Making of a Hero

Zhang Ziyi rolls across a library floor in a gauzy white tunic, trying to perfect an action stunt and she's in pain. Her forefinger is a swollen lump, bruised from an injury the previous day, and each thrust of her sword sets it throbbing anew. Her instructor lists the problems to work on: straighten the legs, revolve the body faster and finish at a better angle. Ziyi huffs, shuffles her Nikes, then dives again. No good. She squeals in agony. Director Zhang Yimou gives his action director the word: "Simplify it." Cinematographer Chris Doyle heaves a sympathetic sigh, which...

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