Childhood dream comes true for actor Chen Kun as he slays demons in new movie

Who: Chen Kun, 39, is one of China's top actors, gaining fame after starring in the film Balzac And The Little Chinese Seamstress (2002), which is based on Dai Sijie's best-selling novel of the same name, opposite Zhou Xun and Liu Ye.

Since then, he has appeared in numerous major productions, earning a Golden Horse nomination for Best Actor for his role as a playboy in A West Lake Moment (2005) and winning the Hundred Flowers Awards for Best Actor for his part in Painted Skin (2008) as a war general. For two consecutive years at the Shanghai International Film Festival from 2006 to 2007, the handsome star was recognised as the Most Popular Chinese Film Star.

The fiercely private person has a son aged 12, but he has never confirmed who the mother of his child is or if he is married.

Chen's latest role is in fantasy flick Zhong Kui: Snow Girl And The Dark Crystal as the titiular Zhong Kui, a mythological figure who slays demons. In this version of the story, he is torn between his duty and his heart when he falls in love with a beautiful female demon played by Li Bingbing.

In an e-mail interview with Life!, Chen talks about his experience working on the film.

Did you read Zhong Kui stories before signing on for the role?

Yes, I read many of these stories as a kid and even drew many of his pictures, as I am a huge fan of the figure.

Getting to play the role now is like a childhood dream come true.

For your new film, you had to perform many action stunts. How difficult were they?

I went through eight gruelling months of physical training for The Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate (2011), so I was mentally prepared for all the training that I would need for this movie.

The hardest scene to film was the one where I had to fight for a long time and the wirework was really tough. I had to maintain my balance while fighting, which caused a lot of "NG" (no good) takes.

You star opposite Li Bingbing again here, after The Knot (2008). What was it like working with her this time around?

We're actually really old friends, and I love working with Bingbing. She's so beautiful and so kind, and always willing to lend a hand in any situation. I can learn a lot from her, not just in terms of acting but also about being a good person.

You have had many prominent roles in many major films. How do you select your roles these days?

Rather than play someone who is completely good, I'm more interested in playing characters who are more complex, maybe even a bit more rebellious. Zhong Kui is that kind of character, plus he is also a heroic demon slayer, so I found the role really interesting to play.

You still look very good for your age. Are you afraid of ageing as you enter your 40s?

I am an Aquarius, so how can I ever get old? We're always so youthful. (Laughs) Actually, whether or not you are scared of ageing, time goes on and it will eventually happen. So as long as I know I've worked hard and given my best in everything that I do, that's all that matters.

yipwy@sph.com.sg

Zhong Kui: Snow Girl And The Dark Crystal is in cinemas.