Gong Li

It's not nearly her best movie, or her toughest role, but the 1994 Qin dynasty epic The Great Conqueror's Concubine has a scene that beautifully sums up Gong Li's screen power. She is bathing in a large wooden vat with the lovely Rosamund Kwan, who screams as a large rat swims toward her. In a flash, Gong Li grabs the rodent and tosses it unceremoniously out of the tub.

Many a movie rat, of the human male variety, has tried to strike fear onto Gong Li's imperious face. Some have defeated her; none have cowed her. She represents,...

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