Making the Great Leap; Takeshi Kaneshiro: With His Charismatic Performance in the Chinese Movie Musical 'Perhaps Love,' the Popular Asian Actor Is Poised to Become a Truly Global Star
Seno, Alexandra A., Newsweek International
Byline: Alexandra A. Seno
When Takeshi Kaneshiro closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep, he dreams in Japanese. Usually. "It depends on the people in the dream," says the actor, 32. Born in Taipei to a Chinese mother and a Japanese father, he spoke the Taiwanese dialect as his first language. Growing up, he conversed mainly in Japanese and Mandarin, but he's also fluent in Cantonese and English. He lives in Taiwan but travels on a Japanese passport and makes Hong Kong, mainland-Chinese and Japanese films.
No wonder Kaneshiro is an Asian star like no other. Also known as Gum Sing-mo in Cantonese and Jin Chengwu in Mandarin, he combines well-honed dramatic skills; a classic, refined handsomeness, and the versatile appeal necessary to lure filmgoers throughout the vast region into cinemas--despite easy access to pirated DVDs. Now, in the new Chinese musical "Perhaps Love," Kaneshiro delivers a striking performance in a film that should appeal to a broader audience abroad, where moviegoers have grown more accustomed to lavishly filmed martial-arts epics. The film, which broke box-office records in China when it opened in early December, is Hong Kong's bet for a 2006 foreign-language-film Academy Award nomination.
In "Perhaps Love," Kaneshiro draws on his beginnings as a pop-music idol to play Lin Jiandong, an actor tortured by love. Lin finds himself in contemporary Shanghai working on a glamorous picture with the woman who left him a decade earlier to pursue stardom. The actress, played by China's brilliant Zhou Xun ( "Baober in Love," "The Little Chinese Seamstress"), is sleeping with the director (Hong Kong's Jacky Cheung Hok-yau). The tale of passion unfolds through song-and-dance numbers that range from high drama to sheer opulence.
Produced by American Andre Morgan, who made "Million Dollar Baby," the unusual project appealed to Kaneshiro in large part for the opportunity to work with Hong Kong director Peter Chan Ho-sun ("The Love Letter"), whom he considers one of the best in Asia. He's also often been drawn to love stories. "Love--or hate--you cannot escape from these," he says. He made a name for himself playing a lovelorn Hong Kong cop in "Chungking Express" (1994), directed by auteur Wong Kar-wai, whom Kaneshiro credits with helping him make the leap from singing to acting. After establishing himself in Chinese show business, he broke into the Japanese market by starring in several popular TV serials, then doing films like 1998's "Misty," a remake of Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon. …