Zhang Ziyi Is Sayuri in a[euro]Memoirs of Geishaa[euro][TM]

Article excerpt

Zhang Ziyi has, with each successive role, built on her unique reputation as an actress who can balance ethereal grace with uncommon intensity on the big screen. This has never been more evident than in her latest and most challenging role todate, as the titular Sayuri in Columbia Picturesa new epic romance, "Memoirs of a Geisha."

For her ravishing portrayal of Sayuri, Zhang received Best Actress nominations from the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and British Academy Awards. And from the looks of it, an Oscar nomination is coming her way, as well.

Set in a mysterious and exotic world which still casts a potent spell today, "Memoirs of a Geisha" begins in the years before World War II, when a Japanese child is torn from her penniless family to work as a servant in a geisha house. Despite a treacherous rival who nearly breaks her spirit, the girl blossoms into the legendary geisha Sayuri (Zhang). Beautiful and accomplished, Sayuri captivates the most powerful men of her day, but is haunted by her secret love for the one man (Ken Watanabe) beyond her reach.

Portraying the geisha Sayuri had been the dream of many actresses, but the role had several demanding requirements. The actress playing the luminous adult Sayuri would also have to portray her as the adolescent housemaid Chiyo. "We see this character blossom from girl to woman, and from servant girl to superstar, and we didnat want to split that into two different parts," director Rob Marshall emphasized. "Our actress had to be credible as a 15-year-old and as a 30-year-old. She also had to be a strong actress, and speak English. And we needed a brilliant dancer because dance is so important in the geisha world and a key element in Sayurias personal story. …