Zhang Ziyi, born in Beijing in 1979, is an actress who has worked with the best directors, both in her native China and in America. She said she would have become a kindergarten teacher if she hadn't got into acting. She has starred in many movies that have been worldwide hits and has won a string of awards.
When Zhang was 11, her parents sent her to the Beijing Dance Academy. They wanted their only child to be a star. She had a rough time there and on one occasion she ran away. She remembers the other girls being overly competitive and talking behind each other’s backs. She graduated and joined the prestigious Central Academy of Drama, China’s top acting college.
Zhang soon received many movie role offers. She got her first role in 1999 when she was 19, in ‘The Road Home’. A year later she rose to fame as the character Jen in Ang Lee’s ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’. She won international awards for best supporting actress. In 2001, she appeared in Rush Hour 2, even though she couldn’t speak English.
Zhang’s next international hit was as Sayuri in ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. She received many nominations for best actress awards. She had also learnt English, helped by listening to Eminem songs. She said it was only later that she understood “how rude” the lyrics were. In 2006, Zhang became the youngest jury member to sit at the Cannes Film Festival.