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Gong Li and Naomie Harris: International Intrigue
by Nancy Simon

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Gong Li: Asian Sensation

Gong Li: Asian Sensation
Director Michael Mann's (COLLATERAL, ALI, HEAT) action-packed MIAMI VICE arrives on the screen full of flash and sizzle. The scintillating appeal, however, may not necessarily be a product of its two leading men, Colin Farrell (as Detective Sonny Crockett) and Jamie Foxx (as Detective Ricardo Tubbs) - but more so a result of the film's two supporting actresses – Asian Li Gong and Brit Naomie Harris.

Each possesing her own international uniqueness, Li (who also goes by the name Gong Li) and Harris are not your average female film appendages. Rather, in their own manner, Li and Harris captivate and light up the screen—stealing a great deal of the thunder from two of Hollywood's major players.

In MIAMI VICE, Gong Li plays Isabella, the financial mastermind behind an underground Hispanic crime operation. After setting her sights on Detective Crockett (Farrell), she and he get entangled in a trans-global affair filled with sex and drug smuggling.

American audiences have come to appreciate the forty-three-year-old Li via her roles in MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (2005, as the spiteful Hatsumomo) and FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE (1993-BA WANG BIE JI in Chinese as Juxian) for which she received a New York Film Critics' award and the honor of being ranked #89 in Premiere Magazine's list of all-time greatest performances. While somewhat of a new face on-screen in the U.S., Li is anything but new to the world of film.

Born in Shenyang, Li grew up in Jinan. In light of that her role in MIAMI VICE is that of a fiscal whiz, it is ironic when you learn her father was an economics professor. Initially Li envisioned becoming singer. However, when denied entrance to China's elite music school, she applied for and was accepted to the Central Drama Academy in Beijing.

While still a student, Li was cast in RED SORGHUM (1987). Not only did she nab a role, but she nabbed the leading role. Director Zhang Yi-mou's first directorial effort, the film brought Li and Yi-mou together which, ultimately led to a long-term romantic relationship. Subsequently, the two went on to make a series of films together.

At present, Li, who surprisingly stands only 5'7" tall for appears so much taller on screen on account of her forthright presence, is considered to be China's best-known actress. She has received countless awards including the Best Actress Award at the Venice International Film Festival (for QUI JU) and has sat on the jury of numerous film festivals including: Cannes, Berlin and Tokyo.

Yet, for Li to act in American films was something she did not always
Naomie Harris: British Charm

Naomie Harris: British Charm
care to pursue.

"I didn't want to play stereotypical roles, like the pretty Asian face (though notably she has been an international spokeswoman for the cosmetics company-Loreal.) Those roles don't seem to have much to explore. I could not develop anything about my own acting in those roles," stated Li in a recent interview with Futuremovies.com.

As Trudy Joplin in MIAMI VICE, Naomie Harris gets to play the straight, tough girlfriend \ lover of Detective Tubbs (Fox). Appearing in not just one big blockbuster - but two; Harris has had a very busy summer.
As the voodoo-psychic Tia Dalma in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST, the London-born Harris spoke with a Jamaican accent. Yet, for MIAMI VICE as an Intel analyst \ undercover cop, she adopted a Bronx accent.

Having to simultaneously shoot scenes for both MIAMI VICE and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END (the forthcoming, third installment in which Harris reprises her role of Dalma) proved to be challenging for the thirty-year-old Harris who, in order to keep up, maintained a steady flight pattern between Miami and the Bahamas.

In conversation with Rebecca Murray of Hollywood Movies, Harris states, "I was flying backwards and forwards. It was just a really different atmosphere onset because there was Michael Mann with MIAMI VICE, which was a much more intense experience. And the there was PIRATES in the Bahamas, which was more fun and a bigger kind of deal."

Intellectual, as well as, attractive, Harris graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in social and politic science. Yet, it was during the two years she spent training at the prestigious school of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre that she found her innate calling.

After a down period, Harris auditioned for and won the role of Selena (opposite Cillian Murphy) in 28 DAYS LATER, the story of the aftermath of a deadly virus.

Directed by Danny Boyle (TRAINSPOTTING, THE BEACH, MILLIONS), of the experience in working with Harris, he states, "She is phenomenally talented, she should be a star. She lights up the screen. Your eyes just go to her. It's something to do with her relationship with the camera. And she can bring anything you want to the table."

And apparently this is true of not only Harris but Li, as well, for both women have demonstrated their invincible abilities to entrance audiences with their rapturous talents.

Gong Li on MatchFlick

Naomie Harris on MatchFlick

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A capsulized profile on an emerging talent, i.e., actor/director in the film world and a snippet as to why he or she is destined to soon become a household name.

Other Columns
Other columns by Nancy Simon:

EMILE HIRSCH: Young Upstart

SIENNA MILLER:B-day Girl\ Factory Girl

DJIMON HOUNSOU: A Diamond in the Rough

ABBIE CORNISH: Who's That Girl?

DARREN ARONOFSKY: Daring to go further

All Columns

Nancy Simon
A Chicago-based freelance writer and film enthusiast, Nancy has an insatiable curiousity and knack for picking out talented, promising individuals.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Nancy Simon by clicking here.

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