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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005, 09:58 GMT
Geisha film-makers defend casting
(from left) Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li
Memoirs of a Geisha opens in the UK in January
The director of Memoirs of a Geisha has defended the decision to cast Chinese actresses in leading roles as Japanese women, following criticism.

Rob Marshall said Ziyi Zhang and Gong Li were used because of their acting ability and star power, not their race.

Critics in China say it is insensitive because of Japan's atrocities during their Chinese occupation of the 1930s.

The adaptation of the best-selling novel is the first major US film to feature an almost entirely Asian cast.

Marshall said: "Your hope as a director is that someone comes in and claims the role, says 'This is mine.'

"When you saw Zorba the Greek, and you saw Anthony Quinn play Zorba, was that odd to you because he was Irish and Mexican?"

In a statement, Gong Li said she chose her role on its substance, not the race of the character.

Oscar predictions

"As actors, we seek roles that challenge and inspire us," she said.

Chinese-Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh also features in a prominent role in the film, which centres on a poor girl who rises in Japanese society.

Rob Marshall
The director's last film Chicago won a best picture Oscar

Based on Arthur Golden's book, it is being tipped as a possible Academy Award contender.

The Japanese occupation of Nanjing, which ran from 1937 until the following year, saw between 50,000 and 300,000 of people murdered and Chinese women killed after gang rapes.

One writer on the Chinese website Netease.com claimed the casting meant Chinese women were being used as "an outlet for Japanese fantasies".

They said: "This is a loss of face for the Chinese."

Some Japanese viewers have complained about the use of Chinese women over actresses from Japan.

But Jay Sakomoto, president of Shochiku, Japan's largest movie distributor, said the feedback from the premiere audience indicated success.

"Ziyi Zhang was impeccable. Many people thought she seemed more Japanese than a real Japanese woman," he said.

The film opens to a limited audience in the US on 9 December.

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29 Nov 05 |  Entertainment
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21 Aug 04 |  Entertainment
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11 Feb 03 |  Entertainment


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