Grazia China: No Need to Worry About Him

We’ve got our first magazine cover of 2019 for Haoran in Grazia China (his second time on the cover – first was in 2017)!

(Article released on December 31, 2018)

The last time we saw him, it was in the Spring of 2017, and he had ridden his bike for 13 kilometers to the shooting site. It’s been over a year, and the youth who chases the wind has been going to class, attending photo shoots, meeting with friends. If he can ride his bike instead of riding a car, he will, and we’ve heard that when his bike broke down, he found a repair shop on the side of the road, and waited for it to be fixed before riding off.

So this time, when he arrived by car, we were shocked. After asking, we learned because it was too cold! The day of our shoot, the temperature in Beijing had suddenly dropped, and the soft winter sunlight couldn’t counter the harsh freezing winds. “Riding my bike is originally meant for exercise and improving health. If I rode it in this weather, I’d die, so decided to pass.” He waved his hand and laughed, revealing his tiger tooth.

He has a very natural, relaxed feel to him that is impossible to hide. When he talks, he’s spirited and free. At a recent event, even Sophie Turner commented that, “He looks very happy.” “Of course I’m happy – I’m so happy! Who wouldn’t be after getting to rest for so long?” He nods vigorously, and speaks with emphasis.

After Novoland: Eagle Flag wrapped up, Liu Hao Ran has lived a comfortable, free life. When he has classes, he goes to class and meets up with classmates for a meal. When he doesn’t have class, he attends driving school lessons, plays games, meets new friends.

As fans urge him daily to get back to work, he’s stubborn, “I don’t look, I don’t listen, and I don’t ask!” Though he adds honestly, “I’ve been looking at scripts the whole time, along with books and films.” He asks everyone to be patient – Detective Chinatown 3 is going to start filming, right, so he’ll be working. “Of course I’ll be filming. I’ve been paying attention to new projects as well, I’m not in a hurry.”

He describes himself as “relaxed but not slacking off”. “Slacking off means you’re just lying there, not staying in contact with the outside world and waiting for something to drop in your lap. Being relaxed refers to your spirit, but you’re still absorbing new things.” Before he came to the filming site, as he was waiting at home for food delivery to arrive, he was reading up on the development of the trade war.

As we were shooting, he was browsing topics that interest him – which is why he knows so much on a variety of topics: politics, fashion, business, film/TV – he follows them all. Recently he’s been very curious about the artist Banksy. “My life right now is very comfortable, and it’s full and of substance. You don’t have to bring out work to say that you’re living a full life, right?”

Novoland: Eagle Flag wrapped up in August and took nine months to film, and spanned four seasons. The filming took place in Xinjiang, Xiangyang, and Tang City. Temperatures ranged from negative twenty degrees to thirty nine (Celsius). During filming, he pretty much encountered “all of the problems that an actor might have to deal with”. He lost contact with the world in those nine months, and shut his ears off from what was going on outside.

Rumor has it that when he went to Paris in the middle of filming, his unread messages on WeChat had exceeded 1000. He truly isolated himself from the world. “Can’t help it. When I’m on set, I lose all interests. When I’m done for the day, I’m just in my room looking over the script, thinking about my role, and listening to music.”

There’s another reason too – he wanted to give himself time to cool down. Right after filming started, Detective Chinatown 2 hit theaters and became both a box office hit and hit with the critics. Liu Hao Ran discovered that he was being mentioned far too many times, and that he was receiving more scripts than ever. He was also being recognized more and more on the streets. “It was like getting drunk on alcohol, but that kind of enthusiasm isn’t logical, so you need to calm down a bit.” So he hid away to film, and was MIA for an entire two months.

To this day, he doesn’t regret it, because “You need to do what you must. When you choose to film, then do it well, don’t think about anything else.” One day after finishing for the day, he lied on his hotel bed and thought, “Liu Hao Ran, you’re pretty grounded.” “The truth is, even though we may say that we can withstand the wind, the truth is, when it actually happens, it’s quite difficult to stand in the wind. It’s hard to stand your ground.”

He wrote this in The Eye of the Storm, “I often remind myself, no matter how far I go in this industry, I must live a normal life. When I’m acting, I’m portraying someone else’s life – they will have dramatic falls and rises, and maybe they live glamorously, but once I leave the actor behind, I need to keep in mind I’m just an ordinary person. I hope that I can have my own time and space, to have my own hobbies, to be able to be lazy or go nuts. And to be able to ride my bike to meet up with my friends. It’s important (for me) to remember that I’m just like everyone else.”

So, even though Liu Hao Ran admits that 2018 was an explosive year for him – popularity, public recognition, awards recognition all came like a storm.

The youngest ever nominated for Best Actor at the Hundred Flowers Awards, Douban’s Most Talked About Actor of the Year, a popular actor who can make waves on Weibo just from one post, a young actor with growing commercial value….he’s still the Liu Hao Ran who freely rides his bike around, who chats with his underclassmen during military training, who gets impatient when he can’t get what he wants while playing games, who pays attention to all the new topics on the Internet, who will talk animatedly about anything. He’s growing up at his own pace.

Just as we’re about to send this draft for publication, “Liu Hao Ran climbs a tree” and “Liu Hao Ran dances” is on the trending topics again. The former is from when he went to Yunnan for the Battle Against Poverty campaign, and climbed up a tree casually and easily. The latter is when he helped to promote a senior’s new project, and danced. A netizen left the following comment after seeing the dance, “What makes Liu Hao Ran attractive is that he isn’t awkward. He does it confidently, without any restrictions.”

While we were interviewing him, he did not put up a front. As the makeup artist busily worked on him, he maintained eye contact with us and was very sincere and honest, and voluntarily brought up some topics. He never tried to shield himself. He talked about his plans to get his driver’s license, how he’s a big fan of long coats, and was gleeful as he talked about how he talked his family in allowing him to get a custom made one in Hengdian.

He has skiing on his schedule, and wants to try fishing as well. Because “you can just leave the fishing pole there, and lie there as you’re sunbathing, listening to music, and lazily wait for the fish to bite. It matches my personality well.” Just thinking about heading to Tokyo to film (for Detective Chinatown 3) makes him excited, “I can eat months of Japanese cuisine! It’ll be awesome.”

To be able to “film what I want to film, say what I wan to say, and do what I want to do” is the free life that he wants. “I don’t like to stay in my comfort zone, I’m always testing the edge.” A lot of the time, this freedom comes within specific contexts, and as the rules change, he’ll adjust himself. Like at serious events like the Hundred Flowers Awards or recording for National Treasure, he will be very cautious. But when he finds the opportunity to relax, he’ll be lively again.

It’s okay to allow yourself to step outside of the lines a little at times, because “that’s what makes it interesting”. A month ago at a fashion ceremony, he wore a “life jacket” style outfit, and was happily skipping around on the red carpet. He’s still very satisfied with it, just “Didn’t think it was actually glow-in-the-dark and would stand out that much!” He tilts his head a little, and you can hear the laughter in his voice.

Before, when his popularity rose and he felt he couldn’t deal with it, he’d go hide out by going to class, going on set, or going to travel. Now, Liu Hao Ran says he’s slowly beginning to accept it, and getting used to it. “You can’t just disappear all the time. It’s not very responsible. When you’re not working, it’s okay to hide out, but when you’re working you need to do it openly and well, and present the best side of yourself. That’s a more mature attitude I should have when working. That’s what life is – you learn through conflict and compromise.”

Grazia: Are you sensitive to the changes that have taken place in you?

LHR: Pretty sensitive. I”m not the type to deny that I’ve changed if others point it out. If I haven’t discovered it, I’ll examine myself. The most important thing is, I’m not someone who never changes. I want to have tried something new after a period of time. It’s hard for me to stay in the same state for a long time. I might be able to do Sudoku and build Legos for a while, but other times it’s difficult for me to stay so focused on one thing for a long period of time.

Grazia: What about filming then? Is that an exception?

LHR: When you’re filming, you aren’t constantly in front of the camera either. You’ll have rests between takes, time to adjust, to look back. Many times when I’m on set for a long time, I’ll forget the presence of the camera.

Grazia: Is that a good thing?

LHR: For an actor, you have to present the best part of yourself every second you are in front of the camera. You have to learn to control it. There will be times when you won’t be able to do a great job, but to be blunt, that’ll be up to the editing team. That isn’t up to the artist.

Grazia: You’re afraid of losing control?

LHR: Not losing control, but losing manners. Guys my age aren’t that careful – when I’m too excited, I sometimes forget to consider as much, and it’s dangerous when you pass boundaries.

Grazia: What affects your state of mind?

LHR: When you’re thinking too much, especially at night. Nighttime is when you’re most prone to thinking too much. And I usually go to bed quite late, so I have a lot of time to overthink. Sometimes I annoy myself, and I’ll say, “Stop thinking. Tomorrow when you wake up you will have forgotten about it.”

Grazia: When you’re acting, will you intentionally keep yourself on your toes?

LHR: My work experience hasn’t gotten to the point where I can control when I’m tight and when I’m relaxed. When I’m in the background of a scene, I can be relaxed, but when I have an important role in the scene, I won’t be able to relax even if I want to, because I care too much. I want to show a relaxed state, but inside I’m wound up very tightly.

Grazia: Once you’ve gotten your driver’s license, will you still ride your bike?

LHR: Yes, especially for places that are close by. That’s freedom! To be able to go where you want to.

Grazia: Talk about your recent trip to Italy.

LHR: I went to many cities: Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice…in three or four days, I went to about eight or nine cities. There was one day where I went to three cities. There was one night where I even went to their filming studio, Italy’s Hengdian. It was full of sets of old Rome, but I wasn’t able to find any good restaurants there.

Grazia: Have you ever wanted to travel somewhere just for a particular restaurant?

LHR: I’ve eaten a lot of the food in the areas here, but it doesn’t seem necessary to fly to another city just for food. If I’ve decided on a place to go, I’ll make reservations at restaurants in advance, but I don’t think I’d fly somewhere just for a restaurant.

Grazia: One of your goals is apparently to hit at least 50 countries in the world. When do you think you’ll be able to accomplish this? How do you explore a city?

LHR: I’ve done the math before. I’ve already been to ten countries now, so I’m 1/5 of the way there. My criteria for a city is pretty simple: 1) the hotel – most importantly, if the hotel breakfast is good. 2) restaurants. 3) Parks, because it’s where you really get the feel of a city.

Grazia: Will you keep a travel blog?

LHR: I don’t have this habit. My memory is pretty good, so I’ll remember. A diary is something personal, and meant only for yourself. What you write on a piece of paper is no longer a secret. If it’s a very important memory to you, you will never forget it. So why do you have to write it down? If it vanishes from your memory, that just means it wasn’t worth remembering.

Grazia: So you’re able to share what you jot down?

LHR: Yes, what you write down is what you can share with everyone. Though I don’t write very much – I post pictures instead. The four most common words you’ll see are: sharing a photo. I’ll think a lot, but I won’t say a lot. A lot of what I say is when we’re eating and chatting, so it’s just in the flow of conversation and I’ll forget about it.

Grazia: If you’re able to interview someone, who would you want to interview? What would you want to know?

LHR: I’m not really that curious about the people around me, because I can slowly learn about them over drinks and meals. What I’m more interested in is those that are complete strangers and foreign to me. I’m very familiar them, but we have never spoken or even seen one another. Recently I read an article on the artist Banksy, and I was deeply intrigued by what goes through his mind.

Grazia: Would you consider acting in a film that’s adapted from a manga?

LHR: I’ve seen a lot of manga adaptations, but I feel it’s incredibly difficult to do. Because whatever an actor can express, animation can do it. But what animation can do, we might not be able to do. IP adaptations are already immensely hard – anime/manga adaptations are even more so.

Grazia: If you could cosplay as a character for Halloween, what would it be?

LHR: The pumpkin reaper in Overwatch!

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