HONG KONG, Jan 18 (AP) -- Hong Kong actor Tony Leung will play the late Peking Opera star Mei Lanfang in an upcoming movie directed by Stanley Kwan, a news report said Wednesday.
"This is a new challenge for Leung. He has won many awards, but he needs a movie like this to help him rise to the next level," Kwan was quoted as saying in a report by the mainland Chinese newspaper Chinese Business View, reprinted in the Chinese news Web site Sina.com on Wednesday.
Leung's portrayal of Mei, who was known for playing female characters, will likely draw comparisons to that of Leung's late fellow Hong Kong star Leslie Cheung, who played an opera singer specializing in female roles in the Oscar-nominated "Farewell My Concubine."
Commenting on the parallel, Kwan reportedly said, "Maybe people are looking forward to Leung's performance even more because his style is totally different from Leslie Cheung's. Everyone wants to see what he looks like as a female character."
Leung is best known for his performances as an introverted, melancholic writer in Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai's art-house films "In the Mood for Love" and "2046." He also starred in the acclaimed crime thriller "Infernal Affairs," now being remade in Hollywood by Martin Scorcese.
Born in 1894, Mei is known for developing the performance of female characters in Chinese opera, creating the "Mei style." He was also a pioneer in promoting Peking Opera abroad, touring Japan, the U.S. and the Soviet Union. He died in 1961.
The report in Chinese Business View also said other movies about Mei are being planned, but Kwan's movie will examine Mei from the perspective of the people who crossed paths with him.
"In the movie, he is someone being observed and worshipped," Kwan said, according to the report.
Hong Kong director Kwan is known for his movies about female subjects. His most recent film, "Everlasting Regret," followed the love life of a Shanghai beauty through China's political turmoil. Kwan's film on Mei Lanfang won't be the first time he's tackled a Chinese entertainer from an earlier generation. He also made "Center Stage," a biography of early Chinese movie actress Ruan Lingyu.
Calls to Kwan seeking confirmation of the report went unanswered. Charlotte Yu, a spokeswoman for Leung's management company, said she couldn't immediately confirm the report.