Zhang Ziyi (章子怡) is a widely acclaimed Chinese actress who has worked with many world-renowned directors, such as Zhang Yimou, Ang Lee and Wong Kar-wai. In her prominent roles, Zhang has become an international face in a series of films, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha.
Born in 1979 in Beijing, Zhang first gained attention while still attending the Central Academy of Drama by appearing in Zhang Yimou’s 1998 film The Road Home, in which she played a country girl. The part won her the Hundred Flower Award, an important film award in China, for Best Actress, and she became a national star.
International fame soon followed in 2000, when Zhang played the rebellious daughter of an aristocrat in Ang Lee’s martial arts film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. For her performance, Zhang won several awards, including a Chicago Film Critics Association award, a Toronto Film Critics Association award and an Independent Spirit award, as well as gained the attention of Western audiences.
After Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Zhang cooperated with several foreign directors. Her best known collaboration was with Rob Marshall in Memoirs of a Geisha in 2005. For her lead role as a Japanese geisha, Zhang earned Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award and BAFTA nominations.
Zhang’s smooth path to international stardom hit a bump as the actress faced backlash from Chinese audiences following a scandal involving a charity donation to Sichuan earthquake victims. Though Zhang denied any fraud in a China Daily interview, the public still treated her as a falling star. Zhang has since regained her footing after accepting roles in Wong Kar-wai's The Grand Master and Gu Changwei’s The Tale of Magic.
Most recently, Zhang was named Actress of the Decade in 2010 by CineAsia. In her latest project, she will play the heroine Mulan in Jan de Bont’s movie of the same name, which was adapted from a Chinese folk story. The film is scheduled to be finished in January 2011.