Quite possibly the finest Chinese-born actress of the last twenty years, Gong Li has proven time and again that she’s the best of the best. Born in 1965 in the Liaoning Province of China, Li always dreamed of becoming a singer, but when she was rejected from the country’s top music school, she enrolled at the Central Drama Academy in Beijing instead. Upon graduating, Li was introduced to famed Chinese director Zhang Yimou and cast in his latest film (1987’s “Red Sorghum”). Before long, the professional relationship became a romantic one, and Li became the director’s self-proclaimed muse, starring in just about every film he made during the course of the next ten years.
The early ‘90s may have featured Li at her absolute best, but when her relationship with Yimou suddenly ended in 1995 (following the production of “Shanghai Triad”), so did her streak of award-winning performances. The actress’s first crack at crossing over to American cinema didn’t bode well either, and following a poor box office performance by the Wayne Wang-directed “Chinese Box,” Li returned to the world of Chinese cinema, where she was still highly regarded by her peers. Over the last few years, Li has made yet another attempt at conquering Hollywood, and while she’s certainly chosen more high-profile projects the second time around (“Miami Vice”), her most notable appearances have still been in Asian-themed films like Wong Kar Wai’s “2046” and Rob Marshall’s “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Unfortunately, while these performances should have marked the actress’ return to form, they were instead the focus of on-set controversies (especially in the case of the latter) that pitted the aging Li against youthful up-and-comer (and new Yimou muse) Zhang Ziyi.
These tabloid-worthy news stories may have affected her reputation, but they haven’t dampened her ability as an actress, and while Li remains an unfamiliar face among a majority of American moviegoers, we’re confident that this won’t be true for much longer.
Gong Li on the Web
An online database of Li's film career.
TV Guide: Gong Li
Gong Li Videos, Interviews and More on TV Guide's Online Video Guide
A generic actor page with biography and photos.
Breathtaking: Gong Li
A decent fan site with weekly news updates and huge picture gallery.
Admiring Gong Li
Another unofficial fan page with news, downloadable media and article archive.
Gong Li on the Screen
Perhaps best known for her early work under the direction of Zhang Yimou - including "Ju Dou," "Raise the Red Lantern," "The Story of Qiu Ju" and "Farewell My Concubine" - Gong Li has more recently been making a splash in Hollywood with scene-stealing roles in "Miami Vice" and "Memoirs of a Geisha."
Gong Li Says
"People keep pushing me to be the center of attention... I would prefer to be on the sidelines, because that's where you see more."