Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Defection of Dancer Compelling; Inspirational Tale of Triumph

Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Defection of Dancer Compelling; Inspirational Tale of Triumph

Article excerpt

Byline: NATHANAEL COOPER

LI Cunxin, the author of Mao's Last Dancer and the subject of the new film by the same name, never expected his life to pan out the way it has.

He was born into extreme poverty in the Qingdao province of China, he was plucked from his peasant life to become a ballet dancer under the brutal regimen of the Beijing Dance Academy and then given the opportunity to dance in America with the Houston Ballet Academy before defecting from communist China to America.

His amazing story was captured in his 2003 autobiography Mao's Last Dancer, a story of struggle and triumph that captured the heart of anyone who read his book.

Now, after turning down a multitude of Hollywood proposals to tell his story, Li Cunxin's incredible life has finally come to the big screen in an epic production that Cunxin says perfectly captures the essence of his life, right down to the pyjamas.

"It took me by surprise more than anything, I didn't really expect it to be that real," he said.

"The set and my home and even things on the wall- The research they had done... when they were putting the film together they would call me up and ask me what kind of pyjamas we wore at the Beijing dance academy... they were very thorough."

That thoroughness has contributed to Mao's Last Dancer becoming one of the most exceptional biopics the world has seen, but Cunxin never expected it to be a story he would tell, nor one that people would want to hear.

"I really just wanted to live my life full, I wanted to make my life as successful as possible," he said.

"After my defection Hollywood did offer me film offers and along the way ghost writers were chasing after me and I always said no, I never wanted it, I never entertained the idea.

"After my dancing career I said to my wife I just want to live a quiet life and be as good a father as I could to my children and as good a husband as I could to her. …

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