VENICE, ITALY (AP) - Actress Maggie Cheung, in Venice on Saturday to promote a new film, said one reason she has pulled back from acting for now is the industry’s focus on youthful beauty.
Cheung has a brief role in Isaac Julien’s “Better Life,” an experimental film that is also a video installation. The 45-year-old actress said she took the part because the commitment was brief and that she still is not ready to star in a major motion picture.
In the meantime, she is pursuing a new passion, music, and allowing the aging process to take hold so she can in the future consider roles that don’t require the kind of youthful beauty she displayed in “In the Mood for Love.”
“I need botox, I am sorry,” she told a small group of reporters, laughing. “I don’t look 22 any more. You have to know where you are. I feel at my age now. I am a bit too young to play the grandmother yet, and a bit too old to play Jackie’s girlfriend.”
Cheung said she has had no problem playing unglamorous roles, noting she has played a cat and a snake.
“I don’t need that as an actress, for every film to be beautiful. But you are expected to be, and that’s the problem,” she said.
Cheung said her best actress award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for her performance in “Clean” marked a turning point in her life, when she decided to take time to pursue other interests, having received validation for her acting career.
“I got my own explanation of what I’ve been doing for the last 25 years. You existed for a reason,” Cheung said.
In the meantime, she has been working on making music with friends in New York, Paris and Iceland.
Cheung regrets she doesn’t play any instruments. Instead, she works with musicians to write music, which she then takes home and listens to over and over again until she is ready to write lyrics, and then sings over the tracks. She collaborates with the musicians by e-mail until it is time to record.
So far, none of the projects are for release. But Cheung said she would one day love to score a film, and is working on learning to edit images.
“I am not looking to make an album. I just enjoy the time in the studio. Inventing something from nothing. That is a great pleasure,” Cheung said. “As an actress I never get that because I am always under the string of, ‘You do this now, You do that now.’ Even if you did your best and it’s brilliant, in the editing room, it’s gone forever. You have no control absolutely.”
In fact, Cheung did take on at least one other acting project since her Cannes award: She played a role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds.” Again, she said she took it because it involved a two-day commitment.
Cheung was the theater owner who left a movie house to the young Jewish girl who survived a Nazi massacre of her family, and fled to Paris. But the sequence wound up on the cutting room floor.
“That whole chunk he took out, because it wasn’t necessary to the story,” she said. “It was a pleasure, the two days. And I’m not sorry I’m cut out. Probably I’m not very good, either.”
Cheung plays the Goddess Mazu, a figure in the 15th Century Chinese fable in “Better Life,” which examines the risks taken by immigrants trying to improve their lot and was inspired by the Morecambe Bay tragedy of 2004 in which 23 Chinese cockle-pickers died.
In the film, Cheung has no speaking parts but hovers over a Chinese landscape dressed in a flowing white robe.
Cheung said her Hong Kong friends in the business keep asking when she is going to come back for a feature role. She’s not ready to say when that might be.
“I never even said the word retire. I am not saying stop forever. I just need to take a break for another stage in my life to take off,” Cheung said.
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