If all the roles for women in Hollywood were housed in one giant file cabinet, among the folders marked bookish schoolgirl, wide-eyed ingenue and wanton temptress, hardened district attorney, lonely soccer mom and rocking-chair-bound granny, there would be one labeled She Kicks Butt. Lucy Liu (劉玉玲) imagines that this is where you would find her picture. \n"I bet you my head shot is right there," she said with a self-deprecating chuckle. "Right up front." \nIn the decade or so she has been in the business, Liu has fashioned a lucrative career out of playing the icy vixen -- first as the emotionally barren Ling Woo on Fox's popular legal series, Ally McBeal, then as a coldblooded dominatrix in Payback, a frosty princess in Jackie Chan's Shanghai Noon, a federal agent in the box-office bust Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever and as Alex Munday, the bikini-waxer by day, private investigator by night in the Charlie's Angels franchise. \nBut it is her role as O-Ren Ishii, a kimono-clad femme fatale in Quentin Tarantino's blood-drenched, slice-'em-up Kill Bill: Vol. I, which opens in Taiwan on Oct. 24, that has elevated Liu, 34, to an entirely new level of ruthlessness and secured the actress' position as one of America's leading action heroines, at the risk of being typecast as a dragon lady. \nIn this estrogen-fueled homage to spaghetti westerns and kung fu flicks, Liu plays the archenemy of a character called the Bride (Uma Thurman), a retired hit woman who is brutally attacked on her wedding day and left for dead by a gang of assassins called the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DiVAS). Four years after surviving a bullet in the head, the Bride awakes from a coma and sets out on a revenge mission. \nHer first target, Liu's O-Ren Ishii, aka Cottonmouth, is also beset with a stack of issues. At age 7 she witnesses the gruesome murder of her parents. Four years later she avenges their deaths. By 20, she is one of the world's top women in the assassination profession. Five years later, at a ceremony honoring her rise to the head of the Japanese yakuza underworld, she swiftly decapitates a male capo for denouncing her Japanese/Chinese-American background. With the head of the nemesis in hand, O-Ren plunges into a speech about open communication that sounds straight out of a human resources manual. \n"I'm going to speak in English," she calmly states, "just so you know how serious I am." \nIt is both a comical and a painfully disturbing scene in a film filled with them. Of her diabolical character, Liu said: "I felt like I really understood her emotionally. In my mind she was a survivor, and it was either kill or be killed." \nMuch has been made about the copious violence in Kill Bill. Limbs are amputated. Heads are scalped. Blood flows like champagne at a Miramax post-Oscar bash. Liu acknowledged that Tarantino's latest effort -- the fourth film he has directed, and the first since Jackie Brown in 1997 -- wasn't for everyone, but added that those going to a film by the director should know not to expect light, G-rated fare. \n"To say that the movie is violent is not taking into consideration what movie you're seeing," said Liu. "It's like watching a horror movie and saying the movie's gory. Of course that's the case. It's a horror movie." \nTo prepare for her role as a Samurai sword fighter, Liu said she spent three months in training and learned some Japanese. Neither was easy. \n"People just assume I've done martial arts my whole life," said Liu, who began studying Kali-Eskrima-Silat -- a Philippine form of fighting -- when she was in her early 20s. "I did nothing my whole life. I ate, hung out and played handball." \nBorn in Jackson Heights, Queens, Liu, the daughter of working-class Chinese immigrants, recalled many an afternoon spent parked in front of a TV set. Though she seldom saw anyone who resembled her on either the small or big screen, Liu said she always dreamed of acting. \n"I just felt like there was something otherworldly about being an actress," she said. "When you're younger and you don't feel like you quite fit in anywhere, you think there must be a community of misfits out there that you can fall into." \nAfter a brief stint at New York University, Liu transferred to the University of Michigan, where she studied Asian languages and culture. (She is fluent in Mandarin.) She auditioned for a minor role in the school's production of Alice in Wonderland and waltzed away with the lead, a life-changing moment, she said. \n"I had allowed myself to believe that I wasn't ever going to be important enough or good enough or right enough, colorwise," Liu said. "I thought that I had to be Caucasian to ever see the light of day. Earning that role made me realize that in a weird way, I was being racist toward myself. I had been thinking so small." \nShe began in TV with bit parts in series like Beverly Hills 90210, ER and The X-Files. The career-making role of the abrasive Ling Woo on Ally McBeal was originally meant to be a guest spot but grew into a full-time one as fans came to appreciate the character's condescending (and often times emasculating) ways, acid tongue and general disregard for human emotions. \nSome, however, have accused Liu of perpetuating the dragon lady stereotype of an Asian woman who is desirable but ultimately dangerous and untrustworthy. "She has helped counter the image of Asian women as these `shrinking, geisha girl flowers,'" said Anne Kim, managing editor of the Asian-American lifestyle magazine Audrey. "But at the same time, what's up with all the martial arts stuff? Why is she playing a bad guy, and why is she dressed up like a geisha?" \nIn response, Liu asked why phrases like lotus blossom and geisha are often bandied about when she is the subject of conversation. "If Renee Zellweger was playing this role," Liu said, "I'm sure she wouldn't be referred to as `dragon lady.'" \nWhile Liu is the biggest Asian-American star now working, earning upward of US$4 million a picture, she engenders mixed feelings among Asian-Americans. On Web sites like goldsea.com, everything from her choice in roles to her starring opposite Caucasian men -- Mel Gibson, Matt LeBlanc, Greg Germann -- has been dissected. \nEven Tarantino's decision to cast Liu as the Chinese/Japanese O-Ren Ishii caused a bit of an uproar, with some feeling the role should have gone to a Japanese actress. Liu called the notion ridiculous. \n"I should be able to play a Japanese person or a Korean, Vietnamese or Italian person," she said. "It becomes even more limiting when the Asian community starts asking questions like that." \nWearing a pleated skirt and black V-neck sweater for an interview, Liu, a petite-framed 165cm, appeared less like a karate queen than like a self-assured high school senior, the type who effortlessly juggled cheerleading and debate team. "Lucy is such a sweetheart," said Vivica A. Fox, a Kill Bill co-star. "And she is so much fun. She is nothing like the girl you see on screen." \nAt times, Liu said, it bothers her that some people have trouble separating her from the hard-driving characters she portrays. And yet she is not exactly campaigning for a congeniality award. "It's not my job to go around shucking and jiving until everyone realizes what a nice person I am," she said. \nHaving established herself in the world of clever one-liners and roundhouse kicks, Liu said she longed for meatier roles, ones that do not necessarily involve hours spent in the gym. And yet she has not entirely ruled out another action movie. \n"It's not at the top of my list right now," Liu said, "but if a movie like Gladiator comes along, you can't turn away."
PHOTO: NY TIMES
Sept. 28 to Oct . 4 A large number of 3000-year-old slate coffins were unearthed on a hill near Nanhe Village (南和村) in Pingtung County on Sept. 30, 1985. Unfortunately, the United Daily News (聯合報) noted that they had been seriously damaged by construction, and no artifacts or human remains were found. Although the newspaper called the find a “significant discovery,” little information can be gleaned about this specific site because it’s just one of countless locations where stone sarcophagi have been unearthed across southern and eastern Taiwan, and as north as Yilan County. These stone receptacles for the dead were
Sitting at the bar, martini in hand, Kristin Scott Thomas rolls her eyes briefly heavenwards. And then she declares, in one of the most memorable monologues of the cult BBC drama Fleabag, that menopause is the “most wonderful fucking thing in the world. And yes, your entire pelvic floor crumbles and you get fucking hot and no one cares. But then — you’re free! No longer a slave, no longer a machine with parts. You’re just a person, in business.” When an entranced Fleabag says she has been told the whole thing is horrendous, Scott Thomas’s character responds: “It is horrendous,
As if the climbs and views and snacks and companions of cycling in Taiwan aren’t sufficient, the GPS-generation of route-planners are now using apps such as Strava and Endomondo to create works of art as they ride. One such is nicknamed the Dove Road of Sijhih (汐鴿路), a 25km ride that follows the riverside bike path from the Nangang-Neihu Bridge (南湖橋) to New Taipei City’s Sijhih District (汐止), climbs around 400m up the Sijhih-Shiding Road (汐碇路), before dropping back down past Academia Sinica to generate a very dove-like pattern. Originally called Kippanas by indigenous Ketagalan people and transliterated into Hoklo (more commonly
A senior communist party operative whose only previous experience in Hong Kong is a business trip two years ago; a former Guangdong mayor who oversaw the mass arrests of villagers protesting against land seizures; a former provincial party secretary best known for tearing down hundreds of churches and crosses in eastern China. These are China’s top officials charged with Hong Kong affairs, hardliners and allies of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping (習近平), who are remaking the semi-autonomous territory into a city that is directly under Beijing’s control in all but name. They remain behind the scenes, rarely making public appearances. Little is