Liu Hao Ran is one of China’s fastest rising young stars at the moment. At twenty one, he’s already left many memorable roles and performances on the big and small screens. The actor behind the scenes is an incredibly interesting person, but unfortunately information on him in English is hard to come by. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to compile some of the most interesting things about him as a way for new fans – or anyone else interested – to get to know him better.
But the best way to know him, honestly, is reading his interviews and his book – translations of which you’ll be able to find here on this blog! We’ll be updating regularly with new ones as well.
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1. Liu Haoran (刘昊然) isn’t actually his real name – it’s a stage name that was given by his boss and benefactor, actor/director Chen Sicheng. He was born as Liu Yuan (刘源), and that is still his legal name.
He’s also known by a variety of nicknames, including Six Dollars (pun on his real name), Haoran didi (little brother Haoran), Haoran gege (big brother Haoran), and my favorite, 日天 (Ri Tian), which is basically the two characters in Hao (昊). Chinese celebrities who are heavily discussed online are usually given nicknames by netizens because they don’t want their comments to be found in searches and for other reasons (some of the nicknames are developed by antis to hate on the celebrity in question), but the popular ones eventually stick.
In Haoran’s case, 日天 is technically a profanity (lol) and was originally used by antis. It effectively means someone who wants to take on the world and antis used it to imply that Liu Haoran and his fans think he’s all that. However, the nickname actually caught on with both fans, netizens, and even media members. Another variation that you’ll see a lot is 日天弟弟 (little brother Ri Tian).
He has said that he prefers to be called Haoran the most though, as it’s what friends call him.
2. He comes from a pretty average middle class family and has an older sister (eleven years older) and is an uncle to a baby niece. Most of the males in his family have served in the military, so as a result, he was raised rather strictly (but still with lots of love).
Due to the one child policy, Haoran actually spent most of his early childhood in the countryside with his uncle’s family, which is why he’s particularly fond of climbing trees.
3. As a child, Liu Hao Ran had poor posture and his mom enrolled him in dance class in his hometown in an attempt to fix this issue. This led to him eventually being admitted into the middle school branch of the Beijing Dance Academy (yes, the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy that seemingly half of the Chinese industry have attended) at age 12. Which means that as a preteen, he moved to Beijing to attend boarding school.
As a result, he is fiercely independent and unusually mature for his age. Unlike many other actors under the age of thirty, Liu Hao Ran’s immediate family is not involved in his career at all. He visits them when he has time off or they might visit him on set, but they do not oversee his career.
4. Despite being a graduate of the Beijing Dance Academy and having spent years taking dance and vocal lessons, Liu Hao Ran is famously terrible at both (there is a great video on Bilibili that basically compiles all of his fails in these two areas). He obviously had a lot of potential as a dancer once upon a time since he was recruited for the school, but a huge growth spurt has probably affected his ability to develop in that area. And while he is known for having a great vocal tone, he cannot hold a tune to save his life.
The fact that he was trained as a dancer is still pretty evident though – at 185cm, he is unusually coordinated and flexible. As you may have noticed, his martial arts scenes in Nirvana in Fire 2 look very fluid and natural (he did his own stunts). He still has poor posture in real life, but on set, it’s like his dance training comes back to him and he stands straight as a ramrod. He can also do the splits, handstands, and cartwheels pretty easily.
5. Liu Haoran was discovered via open casting for Chen Sicheng’s directorial film debut, Beijing Love Story, in 2013. Though Liu Haoran went through several rounds of auditions, he was ultimately chosen because Chen Sicheng had a bunch of the candidates – mostly girls (he was also looking for a high school girl) – play group games for an afternoon, and then had the girls vote for the guy that they liked the most. Haoran got the majority of the votes and Chen Sicheng believed that meant the teenager had a quality that would appeal to a potential audience.
Though Haoran’s debut film was Beijing Love Story, you could say he was actually casted for Detective Chinatown, as Chen Sicheng had already completed the script then but was asked by Wanda to prove himself with a “safe” directorial film debut. So when Chen Sicheng was casting for the role of Song Ge, he was also going into it with the mindset that if the actor chosen proved capable, the role of Qin Feng would be theirs as well.
6. If you look at Haoran’s Weibo, it is almost entirely composed of advertisements/project promotions. Liu Haoran believes that not only is an actor entitled to his private life, it is also beneficial for an actor to maintain a sense of mysteriousness and distance from fans and the audience. There was a time when he did share the parts of his regular life, but it’s clear that he’s grown up and does not enjoy the scrutiny of being a celebrity.
As a result, he also doesn’t do much fan service – unless he is promoting a new film or drama, he doesn’t engage in a lot of fan interactions (like live streams), and selfies come once in a blue moon. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t appreciate his fans, but he has said before that he wants his relationship with fans to be like a long term friendship, with both still maintaining their own lives.
In other words, he wants to be able to reveal parts of himself on his own terms.
7. In China, he is primarily known as a film actor, and this will probably be his main focus going forward. That’s not to say that he won’t act in dramas, but one of his biggest advantages is that at 21, he’s already seen as one of the prominent faces of the new generation for Chinese cinema, so it’s unlikely he’ll give this up. He currently is the youngest actor ever nominated for Best Actor at the Hundred Flower Awards, one of China’s most prestigious film awards.
He currently has a box office value of 4.2 billion RMB, has worked with one of China’s top film directors (Chen Kaige) twice, and has been handpicked to have a prominent role in two in government advocated films (The Founding of an Army and My Motherland and I). It’s an impressive resume for his age!
8. He is very intelligent – not just in terms of book smarts, but he enjoys reading, thinking deeply about topics, and asking tons of questions. It’s also one of the reasons why his acting is quite mature and beyond his age – he always puts a lot of thought into his roles and performance, and that insight goes a long way in helping him capture the important parts of a character or a scene.
He was an excellent student in his school days, and was basically the real life version of Yu Huai, including being really good at math and terrible at English.
9. Since the very beginning of his career, Liu Hao Ran has made it clear to his fans that the only presents that he will accept are books and fan letters. His fans have taken that to heart and use the opportunity to share their book recommendations. That’s why in airport fancams and pictures, you will often see him or his assistants holding books.
10. Liu Hao Ran is extremely near sighted and despises wearing contacts. As a result, whenever he is not filming, he usually has his glasses on. He also revealed recently that he never wears contacts when filming dramas/movies.
11. He is signed to Chengya Entertainment – which is a Shanghai based film production company that Chen Sicheng started in preparation for his venture into film directing. He was the very first talent signed by the company, and even now is one of only maybe half a dozen actors under management. He has called his management his “dream team” several times, and it’s because they share his philosophy that a career in acting is a marathon, not a race – going slow and steady by picking good projects and focusing on developing as an actor is more important than getting a popularity burst and then flaming out.
As a result, he enjoys a huge amount of freedom for a young actor – he chooses his own projects and what he wants to do. His team helps to reject lower quality projects on his behalf, push back on interview and live stream requests since he has said he doesn’t enjoy them, and allowed him to spend most of 2015 and the early part of 2016 focusing on his classes at the Central Academy of Drama. He also took almost five months off towards the end of 2018/early 2019.
At this point in time, his film/drama/magazine resources aren’t directly connected to the power of his agent, as his name now has its own value. He also has his own connections, along with those of his bosses, Chen Sicheng and Tong Liya.
And truth to be told, his company has protected him so well from the ugly side of the entertainment business and have encouraged him to live as normal a life as possible – that’s part of the reason why he has been able to maintain the bright, sunshiny parts of his personality despite being weighed down by the cons of being a celebrity.
12. Liu Hao Ran was determined to go the ke ban route (get a bachelor’s degree in acting) and was accepted into the Central Academy of Drama in 2015, ranking first in his major. He wanted to have a normal college life, and chose to live in the dorms at school for at least his first two years.
13. He has a very prominent canine tooth. Whenever he laughs or smiles/smirks, he instantly loses his cool, mature image, ha. Most fans love it as they think it makes him look dorky and mischievous, but in general it is seen as one of his physical flaws. However, my personal opinion is that he won’t fix it – there are several celebrities with canine teeth (also called hu ya 虎牙, tiger’s tooth, in Chinese) and it’s become one of his defining features now.
14. In early 2016, Liu Hao Ran lost about 20 jin in the span of three weeks as he was trying to land the role of Bai Long in Chen Kaige’s The Legend of the Demon Cat. He ended up getting the role, and has also maintained his weight since, because while he was skinny before, the loss of baby fat helped to accentuate his facial structure, which looks better on camera.
This proved to be a turning point in his career, as the weight loss showed that he had potential for a much broader acting career than people initially thought. As a result, Haoran is a bit paranoid about gaining weight now.
15. He is one fourth of what the Chinese media have dubbed “the most handsome groomsmen party in Chinese celebrity wedding history”. In 2016, at eighteen years old, he served as a groomsmen in actor Yuan Hong’s wedding with actress Zhang Xin Yi, alongside hugely popular Chinese actors Hu Ge, Eddie Peng, and Ma Tian Yu. The groomsmen probably received more media coverage and social media attention than the actual wedding, and even now, every time a celebrity wedding occurs or is being planned, pictures and videos of the four will come up again.
16. His favorite Chinese actresses are Tang Wei and Zhou Xun. He is also a fan of Taiwanese actor Chang Chen, and has said that he greatly admires Takeshi Kaneshiro because of how successful he has been as an actor while simultaneously maintaining a low profile.
17. His goal is to visit fifty countries, and has already visited more than 10+. His very first trip overseas (and the first time he’s ever flown on an airplane) was in 2014 to attend Chen Sicheng and Tong Liya’s wedding in Tahiti. Needless to say, he has a special relationship with the couple.
18. He also love animals, especially dogs, though his current work schedule doesn’t allow him to have one of his own. His 20th birthday fanmeet was held partly to help fundraise for the training of seeing eye dogs. He’s also raised snakes, lizards, and more.
19. When asked what surprises people the most when they meet him in real life, he says it’s his height. He is 185cm tall, but says that if people want to say he’s 183cm he’s fine with that as well. One of his biggest fears is being told that he’s grown taller – he believes that the taller he gets, the harder it’ll be for him as an actor as it limits his roles/who he can partner with.
20. Despite being incredibly mature and self-aware for his age, Liu Hao Ran is also essentially the boy next door – he likes to play video games, hang out with friends, play basketball – and it’s the combination of that maturity mixed with his natural youthful spirit that has made him stand out in an oversaturated industry.
He has a natural confidence that stems from the fact that he hasn’t ever really failed at anything that he set out to do (this seriously isn’t an exaggeration – his life has been incredibly blessed). However, while he’s confident in his abilities and in his potential, he is also simultaneously very grounded – as he states in the preface of his book, despite his success, he is constantly trying to have his feet touch the ground to try to slow himself down so that he isn’t recklessly running ahead.