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Zhao Tao is one of the most recognizable faces in Chinese art cinema thanks to her longtime collaboration with director Jia Zhangke, whom she married in 2012. From 2000’s “Platform” to last year’s “Ash is Purest White,” her work has plumbed the moral depths of modern China and brought stories of the country’s drastic change to global audiences.
Though often described as Jia’s “muse,” it’s a term that she herself is uncomfortable with. “I don’t accept it or reject it. It appeared, and I’ve heard it,” she shrugged. “It isn’t a term that I’ve come up with for myself — it’s one that the media has come up with for our relationship.”
Work - Producer - Documentary - Works - Writers
Currently, she is at work as a producer on a new literary documentary about the works of Chinese writers Yu Hua and Jia Pingwa that her husband began shooting in May to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Zhao was refreshingly candid with Variety about the challenges facing women in the Chinese film industry in a Kering Women in Motion talk on the sidelines of the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival.
Variety - Female - Characters - Way - Man
Variety: You often portray strong female characters trying to make their way in a man’s world. How do you prepare for these roles?
Zhao: When I receive a role, it’s really script that gives me the basis I need to envision the character. I don’t think directly about how to make her a strong one. My method is that I get a script and read it through many times, writing down in great detail the feelings it evokes each time. I then love to write a biography for the character. With Qiaoqiao [from “Ash is Purest White”] for example, I began with her kindergarten years. I even knew the exact name and address of her kindergarten...
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