China’s ‘stylish uncle’ makes his mark

By Wang Yitong Source:Global Times Published: 2016-1-19 17:33:01

Wu Xiubo has played characters from a range of ages, personalities, backgrounds and careers. Photo: Courtesy of Wu Xiubo

With his romantic comedy hit Finding Mr Right (2013), actor Wu Xiubo has become famous across China as the country's "stylish uncle," with his gray hair, beard and glasses. Wu has embraced the title with great pleasure, and regards it as a label of respect.

Despite being known as a "stylish uncle," Wu is a versatile actor with the ability to play a variety of roles. From Before Dawn (2010) to Finding Mr Right (2013), from Divorce Lawyers (2014) to Angel Heart (2012), Wu has embodied characters from a range of ages, personalities, backgrounds and careers. The only word that accurately describes him is "boundary crossing."

Wu's path to success was not a direct one, but he never describes his early years as ones of "unrecognized talent" or "unrealized aspirations," instead joking that he has been lucky in his health and personal life. As a young man, he worked an assortment of jobs, running a restaurant and clothing shop and even working as a resident singer, among other things. Wu joked that he has worked 200 different jobs just to "make a living." Although he didn't earn much money, he harvested a wealth of experience.

When asked whether his success as an actor is thanks in part to his past lives, he answered jokingly, "If past lives influenced later performance, then Xu Xiake (1587-1641) [a geographer who traveled for 34 years] would be the world's greatest actor. In my opinion, the ability to act depends to a large extent on 'forgetting quickly' rather than 'remembering a lot.' That way, I can touch emotions with a quiet heart. People can interpret and perform better only when they are able to access the right emotion."

Wu's career only began to take off after numerous trials. Once, he ate nothing but cucumbers and tomatoes, and ran 10 kilometers and swam 3 kilometers every day, just to land a role. Within one month, he had lost more than 15 kilograms. For another play, which was a period piece, Wu pored over classic Confucian texts to gain a thorough understanding of the time's history and culture. His dedication to embodying each role has been key to his success in the film industry. "I do appreciate my career, and I try to interpret each role with all my heart and soul," he said. As for his success, he explains, "All the honors I've received are the result of continuous work, and success is nothing but unbroken concentration."

Wu thinks that China's film market has entered a stage of rapid development, though it still needs further improvement from producers' point of view. He thinks that producers must be patient before they're able to become great masters. "A really great work requires the sculpture of time, which means that producers must have the mindset of an artisan," said Wu.

Despite his calm and rational image, Wu is a man whose emotions guide his work. "Happiness is my greatest wish, and that's something that is not derived from success or failure, but simply from myself," he said.

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