Gong Li may becoming a familiar face to American audiences but when it comes to doing press for her films, the talented actress is only able to get through them with the help of a Chinese-English translator. With the help of her interpreter, Li spoke to the media about her latest English language film, Hannibal Rising, in which she plays the aunt of the prolific serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel).
Gong Li on the Hannibal Lecter Film Series: Li had seen two of the films prior to taking a role in Hannibal Rising and according to the actress, the character, Hannibal, is just as popular in China as he is in America. Definitely the Hannibal films are quite popular in Asia and China. The novels, I'm not sure if they've been released in Chinese yet or not. But certainly the films, everybody knows about those. So if you just say Silence of the Lambs, everybody knows exactly what you're talking about.
On the Gruesome Aspects of Working on a Hannibal Lecter Film: This film for me is a kind of exploration. It was an opportunity for me to participate in something and try something new for me. And of course, I knew in advance that there was going to be a lot of violence and that kind of gruesome things that you mentioned, because that's part of the story. And it is a commercial film. What was important for me to notice in my character, though, is that she spends a lot of time trying to stop that. Really from the beginning all the way to the end, she keeps trying to stop Hannibal from committing those violent acts. But of course, in the end, she fails because he's so strong and so determined to do those things. Nothing can really stop him. But for me, as I said, when I was reading the script in advance I noticed that. I saw that, for me, what was really significant about this character. On the other hand of course, that means that there was this kind of violence and bloodiness in the film. That was part of what makes the film what it is, especially as a commercial film.
Analyzing Her Characters Motivations: Asked why she thought Lady Muraski would ever be attracted to Hannibal Lecter, Li chalked up the connection to fate. They're quite similar. When they meet, right away they realize that they share something in common, which is that they've suffered a lot in the war, and specifically, that their families have all died in the war. So they had to face a lot of dark experiences together. They have a lot of this pain and suffering in their hearts. I think that's what attracts Lady Murasaki to Hannibal.
She has a kind of a desire to kind of help him and protect him, as it were, to get through this. And at the same time, I think it's quite similar for Hannibal as well. What attracts him is this feeling of possibility of protecting and being protected. It's sort of like in the scenes in the war, we see if somebody gets killed and you want to take revenge or something, or you want to protect that person. So it's a kind of a mutual kind of dependency, as it were. They depended on each other to help them get through these difficult times.
Getting the Accent Right in Hannibal Rising: In this one I had to speak with a kind of a British accent. It was kind of interesting because we had dialogue coaches to work with. I had just come to this film from making Miami Vice where I have a Cuban accent. So when I arrived, of course, a dialogue coach said, Oh, that sounds great, but in this one, we don't want you to have all those rolling Rs, etc, with a Cuban accent. We need to have a British accent, with a kind of very high class, aristocratic feel to it. So with the dialogue coach, I think things worked out okay.
Gong Lis Had a Very Busy Year: Li starred in Memoirs of a Geisha and played a supporting role in Miami Vice, two very large, big-budget studio films. Li admits its been challenging. You could say that the challenge is that I had to come and make films in a different culture with people from a different cultural background. You might expect, of course, that there are certain things that are in common in filmmaking around the world - certain details about the work style or how we actually do things on the set. And that may be true, but in fact, in doing all this, of course, I also had to meet and get to know and find ways to work with people from all sorts of different kinds of backgrounds. So for me, that was a very interesting and very big challenge. I learned quite a lot as an actress and it really kind of expanded my horizons a lot.