With a string of international hits, such as John Woo’s successful Red Cliff, one can’t help but acknowledge Chang Chen as one of the top Asian film stars today. Showcasing a selection of rebellious chic looks from the Dior Homme spring–summer 09 collection, Chang Chen is in his element.
As an actor, Chang Chen has been working in films since his debut at the tender age of 15 in 1991’s A Brighter Summer Day. The critically acclaimed film, by renowned director Edward Yang, won the Special Jury Prize in the 1991 Tokyo International Film Festival and Best Film at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards. Playing the protagonist in the film, young Chang was nominated for Best Actor, a sign of bigger things to come.
Born in Taipei in October 1976 (the year of the dragon in the Chinese zodiac), Chang’s foray into the movie industry is not accidental. His father Chang Kuo-chu is one of Taiwan’s most accomplished actors, while his older brother, Chang Han, is also a talented actor.
While the movie industry and critics noticed his acting early on, it was at the turn of the millennium that Chang officially moved up. Chang’s appeal went global after starring in Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, along with superstars Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-fat.
Since then, Chang has been in many critically acclaimed movies, collaborating with renowned directors and actors. One of Chang’s earliest roles was in Happy Together directed by Wong Kar-wai. That earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the 17th Hong Kong Film Academy Awards. Chang also won accolades for his performances in Eros and 2046, as well as Hou Hisiao Hsien’s Three Times (2005) and Kim Ki-duk’s Breath. His performance as Wu Ching Yuan in Tian Zhuangzhuang’s Go Master got him the Best Actor Award at the Osaka Film Festival. His other acting highlights include roles in Chinese Odyssey 2002, Blood Brothers, Parking and Tsui Hark’s Missing.
Globally, critics agree that Chang’s continued growth as an actor has made him special, as he’s clearly not afraid to tackle wildly diverse roles and really do them well. Chang has been nominated for Best Actor in nearly every role he has had since the beginning of his career. His name is also a constant presence on award shortlists around the world, and he moves with ease among genres, from drama and action to comedy and period pieces.
Chang’s next project will be something to look out for; John Woo’s upcoming megabudget epic, 1949, a romantic film about the love, life and death of three pairs of lovers set on a cruise liner. It will costar Mark Cheng, Patrick Tam, Michelle Yeoh and Song Hye-kyo.
When it comes to fashion, Chang and Dior go together very well indeed. He wore Dior when he attended the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and the 2007 Venice Film Festival. To find out what makes this rising star tick, we asked him some personal questions.
DA MAN: Which do you enjoy more, acting or modeling?
Chang Chen: I don’t have a lot of experience being a model, but I think being an actor is quite fun.
DA MAN: Are you happy with the outcome of Red Cliff 2?
Chang Chen: The experience was great; costumes, styling, character development, story and filming; I liked it a lot.
DA MAN: How would you compare it to Red Cliff 1?
Chang Chen: Red Cliff 2 has more action/fighting scenes.
DA MAN: What are the similarities and differences between the role you play in Red Cliff 2 and yourself?
Chang Chen: There are indeed some similarities in our personality. For example, he had a lot of things that he wants to do but he doesn’t know how to achieve them. He was kind of stuck, but under the help of Zhou Yu, he became capable of achieving things he really wanted. I think this is something that a lot of people experience—you have things that you want to do and there is pressure around you that hinders you in achieving your dreams.
DA MAN: Are there any memorable things that happened during the shoot that you can share with us?
Chang Chen: The production scale was huge. It was a scene in a palace … there were a lot of people working. The first day I was shooting with Takeshi Kaneshiro, it was the first time I worked with him and I thought to myself, ‘wow, Takeshi is really handsome’ and I didn’t know where to look.
DA MAN: How do you feel when working with legendary directors/actors?
Chang Chen: I think it is important to be yourself and listen to your heart when you work with them. Of course, I would like to maintain a harmonious working environment so basically it’s quite good, and I also want to learn from them, so I often observe them when we work. But I think each person’s personality is different and it’s difficult to make real good friends. I think the key to making good friendships is to be honest with each other.
DA MAN: How do you adjust when you play different characters?
Chang Chen: I do a lot of preparation work and I read a lot. A very simple way is to listen to music and bring you into the mood. For example, maybe I like to listen to classical music when I’m not working, but if I have to portray a character with a very quick tempo, then maybe I will listen to some Rap music … The emotion of the singer and their beat will change your tempo and make you livelier.
DA MAN: Do you like participating in blockbuster movies or independent films?
Chang Chen: I like both. I think the audiences are the happiest because they can choose what they want to watch. I think watching movies is a very personal choice because their feelings and emotions received from the movie is different. Everybody has their own special feeling watching a movie. I usually look at the story instead of its scale to choose the movie that I want to participate in.
DA MAN: As an actor, what do you think are the differences between a blockbuster film and an independent film?
Chang Chen: The filming process is very different and each has its own fun. For example, for Red Cliff, they have a lot of different machines assisting with the shooting and things were shot in many different angles. They have new equipment and a lot of actors playing different roles. A lot of people were working on it. As for independent films, they usually have only 30 to 40 people working on the film. The films are usually shot with tripods. Therefore, the whole process will be very different. Just like traveling, you can do backpacking or you can do luxury travel. When you work with different crews, there are different kinds of fun.
DA MAN: In your generation, you are one of the most talented actors, what’s the secret to your success? What level would you like to take your career to?
Chang Chen: I actually don’t think I’m very talented. As an actor, experiences in life are very important. I admire Tony Leung and his energy. I have worked with him several times and I really admire him for his acting, and the feeling he gives to the audience. I want to learn from him and to keep that enthusiasm in his acting for many years.
DA MAN: What’s your must-have item for a red carpet premiere or gala dinner?
Chang Chen: Nothing really … I think guys are easier. Maybe it’s just suits and watches, I guess.
DA MAN: Who are your Eastern and Western style icons?
Chang Chen: Johnny Depp and Anthony Wong … Mr. Kam Kwok Leung or Eason Chan are good as well.
DA MAN: How do you like Dior Homme style?
Chang Chen: I actually have quite a lot of Dior Homme stuff… I really like their jeans. I have several jeans in the same style. I think their cutting is really comfortable. Their designs are not very loud, yet you can tell immediately it’s Dior Homme … it’s quite subtle.
DA MAN: Do you think that’s kind of similar to your personality?
Chang Chen: Yes
DA MAN: How do you define a modern man?
Chang Chen: Maybe he should have an iPhone … just kidding … I think he has to have a lot of wisdom. Modern society has a lot of information and resources and you have a lot of opportunities to learn many different things. A modern man needs to know a lot of different things in different areas.
DA MAN: How do you relax when not working?
Chang Chen: Absolutely not shopping. I actually really like nature; I will probably go traveling or spend time with my family.
Clothing and Accessories:
For the full feature, check out our back issues here.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE