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Enter the dragon: Scheming Gong Li joins lead actress catfight

November 1, 2006 |  4:18 pm


Sony Pictures Classics is so impressed with the final cut of "Curse of the Golden Flower" that the studio has officially decided to launch an Oscar best-actress campaign for Gong Li and to promote Zhang Yimou for best director.

"Golden Flower" reunites Zhang Yimou with the actress he cast in his first outing as a director, "Red Sorghum," in 1989 when she was still a student at the Central Drama Academy in Beijing. They teamed up again for a half-dozen films such as "Raise the Red Lantern," but haven't collaborated in recent years while she took on further breakout roles in "2046" and "Memoirs of a Geisha" and he achieved major b.o. success in the west with "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers."

"They're now working together at their peak of their talents," says studio co-president Michael Barker. "They've created a film of great dramatic tension and visual splendor. We're really excited."

Gong Li portrays a righteous queen caught in a deceitful clash of power between her husband (Chow Yun Fat) and their three sons. Not only is it filled with the same epic pageantry and martial arts dazzle as "Hero" and "Daggers," but the personal drama is so intense, says Barker, "It's Shakespearean in its breadth."

The clash for the lead-actress gold just got all the more intense with Gong Li's late entry into a crowded match-up already loaded with formidable divas — Judi Dench ("Notes on a Scandal"), Helen Mirren ("The Queen"), Meryl Streep ("The Devil Wears Prada"), Annette Bening ("Running with Scissors"), Penelope Cruz ("Volver"), Kate Winslet ("Little Children") and Cate Blanchett ("The Good German").

CLICK HERE to see the trailer for "Golden Flower."

In other Oscar news, Barker says SPC plans to give German foreign film entry "Lives of Others" a qualifying run in U.S. theaters during the last week of December so that it's eligible in other Oscar categories as well.

Photo: Director Zhang Yimou has once again tapped "the chemistry that made Gong Li an international star," says Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker.
(Sony Pictures Classics)