Actress Patty Wu (吳可熙) has never been raped by an all-powerful movie mogul — as happens in her striking new movie at the Cannes Film Festival — but the Taiwanese star knows what it is to be humiliated by a director drunk on his own power.
She said she would never forget being repeatedly slapped in the face during the shoot for an advertisement for a mahjong video game early in her career.
Wu was publicly punished for having the temerity to ask the director a question.
Photo courtesy of Seashore Image Productions
“I just wanted to know whether a shot would be a closeup or in long shot so I could prepare myself,” the actress said in Cannes, France, where Nina Wu (灼人祕密) — which she wrote and stars in — is in the official section.
“The director asked the whole crew to collect all the banknotes they were using in the advert and to bring to him. He made a fan out of them. Then he asked another actor to slap me in the face with them about 30 times,” she said. “It went on and on, him shooting it all in closeup. Everyone was shocked. This wasn’t in the script.”
It was a punishment for speaking out of turn, Wu said.
Hers was only a bit part and “someone who is so low-class didn’t have the right to ask a question,” she said. “For the rest of the shoot everyone was stunned.”
Then an odd thing happened. Wu, 36, noticed that the crew began shunning her.
“They had to choose which side they were going to be on I guess, and nobody wants to get fired,” she said.
“So they started bullying me too. After that experience I went home and for two weeks I had flashbacks of being slapped in the face,” Wu said.
“I had nightmares and the director’s voice was in my head all the time. I would experience this humiliation over and over again. I would open the fridge to get something, but I wasn’t there. I was on the set getting slapped. I wanted to cry all the time,” she said.
“She had a kind of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder],” said the film’s Myanmar-born director Chao Te-yin (趙德胤), better known as Midi Z, with whom Wu has worked on the acclaimed Ice Poison and The Road to Mandalay.
“What happened to me was not very serious,” the actress added, but it got her thinking: “What would women or men who suffer really bad things go through?”
The specter of Harvey Weinstein hangs heavily over the film, the story of a failing actress so desperate to grab her one chance of fame that she is prepared to put herself through anything.
Wu, who began as a hip-hop dancer and endured “some crazy years” before her own career took off, started writing the film after the Hollywood mogul’s fall.
As scandal after scandal broke in Hollywood, South Korea and Japan, “I kept wondering what happened in those rooms. I was so shocked and curious,” she said.
One of Taiwan’s most acclaimed directors, Chang Tso-chi (張作驥), was already behind bars for raping a scriptwriter, and in February, another major industry player, actor-director Doze Niu (鈕承澤), was charged with sexual assault.
However, it was the appalling cases of a series of South Korean actress that really haunted Wu. In particular that of Jang Ja-yeon, whose suicide in 2009 after she was abused by the head of her studio was initially covered up.
What chilled Wu was that some actresses were attempting suicide 10 years or more after being abused.
“You would think that surely when the thing is finished that would be it, but no, it went on tormenting them for all those years — that’s the thing with PTSD — and that’s what made them decide to kill themselves such a long time after,” she said.
Chao said Asia’s film industry is probably no better or worse in terms of abuse than anywhere else.
“People tend to be polite,” yet if something did happen, there is not much of a culture of speaking out, he said.
“This is not based on anybody — it is a fiction, a drama — but the feelings are real,” he said. “I wanted the audience to be right in the character’s head and to feel what she does, all the subtle sounds like the [film producer’s] boiling kettle that stick in people’s heads.”
“If that freaks people out, then I’m happy,” he added.
DOING ENOUGH? The HPA budgets NT$1.3 billion to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but has no separate budget to fight teen drinking, a doctor said The government should step up alcohol education and prevention efforts, and allocate more of the budget to it, doctors said on Friday, citing the high consumption of alcohol among Taiwanese adolescents. One out of four 12-to-17-year-olds has consumed alcohol, said Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海), director of Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Department of Clinical Toxicology. The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) budgets NT$1.3 billion (US$43.9 million) annually to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but it has not allocated a separate budget for preventing teenage drinking or excessive alcohol use, Yen said. “There is no so-called ‘safe drinking level’ for minors,” because any amount consumed
The Fancy Frontier manga and anime expo held in Taipei over the weekend has sparked controversy, after a participant allegedly contravened the Act on Offenses Against Sexual Morality (妨害風化罪) by publicly exposing her private parts during a photo shoot. The two-day event opened at the Expo Dome at the Taipei Expo Park on Saturday, attracting numerous comic and anime creators, cosplayers, photographers and fans. Allegedly, a female cosplayer who was not wearing any underwear lifted up her skirt and revealed her private parts at an outdoor photography area near the venue. Event organizers said yesterday that to prevent indecent exposure, they have since
DREAMING OF TRAVEL: About 7,000 people applied for the experience, with about 60 chosen for the first flight yesterday, which includes boarding an airplane Starved of the travel experience during COVID-19? Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) has the solution — a fake itinerary where you check in, go through passport control and security, and even board the aircraft. You just never leave. The airport yesterday began offering travelers the chance to do just that, with about 60 people eager to get going, albeit to nowhere. About 7,000 people applied to take part, with the winners chosen by random. More fake flight experiences are to take place in the coming weeks. “I really want to leave the country, but because of the pandemic, lots of flights cannot fly,”
SOUTH WINDS: Taiwan’s southeastern region, as well as central and southern regions, would see regional showers and thundershowers, the Central Weather Bureau said Heavy to extremely heavy rainfall in the afternoon in the next two days might cause damage in affected areas, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said yesterday, urging people to stay vigilant. With the weakening of a Pacific high-pressure system and with a frontal system in the north moving south, the nation would come under the influence of southwest and south winds today, the bureau said. People in the nation’s southeastern region, as well as in central and southern Taiwan, are likely to experience regional showers or thundershowers, it said. Chances of afternoon thundershowers are high nationwide, and people in some regions