Admin note: Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates it! Thankful to have this community, to have you all, and of course, for Haoran! In light of recent events, just feeling quite sentimental today and appreciative of everything. Hope everyone is able to stay safe, happy, healthy, and positive!
Translating a couple of major film magazine articles/profiles that featured Haoran recently – one is World Screen, from August/September 2018, and one is China Screen Magazine, October 2019 issue. Though it’s nothing that hasn’t been said before, thought it would be cool to once again show how Haoran is viewed by the industry and media, given that these are important media platforms, and that he had a great 2019.
In October/November 2019, the China Screen Magazine (which is state run and affiliated with the official Movie Channel/CCTV6) did a special feature on the next generation of (male) actors, with a specific focus in film and the National Day movies in particular.
The second is World Screen, which was China’s first publication to cover the film industry from a global perspective and ran by the China Film Press. For their August/September 2018 issue, they did a special feature on the “Next 100” young faces of film globally.
It should be noted that in the World Screen feature, it sparked some discussion at the time as they were very critical of the current generation of Chinese young actors and their projects choices (not necessarily a fault of the actors, but the state of the industry), and that only three Chinese actors made their list: Zhou Dongyu, Haoran, and Wen Qi.
Disclaimer: The articles are not reflective of my personal stance on the state of the industry. etc.
China Screen Magazine – October 2019 issue
Since the industry first welcomed the existence of “liu liangs”, the discussion around actors and acting hasn’t stopped for even a day. Being “hot” is just liu liang, having representative works is what’s important, once you take out the popularity bubble. Who are the true main leads of the future movie industry – it’s time we widely advertise it.
Maybe National Day 2019 has already given us an answer. The commemoration films won in both box office and reviews. It’s a celebration for the audience, as well as for the new generation of acting talents. My People My Country‘s Du Jiang, Zhu Yilong, Liu Haoran. The Climbers‘ Jing Boran, Hu Ge. The Captain’s Ou Hao, Li Xian. Mao Zedong 1949‘s Huang Jingyu, and more.
As box office and word by mouth are taking off together in this era of the Chinese film industry, they’ve proactively continued to improve, to expand their acting paths, to take on new challenges. The audience has witnessed their growth on the big screen.
The new generation isn’t happy to just be idols, and have continued to accumulate acting experience, to improve their acing skills, to become the “new power” amidst the new generation of acting talents. Their rise has continued to help the film industry. Veteran actors have broken the soil, and the new acting talents are using their own abilities to help the industry.
Through their public recognition, influence, performance, and quality of projects, their potential and these benchmarks set the tone for the future. “The new power of acting talents” have arrived, is everyone ready?
Box Office Accumulation: 7.881 billion (now 8.011 billion); Awards: Nominated for Best Actor at the 34th Hundred Flowers Awards
Liu Haoran has a high spirited youthful air about him, and thus far he’s given this fully in his performances. In him, there exists two mixed auras – clarity and calmness, hence he logically selects his roles, actively thinks and summarizes, treats acting to the extreme.
Among post-95ers, he’s in a clique of his own; it’s a bit dazzling, but (he’s) not like a celebrity. Between acting, he’s written a book, held a small photography exhibition. He puts his observations into his performances, and hopes that he can become “someone who rides a bike, a person who sees the wind”.
“Clean, simple, pure”. In 2013, because of these special traits, Liu Haoran was chosen amidst 20 boys and girls by Chen Sicheng to play Song Ge in Beijing Love Story. Among the stories of pain in middle age, and the romance between the elderly, Liu Haoran enacted a youthful romance that was as pure as water.
Playing a role that was simple and clean like himself felt comfortable for Liu Haoran, and helped him establish early confidence in acting. On another level, in the roles afterwards, Liu Haoran continued to build on these traits: the intelligent and sunshiny Yu Huai in webdrama With You, the passionate Bai Long in Legend of the Demon Cat – they were all expressions of innocent youth from different perspectives.
But the bottleneck (T/N: in this context, it means the critical point of someone’s career) is where things really take off. Liu Haoran’s bottleneck first appeared in Detective Chinatown. This was a main lead role with a lot of screen time, and very different from With You‘s natural, easygoing (similarity to Haoran himself).
The prodigy young detective’s personality differed from Liu Haoran, and he needed to immerse himself into the role to build the “faith” (that he is the character). The deduction required to analyze cases meant the lines were long and complicated, and the role also happened to require stammering. For a youth who had just started acting, this was no easy task.
Not only that, at the time, Liu Haoran was facing the enormous pressure of the gaokao (college entrance exams). Before he actually entered a professional school to learn acting, he had to finish a project (role) that belonged to himself.
A lot of people are mystified by the Liu Haoran’s koi-like presence (koi represents good fortune/luck), and the truth is even he himself has trouble explaining it. He can only say that he’s been lucky. But he’s also more mature than others his age, and knows, “In order to stand steadily at your own pace, you can only walk forward, step by step.”
Detective Chinatown allowed Liu Haoran to experience the sweet taste of a role that bore fruit, and getting into the Central Academy of School’s acting major at the top of his class in both academics and performance provided him a road in which he could more deeply explore this area. And in that moment, Liu Haoran’s interest in acting had already begun.
In early 2018, Liu Haoran was invited to attend Paris Fashion Week by a brand (Louis Vuitton). One of the reasons he was chosen was (according to Louis Vuitton via GQ China), “He has representative works, a serious actor with deep thoughts.”
Among the current post-95er actors in China, Liu Haoran has a very unique existence. He is pure, untainted by any of the airs of a celebrity in the entertainment industry. He’s also mature, and is very clear on his acting path and plans. After With You, Liu Haoran no longer was satisfied by pure, youthful roles. He had ideas, a direction for himself, and pursued more complex roles.
The year that The Founding of An Army was filmed, Liu Haoran was 19. In the film, he needed to portray a very important historical figure – Su Yu. In order to prepare for the role, he researched and analyzed the ages and roles of every character in the film, and had a thick pad of notes.
The military-obsessed Liu Haoran also specifically sought out the director and scriptwriter to talk about military history and strategy, and practiced target shooting to get to know his character more. In the end, in this film with an amazing ensemble cast, audiences remembered this idealistic, enthusiastic youth, and his leap through the year.
In Nirvana In Fire 2, he faced a different type of worry. The young son of a general would have massive amounts of screentime in a huge production. Father-son relationships, family loyalty and patriotism – these are all areas he has never really experienced (to this level).
After seeing the notes-crammed script of Hu Ge from the first Nirvana In Fire, Liu Haoran didn’t even know how to take notes anymore. Because of his lack of experience, he entered a short time of inner struggle. Of course, for method actors, this type of struggle will occur often, and it’s only when there are obstacles that you are challenged and can improve.
So Liu Haoran “cleared himself”, and from the characters around him, found the emotions and ability to integrate with his role.
It has to be said, this strategy to never try the same type of role has allowed him to improve incredibly fast. In Detective Chinatown 2, he was no longer the green, nervous little actor from the first movie. He would talk about the character with Chen Sicheng and Wang Baoqiang, and under the nervous filming environment in the US (due to time constraints), helped to shoulder some of the director’s burden.
Detective Chinatown 2 not only allowed Liu Haoran and the rest of the cast and crew to experience the joy from the box office, it also got him a Hundred Flowers Awards nomination for Best Actor. He showed his nomination certificate and trophy on Weibo, and wrote, “Thank you for the love, the nomination is an affirmation.”
In the National Day slot that just ended, in the story “Daylight Shooting Star” part of My Motherland and I, he played a youth lacking in both education and skills. The character was rooted in a land of poverty, and would slowly learn life principles.
This was his second time working with director Chen Kaige, the first was Legend of the Demon Cat, and afterwards there is also Flowers Bloom In the Ashes. He loves listening to Chen Kaige explain scenes. The two will sit down and carefully dissect and discuss their understanding of a character and the scales of acting.
“Think about it. An intellectual like him explaining his own understanding of a scene, his analysis, his probing, and breaking it down into such detailed layers – to have that, even if you are only able to absorb a little bit of it, is infinitely more helpful than just relying on your own thoughts, because you gain so much more (insight).”
Compared to prodigy actors, the Liu Haoran who has comparably less experience has touched people through his hard work and serious focus. He is absorbing everything that has to do with acting, from himself, from his environment, from directors and other actors. You cannot deny, in Liu Haoran’s acting career, this is youth’s shining hour.
World Screen Magazine – Aug/Sept 2018
They are the model figures of post-80ers and 90ers. Some of them debuted very early, and grew up before we even realized it. Some of them became famous very quickly, and became popular overnight, with countless number of fans. They are both before and behind the camera, and their visuals and skills are eyecatching.
They are very young, but have resources in their hands that are worth millions, and are changing the trend of the film industry. And they from the US, England, France, China, Japan, Thailand…they are the future of cinema.
Liu Haoran, born October 10, 1997
Now: “Between a cute puppy and a wolf puppy, which one do you think you resemble more?” “Can’t I just be a human?” Though this was just a joke that occured in a Liu Haoran interview, it represents the mature attitude that he has that surpasses his age. He stays far away from labels and “ren shes” (character setups), and deeply understands what he must do as an actor.
This should be as treasured as his fresh, youthful image. This sort of natural transparency, from Beijing Love Story to the recent Legend of the Demon Cat – it isn’t easy (to be like this).
Future: Liu Haoran is already an accomplished idol with a great reputation, and this is because he has strived to become a good actor. He has a good face, but at the same time doesn’t publicize it. This is a trait that too many “little fresh meats” have trouble grasping, and has helped Liu Haoran start off his acting career well. In the next two years, his Novoland: Eagle Flag, Detective Chinatown 3, and more will take him to another level in a liu liang’s “test of will”.*
T/N: In this particular article, liu liang is used pretty loosely, and refers to those who have a substantial amount of popularity instead of just looking at traffic/online data. The “test of will” used here, in the greater context of the feature, refers to whether or not young actors can continue to walk steadily in the face of growing popularity, or “liu liang”.