Johnnie To: “Who Wants to Cast Cecilia Cheung Now?”

Director Johnnie To (杜琪峯) was brutally honest in pointing out that he does not want to cast Cecilia Cheung (張栢芝) in his movies because of her complicated personal life and negative gossip. He admitted that there is an overall shortage of Hong Kong actresses over 30 years old he preferred to cast.

Gao Yuanyuan Becomes Favorite Casting Choice

While promoting Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 <單身男女2>, Johnnie explained why Mainland actress Gao Yuanyuan (高圓圓) has become a recent casting favorite. Filled with praise for the 35-year-old actress, Johnnie nevertheless cast Yuanyuan as a superficial love interest in 2013’s Blind Detective <盲探>. Johnnie said, “It was especially hard to find someone who can get Andy Lau (劉德華) to fall in love with her, so I asked Yuanyuan to help out, and it worked.”

Johnnie admitted that Hong Kong film actresses have many limitations, “When Hong Kong cinema was at its best, there weren’t many leading actresses over 30 years old. It’s not like overseas, where actresses over 40 are still leading. The only one who could do it in Hong Kong was Brigitte Lin (林青霞), who is still very beautiful. Besides her, it is really rare to find someone over 30 years old. Almost none.”

Pointing out that Cecilia Cheung (張栢芝), who starred in Johnnie’s Running on Karma <大隻佬> is a qualified actress over 30, Johnnie said, “Yes, she is also pretty good. Unfortunately, she got herself into some messy issues. She’s also divorced. Who wants to use her [now]?”


This article is written by Addy for

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  1. I think he’s lying because even in grimace, CPC emits far better than GYY so I think it is lamentable that HK cinema is more shallow or compromised by using non HK performers in stead of someone they really want like CPC.

    Maybe this is about not wanting to give triad an excuse to ask her to repay her father’s debts or part of the ongoing saga of what Edison did to everyone.

    But that IS an excellent actress – even though she is a hybrid – she is really emotional on screen.

    So is her Running on Karma – the fact that ancestrally, she is part Axis so she DESERVES this? Is that the message?

  2. I didn’t like Running on Karma because I felt the storytelling was obviously lying when it said that we can switch places with our bientai (hentai!) perpetrators. That would make Indian philosophers dumb and flawed which is impossible.

    I highly doubt that someone putting down a Piepel rapist murderer even if in the same way as the culprit violated a Piepel victim means that the PUNISHER is now in the same position as the rapist murderer.

    It doesn’t work like that.

  3. I can’t imagine how those Edison Chen victims survive especially the ones still in the public eye like CPC – don’t strangers just want to hold doors open for her? It’s unbelievable and ongoing violation as long as third parties are alive who have seen those images – they would all have to be dead for it to be better for those girls.

    1. Seriously, what are you on? Your comments are always so random and off tangent.

  4. Spirit of HK cinema slowly dieing, but of course we will continue to have “HK” movies/china collaboration….

  5. Her personal issues are indeed pretty messy but I think this johnnie to is a bit shallow. What a bunch of bs to not cast cecilia. He’s probably getting paid by chinese sponsors to cast chinese stars in hong kong movies

    1. Agree woooo. Nowadays filmmaker need to have billing or main cast of at least a female or a male that is from mainland china. With such strong domination of male actors in HK that are favourites of Johnie To, he can only go for female mainland actress, so this is a shallow excuse in my view.

  6. “She’s also divorced. Who wants to use her [now]?”. So if an actress is divorced, she can’t have a job? Sounds prejudice!

  7. If Johnnie To regards himself as a professional and serious director, then the casting of an actress should be based on whether or not he thinks she has the ability to carry out the role, not on her personal life. Sounds more like he’s using it to hide his personal biases and superficiality.

  8. I’m no director but I’ve heard enough interviews where famous celebrities with “messy” backgrounds are the best because of their inner struggle. It’s ultimately his loss and a great as he is, I lost a lot of respect from his comment. He’s following wong jing ‘s footsteps

  9. Reading his comment make me angry. What a shallow and an idiot. I am Not Cecilia fans but the way he said just no class at all. Look like he is just another chak Hai jai like Wong jing.

  10. Haha, funny…you can’t take that you shouldnot work with him. Movies hired pro actress, personal live won’t build a new character. A bit of judgment speech. She is ok, nothing special

  11. Due to her standard as an actress should be in adult movie. japan

  12. Johnny To is just stating the obvious – casting CC means fail at box office means no money! Because audience all knows her negative news and negative divorced status!

    1. and because audience all can’t forget her collection pics in EDC’s laptop.

  13. hmn….what has CC personal life have to do with her acting skill?

    hmn………….weird director……………….

  14. What does an artiste’s personal life have to do with her acting abilities? What a bunch if crap, just because you don’t agree with someone’s personal decisions in their life that automatically means they lost their talent? It’s like saying oh they don’t like my favorite ice cream flavor anymore so they must be a bad actress now. It’s irrelevant. Even he agreed she’s a good actress, don’t get it.

  15. Considering CC’s track record with her messy life, and maybe he finds it difficult to work with her during those times. I think he has a right to not cast her anymore. Who wants a drama queen when she’s not “acting”? And what director wants to fail in the box office?

  16. Johnnie To is brutally honest and blunt. He is out to make money with the best artists he can buy with minimal “baggage”. If viewers or bloggers can’t accept his comments or criticisms from his point of view, they are just as shallow.

  17. What a jerk! What does being divorce have anything to with one’s ability to act/perform? A lot of Hollywood artists have been married, divorce, remarried and divorce, cheats on their partners etc. It doesn’t stop them from acting or be cast in great roles.
    As to ‘messy issues’. Who doesn’t have a skeleton in their closet or have had negative press? Is he a saint?
    Nicholas is the other ‘divorcee’. He is back with Wong Fei and possiblity having a child out of wedlock. Is Johnnie going to stop casting Nicholas in his movies because he sets a ‘bad’ example to younger generation? Double standard!!!

    1. Yeah he is definitely a code of antics as a director!

  18. New movie Xxx Japan : Moon Night of September 2015
    Ceclia Cheng

  19. a chinese saying,this is “lok jen ha sek” from johnnie to. she has already felt on the ground and he didnt give a helping hand and even find it necessary to give her a kick while she is lying on the ground?this guy is really black hearted.

    1. I have watched a lot of Johnnie To’s movies and really enjoyed them, however, the way he answered that question in regards to Cecilia Cheung is quite mean-spirited. Although she is probably not as popular now after the scandal, there could have been other ways of saying that he will not likely cast her in his movies in the future. Plenty of celebrities have had scandals; does that mean that they should no longer work or something? I think it was a harsh comment and I didn’t expect this from Johnnie To who is a very well-respected director.

  20. this director is ridiculous and unreasonable! he gets actresses to act. why does he want to dig into their personal lives? is the director himself so clean?

  21. Seems like this article is one of several online here that should be taken with a grain of salt.

    As much as I don’t care who To casts in his films as long he gets the best out of them, Cheung is someone I wouldn’t think of seeing in To’s films often. Besides, there are other HK actresses over 30 (such as Carina Lau, Josie Ho etc) that has the qualities and experiences to lead for his films.

  22. I would refer action movie for Cecilia. She is boring actress, doesn’t want to see. Lately, except 90s Chinese theater are exciting, most are bored, and getting boring. Action movie like rocket, gun action for Cecilia, she wouldn’t fit for love movie, or fighting movie. Art is art, Chinese movie is now leading to artistic theme, and i don’t understand the theme of the movie. Very boring like 10 years.

  23. Wish Brigitte Lin acted in a movie once in a while or even make a cameo appearance. She can still be a writer on the side. I wouldn’t mind seeing her playing her age in a movie with a good script.

    1. As for CC, I have heard negative comments on her acting even though I remember how great she was as a call girl in Stephen Chow’s movie. Hopefully she will get her life together.

  24. I think JT did not speak out of random, CC has to face it as she is not young and hot anymore, just be a good mother to her sons is what everyone is hoping for.

  25. Seem to recall Gao Yuanyuan was a third party in another Chinese actor’s relationship. And there was also a period of time that she was being named as the “king/queen of third party” due to her relationships.
    Perhaps bygones be bygones for the case of GYY…but not CC to Johnnie To?

  26. This old man is talking rubbish hard selling his movie! The best actress above 30 years old in H K is Charmaine Sheh, she has international fame for her nomination in International Emmy awards. Gao yuanyuan is yet to gain her international fame. Brigitte Lin is too old to fit in! Acting has nothing to do with family background, Cecilia Cheung is a great actress! ..LOL

    1. GYY was invited to the Cannes a couple of times, but yea she is not as recognizable as Zhang Zi Yi.

  27. The best actress above 30 years old in H K is Charmaine Sheh, she has international fame for her nomination in International Emmy awards. Gao yuanyuan is yet to gain her international fame. Brigitte Lin is too old to fit in! Acting has nothing to do with family background, Cecilia Cheung is a great actress! ..LOL

    1. I second it… Cecillia is definitely a great actress..she is also unpretentious…there is this reality show where this 4 actress goes to village as their daughter-in-law and she is really awesome and also the other actresses…very genuine acting…

  28. Although I am not agree he said that publicly. It’s all his personal view.
    He should not speak out.SERIOUSLY how can he like that!

    However, think it carefully. If you are a director of a million dolars movie, will you dare to bear and take the risk of casting an actress with that have negative big scandal.

    Honestly, it is too risky as it may affect the sales of the movie.

    Johnnie To should admit he is wrong. Say sorry to Cecilia.

  29. Even if that’s what cc is , he shouldn’t stab her like that.he can just keep his bloody mouth shut. Who don’t make mistake in life. She is sad enough d.pse be a gentle man and let her go on with her life. It’s really mean of you to do that.i hope u just shut up!!!!

  30. This Jonnie is ***********. I may not like Cecilia much..but please there are quite a number of excellent actresses over 30’s..just that they are not movie stars but they certainly are drama queens in their own rights.
    Just randomly from my head i can nanem, Myolie Wu, Kate Tsui, Charmaine Sheh, Tavia Yeung and they have been in the industry at least 10 years. I remember Kate did a few movies years ago and she was brilliant. Movie stars over 30 ; Angelica Lee, Karena Lam, Gigi Leung, Crystal Tin (Chapman Toh’s wife)…. heck! even women in 40’s are still available like Ada Choi, Anita Yuen, Karen Mok, Charlie Young,etc.
    The issue is, is he willing to take a risk for drama queens to lead in movie or not, or push the boundaries with second fiddle like Crystal Tin, though I really like her acting, etc.
    Seriously This Jonnie Toh is senile.

  31. come on people, be realistic here…bottom line is all about money & ultimately her personal gossips do have negative effect at the box office. Look at Lindsay Lohan, does anyone want to cast her? So there you go. Besides, she’s not that great so why would he bank on her? Yes, his statement doesn’t sound nice but that’s the truth :(…and I think the divorce comment is taking out of context bc I don’t see a man in his position would say something like that.

    1. Yes for celebs clean image are important for the selling points too.

  32. He is right. Why is the world donating money due to her past? Each person like donating 7 dollars to her, to her pleasure, but cant take her as topic talking about this, i think she is not a bad person.

  33. Did he really say that?! If there’s really a problem with the industry then maybe if HK people didn’t subjugate women so much based on their looks you would see more over 30’s leading actresses.

  34. I guess that’s why it’s such a bit difference w/Hollywood and HK showbiz?
    If hollywood casts actors/actresses who does NOT have messy personal lives, the public probably will never get to watch movies? haha LOL..imagine Robert Downey Jr??? Wasn’t he messed up big time and in jail and still he comes out n won whatever whatever. So that’s HK director’s huh? I don’t watch HK or China movies period so i wouldn’t know whether they are good or bad. I only watch some of the series but even now w/TVB, i haven’t watch much anything these past 2 weeks except that Ah Wong one this one i havent even finished anything in completion. What a bunch of baloney w/these directors on how they cast ppl.

    1. You’re wrong. Hollywood does care about image, the reason TDJ got so many chances is bc his family is very well connected in Hollywood. that’s why he gotten so many chances. Look at Lindsay Lohan, you see her in anything lately? you see any leading ladies over 40s? Or majority of the roles goes to the likes of Julia Roberts or Meryl Streep and maybe a hand full if that.

      1. Can’t compare RDJ to Lindsay Lohan lol RDJ did Chaplin, he’s got actual talent! Lilo did Parent Trap lol

    2. The difference between Hollywood and HK is Hollywood spends big bucks on publicists & PR and HK doesn’t even know what that is

  35. people do deserve a second chance even if their lives are screwed up. if this damn director doesn’t want to cast CC, just leave her alone? why be so mean?

    there are hong kong actresses in their 30s and 40s still equally good.

    1. I’m sure the artical was a cut and paste kind of interview bc I doubt he would just come out of no where to give his thought on her like that, It’s easy for us to judge but when you’re responsible for the livelihood of hundreds (cast & crew) people you won’t jeapordize it an average actress that’s not bankable, that just business. No profits = no future projects.

  36. Give the poor woman a break. Cecilia is not the only woman who had a contentious divorce. I hope all you who judge her never had, or will ever have a unfortunate mistake happen in your lives. Keep living your perfect lives in your glass houses

    1. No one is judging her bc she’s a divored. And surely everyone makes mistakes, but when you’re in the public eyes and pretty much the entire word has seen your vjj from every angle imaginable it’s hard to shake off those images and take her seriously.

  37. if this idiot doesn’t want to cast her in his movies, just be it. there is no need to bring her down. damn jerk…as if he is so perfect.

  38. This woman is a victim of invasion of privacy at the end of the day. She did nothing wrong apart from trust the wrong person.

    Jackie Chan is a known womaniser, has a love child which he refuses to acknowledge or take any responsibility for, has a son in prison in the Mainland and is outspoken and kisses China’s ass. BUT he has money and power… oh… and he’s a guy so obviously it’s okay..

  39. JT probably said that to divert attention away from his casting of mainland actresses. Can’t have HK viewers complaining it’s not an authentic HK movie and getting low box office.

  40. Its not about acting but box office returns! All CC’s latest movies after her Edison scandal and divorce were major flops! Btw she would have made a great porn actress, she was the best amongst those victims of Edison, just look at Gillian to puke!!

  41. This is similar to being type cast. Except people know about her raunchy past and bad publicity is making it difficult for viewers to see her other than her real self. An actress must be able to star convincingly in her role, if all we could think about is her stripping nude, divorcing Nicholas Tse and being a selfish mum, it makes it a little hard don’t you think?

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