If you are even remotely interested in Chinese entertainment, you’ve probably heard of Fan Bing Bing. The A-list Chinese actress has won numerous awards and topped Forbe’s China Celebrities 100 List for the last 2 years (while being on the top 10 list for the last 9 years). Fan has been in 43 television series and 38 films, recently adding two Hollywood blockbusters to her already long filmography list.
In the most recent Marvel film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, you may have been able to catch glimpses of Fan making an appearance as Blink, a super mutant that has the power to open teleportation portals. Although her brief screen time makes her appear as more of a cameo than an actual cast, fans can rest assured knowing that this is just the beginning, as she has signed with 20th Century Fox to appear in the next four X-Men films as well. This is the first time in 14 years since the X-Men film series began that they’ve cast an Asian actor to be one of their mutant heroes.
Despite the joy that comes from seeing an Asian actress break out into a major American production, it also makes me wonder if they did so purposely to appeal towards the large and growing Asian market. In an interview with TODAYonline, Fan herself commented on how she also was surprised to have been cast even though Blink was an Caucasian character, “because the [director] said he had seen a lot of my pictures, and what he was looking for was a very specific type of face, not one that is limited to a certain ethnicity.” Despite this, Fan still has to put in a lot of effort in order to fulfill the image of Blink. In the same interview, she explains that she spends about 4 hours in costume and make up, and her final look is one that does little to savour her Asian features, putting on bright green contact lenses and having purple hair.
This is not the first time that Fan has been in a superhero series. She was also cast in the exclusive Chinese version of Iron Man 3 that came out last year, making a short appearance in the 3 minutes that was added on from the original film, starring alongside Chinese veteran actor Wang Xueqi. Although the intent for casting Fan in X-Men is still debatable, the intent to appeal more specifically to the Chinese viewers in this special edition may seem more obvious. Kotaku’s article “Why Many in China hate Iron Man 3‘s Chinese Version” sums up the reaction that Chinese viewers regrettably had on the additional 3 minutes that added little to nothing to the plot and seems rather forcefully out of place. While this appears to be a brilliant marketing strategy, the disappointment despite the anticipation leaves instead a foul taste to the movie.
The exclusive scenes from the Chinese version of Iron Man 3:
For those that have seen the movie, what are your thoughts? Do you believe that this is an expansion and an opportunity for Asian artists, or just an opportunity for Hollywood films to make more money?