Jiang Wen, whose original name is Jiang Xiaojun, is a prominent Chinese actor and director and regarded as one of the three most talented actors who emerged on the Chinese mainland in the early 1990s, in addition to comedians Ge You and Chen Peisi.
Born in 1963 in Tangshan, Jiang moved to Beijing at age six. When he was young, he befriended Ying Da, a famous Chinese comedic actor and director, whose sitcom I Love My Family became a household name. Influenced by Ying’s father, an actor, Jiang took interest in performing. In 1980, he entered the Central Academy of Drama, China’s prestigious acting school. After graduating in 1984, he acted in several films and dramas, including Hibiscus Town, Black Snow and Red Sorghum.
Jiang became famous for his role in the TV series A Native of Beijing in New York in 1992. In 1994, he wrote and directed his first film In the Heat of the Sun, which was adapted from the novel by Wang Shuo. The film won six Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan, and lead actor Xia Yu won the Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival. Six years later, Jiang released his second film, Devils on the Doorstep. The film, set in the time of the Japanese invasion of China, won Jiang the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.
His film Let the Bullet Fly, a comedy released in late 2010, starred several famous actors and actresses, including Ge You, Chow Yun-fat, Carina Lau, Zhou Yun (Jiang’s wife) and Jiang Wu (Jiang’s brother). The box office reached 30.18 million yuan ($ 4.54 million) when the film premiered the first day in the mainland. Positive comments flooded the internet community. Word spread that the film was not only commercially successful but also artistic. Yet, it also received its share of criticism for violence and obscenities.
His film "Gone with the Bullets" (2014), which once claimed to be the best Chinese film of the year, expecting to fetch 2 billion yuan (US$322 million) at Chinese box offices, fell far short of anticipation. The film suffered from a backlash, with waves of criticism after its China premiere and the final box office revenue standing at a disappointing 513 million yuan (US$82.79 million).
The movie provoked heated discussion online as to whether the film is a misunderstood high-quality work of art or the director's narcissism gone out of control. The discussion reached a climax when the son of China's richest man Wang Sicong blasted the film as "an insult to audiences." Ironically, Wang's father Wang Jianlin owns Wanda Media Co. Ltd., one of the studios that produced "Gone with the Bullets."
The controversial movie was selected for the competition program of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.