SHANGHAI • First, Fan Bingbing caught the attention of sharp-eyed netizens when photographs of the actress endorsing an eyewear brand popped up early this week.
Now, talk that the 37-year-old - who fell from grace after she was mired in a tax scandal last year - is setting sights on a comeback has gained further credence.
Fashion magazine Marie Claire reported that actress Penelope Cruz is preparing for an all-female spy thriller called 355, with Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong'o and Fan co-starring.
Last September, the Global Times reported that Zhang Ziyi's representative had quashed talk that the actress would replace Fan in that movie.
Some netizens believe that Fan stands a better chance to revive her career in Hollywood for now, as not everyone in China is happy that she escaped a jail term over her tax evasion.
Still, even though she was fined 883 million yuan (S$177 million) in October, she was listed by The Beijing News on Monday as one of the Entertainers of 2018.
This despite her being out of the public eye for several months after television presenter Cui Yongyuan said in May that she had inked two contracts for her role in movie Air Strike, with the one with a lower amount to be submitted for tax reporting.
As rumours swirled over her fate then, veteran actor Jackie Chan had to deny reports that she had asked him for help to seek refuge in the United States.
But photos showing Fan promoting Chinese sunglasses brand Prsr on Sina Weibo this week suggest that advertisers are now willing - or could have received tacit approval from the authorities - to take a chance on her again.
"The newly released photos are for the company's 2019 series of sunglasses," a staff member of the Prsr online store told the Global Times.
"The photos featuring Fan were newly uploaded."