BEIJING, May 24 -- Hong Kong superstar
Cecilia Cheung politely declined a glass of rose wine and ignored the plate of
gnocchi, asparagus and mushrooms placed in front of her.
Perhaps the svelte 25-year-old felt that it would be "unglam" to tuck into
the French cuisine while speaking to Today about her latest movie, Chen Kaige's
In the epic period fantasy, Cheung plays a beautiful princess who is the
object of affection and political intrigue for a duke, a general, and a slave -
played by, respectively, Cecilia's ex-boyfriend Nicholas Tse, Hiroyuki Sanada
and South Korean heartthrob Jang Dong-Gun.
In Cannes to promote the film, to be completed in September, Cheung talked
about how much she enjoyed working with the leading men of the film and her
admiration for the man in charge: Straight-talking, no-nonsense Chinese director
"He's been in the United States so long, he seems more like a (Westerner),"
said Cheung. "He's really funny and open, not like Hong Kong directors. If he
doesn't like anything, he'll just spit it out.
"I don't have to guess what he's thinking."
One incident during the shoot opened Cheung's eyes to the level of
professionalism Chen demanded from his cast and crew.
On a day when only her feet, running, had to be filmed, Cheung had to wake
up at 5am, put on full makeup and go out in the freezing cold to "act".
"There was no chance to use doubles," she recalled. "I couldn't rest for a
During the gruelling six-month shoot in China, Cheung worked so hard that
she fell ill. A kidney infection knocked her out for 10 days and required
hospitalisation, but Cheung sounded rueful about having to delay the shoot.
She was less forthcoming, though, on talking about having to work with Tse.
She said tersely that they were still friends and also professionals, and that
she didn't want the media to focus their attention on them.
It would be "a waste of the others' efforts" if the press preferred to
write "that same old story" instead of concentrating on the result of the
production team's hard work, she said.
Asked which of the three leading men she felt the most sparks with, Cheung
girlishly admitted that she "feared" looking into the rugged 33-year-old Jang's
eyes - in case she fell for him. Indeed, the South Korean actor seemed to be
considerate to Cheung's needs at this press event, keeping his sunglasses on
"He's killing all the women," she joked. "I won't look into his eyes so
closely, otherwise I can't help myself. He has a wild face, but he's also really
gentle in his heart."
In order to fully immerse herself into the role of a stunning princess, as
opposed to a coquettish schoolgirl, Cheung leaned on the advice and support of
"I had to feel like a princess. He made me feel comfortable and relaxed,"
she said. "He gave me confidence. He told me I was the most beautiful woman in
Being in Cannes, where "nobody knows me", also helped put Cheung at ease.
Accompanied by her mum, the actress said she was looking forward to going
shopping incognito, free from the customary hounding she gets from tabloids in
Back home, of course, she is a media darling - but she doesn't yet consider
herself a bona fide star.
Asked whom she really considered big stars, she named Julia Roberts,
Brigitte Lin Ching-hsia and Maggie Cheung.
"They really have the face, the beauty, the character and attitude," said
the award-winning actress and singer.
So, does Cecilia have that complete package? This reporter gave her the
Her hair had a pink-ish hue about it. She wore a pink bra-top, visible
through her white long-sleeved blouse with a gold Snow White motif; had pink
nail polish on; and wore gold shoes with a glittering mini skirt to match.