TAIPEI • Deng Chao reportedly had to shed 20kg after beefing up his physique by 10kg to portray an ailing general and his healthy stand-in in Zhang Yimou's wuxia movie Shadow.
Chao will find out tonight if his dedication to the craft will get the nod for Best Actor in the Golden Horse Awards - touted as the Chinese cinema's Oscars - in Taipei.
While his wife Sun Li will be rooting for him, he will also hope that both of them - she is up for Best Actress for her own role in Shadow - can triumph.
But the couple face tough competition from their rivals from the highly lauded Taiwanese movie, Dear Ex.
Pundits said Roy Chiu and Hsieh Ying-xuan - who swept Best Actor and Best Actress at this year's Taipei Film Festival in June - are favourites to land the top acting prizes tonight.
Dear Ex, which is about a woman whose dead husband has left his assets to a male lover, is also up for honours in six other categories.
• Dear Ex
• Dying To Survive
• Long Day's Journey Into Night
• An Elephant Sitting Still
• Bi Gan (Long Day's Journey Into Night)
• Jiang Wen (Hidden Man)
• Pema Tseden (Jinpa)
• Lou Ye (The Shadow Play)
• Zhang Yimou (Shadow)
• Duan Yihong (The Looming Storm)
• Roy Chiu (Dear Ex)
• Deng Chao (Shadow)
• Xu Zheng (Dying To Survive)
• Peng Yuchang (An Elephant Sitting Still)
• Hsieh Ying-xuan (Dear Ex)
• Sun Li (Shadow)
• Zhao Tao (Ash Is Purest White)
• Chloe Maayan (Three Husbands)
• Zhou Xun (Last Letter)
Chiu and Hsieh can likely count on support from Singaporean film connoisseurs too, with all the tickets for a Dec 2 screening of Dear Ex at the Singapore International Film Festival snapped up.
Still, many eyes tonight will be on Shadow, which leads the field with 12 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Its domination continues a trend of mainland Chinese movies hogging the spotlight ever since they were eligible for the Golden Horse Awards in 1996, noted the BBC.
This year, most of the nominees for the major prizes come from China.
Zhang, in particular, will assuredly get a standing ovation if he bags his first Best Director accolade at the event, to add to his illustrious track record, which includes being Oscar-nominated for foreign films such as Raise The Red Lantern (1991) and Hero (2002).
But the Focus Taiwan news channel cited pundits as saying that other Best Director nominees could step out of Zhang's shadow to claim the limelight themselves.
One name, in particular, stands out - Lou Ye, whose The Shadow Play explores corruption, a sensitive topic in China, where anticorruption drives have seen top politicians fall out of favour.
The Golden Horse Awards have a history of rewarding works which tackle difficult topics and complicated human conditions.
This could also work in the favour of Zhou Xun, who won Best Actress in 2006 for her role in Perhaps Love.
Tonight, she is up for that honour again, for her nuanced performance in Last Letter, in which her character learns more about her dead sister after attending a school reunion.