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Li weaves a wider web with Sino-Australian coproduction

Time:2018-01-25   Source:China Daily

Li Bingbing plays the lead role as a scientist in the film. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Recently, Li Bingbing placed a spider on her hand, skillfully guiding the creature onto her arm. The stunt sparked gasps from the audience at a recent event in Beijing to promote her new movie, Guardians of the Tomb, one of the largest ever Sino-Australian coproductions.

In the film, which hit screens on the mainland on Jan 19, Li — one of China's

most renowned actresses — plays a scientist specializing in research on venomous creatures. 

The actress with a showbiz career spanning around 20 years, first hit the big time with Zhang Yuan's 1999 movie Seventeen Years.

Director Kimble Rendall (first from left) and the cast members promote Guardians of the Tomb in Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Over the years, she has starred in a number of hits, including the 2006 romance The Knot and the 2009 espionage thriller The Message.

Her efforts in learning English are widely-known and paved the way for her foray into Hollywood, exemplified by her roles in blockbusters like Resident Evil: Retribution and Transformers: Age of Extinction.

But for the award-winning actress, Guardians of the Tomb was a new experience. For the film, she also worked as a producer, her first move on this front.

Speaking about the experience, she says: "I even participated in cast selection and chose some of the actors."

Besides Li, the cast features Bruneian actor Wu Chun, American actors Kellan Lutz and Kelsey Grammer, and Australian actress Stef Dawson.

Referring to Lutz's selection, Li says his role in the fantasy film The Legend of Hercules (2014) impressed her. As for Wu, she says he was picked because he speaks English and Mandarin fluently, and was perfect for the role — the younger brother of the protagonist scientist played by Li.

A scene from  Guardians of the Tomb [Photo provided to China Daily]

The film, set in a remote part of China, unfolds with the scientist and her team looking for her missing brother in a tomb, which contains the remains of a Chinese emperor buried over 2,000 years ago.

"I liked the story. It harmoniously mixed Chinese and Western culture," says Li. "Right now, China's movie market is changing very rapidly. And many foreigners want to know more about Chinese culture and history."

As for how the story was developed, director Kimble Rendall says he once saw some ancient paintings in Australia featuring Chinese ships, inspiring him to create a story about how funnel web spiders, a species exclusive to Australia, were brought to China.

In the film, the expedition encounters hundreds of attackers and a swarm of spiders. For the movie, the special-effects team studied more than 40,000 species of spiders and spent 15 months designing the computer-generated creatures.

Speaking about the creatures, Deng Shuo, another producer, says: "The hair and texture are very vivid. This is because we recruited some worldclass talent in visual effects to work on the movie."

With rivals such as the Indian film Secret Superstar and local movie Forever Young also vying for screen space, Guardians of the Tomb raked in just 20 million yuan ($3.12 million) on its opening day to take the fourth spot on the domestic box office charts.

And with mixed reviews — where some viewers criticized what they saw as a series of plot holes — the film seems to be having a bumpy box-office ride.