Success by the Script

Liu Ye, China's hottest young actor, likes to talk about video games, basketball and Mel Gibson's Braveheart, to name a few favorite topics. He's eloquent and charming, liable to break into song in mid-sentence or wave his long arms to emphasize a point—for example, how much he idolizes Michael Jordan. But steer the conversation toward the minefield of politics, and the 25-year-old's dramatic exuberance fades away to embarrassed curtness. What does he think about censorship? "It's hard to say if it's good or bad." How about artistic freedom? "Definitely important, but sometimes you have to compromise." And the government? "I'd never...

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