't experience this period, did you talk about it with your parents ? Also, is there any will to revolt against the governement among the young chinese people ?
Liu Ye : My parents were sent to the countryside for rehabilitation, so they told me their story several times, but only vaguely, we never really talked about it in details. About the revolt feeling, yes it still exists among chinese teenagers because they have their own conceptions, but with the time, they become more reasonable.
Alain : Do you have the feeling that there is a new generations of actors and actresses in China, with Zhang Ziyi, Zhou Xun, Vicky Zhao Wei and yourself ?
Liu Ye : I don't know if we can talk about a new wave, but I hope that this trend will last.

Alain : With China and Hong Kong getting closer now, aren't you afraid that the arrival of the "idol phenomenon" in Mainland China creates a competition with professionnal actors ?

Liu Ye : There were already conflitcs before the handover, but the best solution would be to work together, we shouldn't try to exclude each other, but make good use of each other's skills.

Alain : During the shooting of Floating Landscape, was the collaboration with Hong Kongese people easy, as you don't always speak the same language ?

Liu Ye : That was a difficult experience, because in the crew, everybody was speaking in cantonese, I was the only one speaking mandarin. Sometimes with Carol Lai, I was trying to understand, guess what she wanted. It led to some misunderstandings during the shooting, as my acting was different from what she was expecting, so we had some NG shots.
Alain : what does Floating Landscape conjure up for you?
Liu Ye : That's a story about bereavement, but above all about hope, confidence, that's a simple but powerful story.
Alain : Do you have new projects?
Liu Ye : I should soon begin to play for a director who was in charge of cinematography on Zhang Yimou's movies. I will play with Hsu Qi (editor's note : this movie is Beauty Grass). I have just finished a movie with Zhang Ziyi, whose title is Jasmines Bloom.

All our thanks to Carol Lai, Liu Ye, the translator, Matthieu and the french crew of Painting Spirit

  • July 2003