BEIJING -- In Zhang Ziyi's latest role in "Sophie's Revenge," which premiered in Beijing on Sunday, she plays a character that bears some resemblance to the film's novice writer and director, Jin Yimeng.
Both are cartoonists in their late-20s/early-30s. Both live in modern, urban China. Both dress fashionably. Both have active imaginations. The similarities might end there, but Jin said hers is one chick flick she hopes will tap into truths fast becoming universal in China.
"Chinese women are looking at the world now. We like to watch everything, we like to shop and we like to gossip," said Jin, a published cartoonist whose simple, black-and-white line drawing style brings Sophie's imagination to life in the new film, in combination with Zhang's live-action performance -- "kind of like Ally McBeal," Jin said.
The film, about a scorned woman getting back at her ex, was also made with "French Kiss" and "Addicted to Love" in mind, Jin said.
A native of Harbin in frigid northeast China and a graduate of the film school at Florida State University, Jin custom color-designed the film to be "warm" like "Amelie," she said.
"Sophie's Revenge" contains product placement from Mercedes, Armani and Tiffany. "I hope Chinese women will drag their boyfriends to see it. It's a definitely a date movie, since no Chinese woman would pay for herself!" she said over scrambled eggs at a French-run café.
Jin, a Beijing-resident who is represented by CAA's office here, might be about to ride Zhang's coattails to stardom -- or, depending on one's perspective, Zhang might be about to be cast in a new light in China.
The romantic comedy is a change of pace for Zhang after playing a Japanese escort in "Memoirs of a Geisha," an empress in "The Banquet," then a friend of Peking Opera legend Mei Lanfang in "Forever Enthralled."
"It's a commercial, Hollywood-style film with a European accent and a Chinese star set in China," Jin said, adding, "Zhang was really great to work with. She's throwing her all into this movie."
When the credits roll, Jin and Zhang will be named producers along with Zhang's longtime manager, Ling Lucas, and Beaver Kwei.
The film's back-story, according to Jin, is this: when an executive in the Hong Kong office of Kwei's former employer -- Warner China Film Hengdian Group -- first found her script in the winter of 2007, they called her asking, "Where have you been hiding? We're looking for scripts like this for women."
When Warner's production activities in China slowed down with the departure of key executives, the Beijing-based online gaming company Perfect World stepped in with investment to make up the film's 50 million yuan ($7.4 million) budget.
The film was made as a co-production with South Korean media powerhouse CJ Entertainment. Sound and effects help came also came from Korea via Seoul post-production houses Blue Cap and HFR.
Jin said state-run studio China Film Group will release "Sophie's Revenge" on Aug. 14 on more than 1,000 screens nationwide, in cooperation with Hong Kong-based hit-making producer Bill Kong's Edko Pictures.
Jin's first film, a low-budget thriller that grew out of her days studying film in Florida, then living in Los Angeles for four years, will be released after "Sophie's Revenge," she said.
Next up, Jin is thinking about writing a bilingual comedy along the lines of "Meet the Parents."