How the heck does Yu Zheng manage to turn the ridiculously gorgeous Chen Xiao into an unattractive Yang Guo? I don’t get it. One way to get people riled up is to purposely mess with fandom. That is why I loathe drama producer Yu Zheng so much, because he delights in pointlessly screwing with classic wuxia novel fandom (and others) without any purpose. If he’s going to deviate so far from the narrative and the characters, why call it the same thing and instead say he’s making a drama inspired by but totally different. Except he totally does it to generate hate which equals publicity, ergo his dramas garner eyeballs and lots of hate-watching. It’s Machiavellian. The rape and plunder he did on The Swordsman was so bad even mentioning it makes me want to go cry in a corner, but he’s looking to one-up himself here. He’s confessed that he originally wanted Yuan Shan Shan (barf) to play Xialongnu, but the backlash even with the rumor that she might be cast was so overwhelming she actually turned it down because she couldn’t deal with it. Then he offered it to Angelababy but she’s so red hot right now with her acting career she turned it down because she can’t fit it into her filming schedule. So the role landed in Michelle Chen‘s lap. Any talk about Xiaolongnu being tailored for Michelle’s aura and style is BS, it might be now she’s cast but that wasn’t the original plan.
With her casting, the storyboard has shifted to Yang Guo’s true love being Li Mo Chou, who is now Xiaolongnu’s younger disciple sister, and she has been burned in love once so is scared to love Yang Guo back. That leads Yang Guo to slowly fall for Xiaolongnu, who has the same style and aura as Li Mo Chou since they belong to the same sect. Return of the Condor Heroes is about so much more than romance, but of all of Louis Cha’s many amazing wuxia novels, RoCH is the one novel that the romance bit is just as important as the hero’s journey. Yang Guo and Xiaolongnu represent the ideals of rebellious love and devotion – the way they said a big F-You to the rest of the world and just got together anyway, and the way Xiaolongnu carved the note on the stone face to keep Yang Guo from committing suicide once she died, and how he waited 16 years for her like she asked him to, and then in the end when he jumped off that cliff after the 16 years was up, their love got the happy ending that was so hard won. Yang Guo may be a natural born flirt from his smooth talking handsome daddy, but he only ever loved one woman and was true to her for his entire life. To make Xiaolongnu not his first and only love destroys a fundamental part of his character – the stubborn laser-sharp focus that Huang Rong tried so hard to change in him thinking it would lead him down the path of wrongdoing like it did his dad, but instead it made him into a true romantic hero. Yu Zheng’s narrative crap job is as bad as the horrible choice he made for the leading lady. Even having dealt with his WTF-ery before, nothing can really guard your heart when someone sets out to smash it and then cackle over your decimated carcass.
It’s amazing what photoshop can do. When Yu Zheng was saying Michelle Chen was so skinny and so goddess like in costume as Xiaolongnu, he meant after he photoshopped off half her face. And the photoshopping is terrible as well – poorly done and so obvious when placed beside her first character stills.
Even worse is seeing the first BTS still above of Michelle and Chen Xiao filming a scene, and in the harsh light of day and without any photoshopping, she’s clearly of the short, round, and soft physique. Coupled with her general aura of girl-next-door sweetness and a sense of the down in the dumps, she’s pretty much as opposite of Xiaolongnu as described in the novel.
Let me translate one passage that describes her:
小龙女 那少女披着一袭轻纱般的白衣，犹似身在烟中雾里，看来约莫十六七岁年纪，除了一头黑发之外，全身雪白，面容秀美绝俗，只是肌肤间少了一层血色，显得苍白异常。—— –抬起头来，与她目光相对，只觉这少女清丽秀雅，莫可逼视，神色间却是冰冷淡漠，当真是洁若冰雪，也是冷若冰雪，实不知她是喜是怒，是愁是乐，竟不自禁的感到恐怖：“这姑娘是水晶做的，还是个雪人儿？到底是人是鬼，还是神道仙女？”虽听她语音娇柔婉转，但语气之中似乎也没丝毫暖意。
Xiaolongnu (Little Dragon Girl) – that girl wore a white robe as whisper light as thin silk, it was like she was standing in the middle of a smoky fog. She appeared to be around sixteen or seventeen. With a head of black hair, dressed all in white, her face was beautiful beyond comprehension. Except her face was pale seemingly without blood, a eerie kind of pale. When she raised her head and one looked her in the eye, the sensation was that this young girl may be elegant and refined, but she wasn’t to be looked upon. Her eyes was ice cold and indifferent, like icy snow or freezing sleet. It was impossible to tell if she was happy or angry, sad or joyful. It led one to feel afraid “Is this girl made out of crystal? A snow woman? Is she a human or a ghost? Or a goddess from the Heavens?” Even though her voice was melodic and lyrical, but there wasn’t even a shred of warmth in her words.
If you want a bellyful of lulz, then this will do the trick. Look at the BTS still of Michelle Chen on the rope bed, and not only is the rope creaking under her mass, the poor dude holding up the rope is about to keel over. And then compare it to Crystal Liu putting on a weightless balletic display on her rope bed. That, people, is how Xiaolongnu brings it. Girl is made out of cold air.
Yang Guo’s official stills leave me speechless and dumbfounded. What is with the fire? On what alternate planet does Yang Guo have FIRE POWER?!?! This is NOT an RPG wuxia game adaptation! And Yang Guo is a swordsman. He is a freaking swordsman. Unlike other heroes like Guo Jing in Legend of the Condor Heroes or Zhang Wu Ji in Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre, those two practice a Qi martial arts, where conceptually I guess you could add some flames though that would still be lame. But this? It’s bizarre and wack.
Thanks to C-netizens who move at the speed of lightning and remember everything, the second Yang Guo’s look came out everyone pointed out Yu Zheng just ripped off Hu Ge‘s look as Li Xiao Yao in Chinese Paladin. If you put it side by side, its a carbon copy. And it doesn’t suit Yang Guo at all. My gut tells me this is just the look for late teen Young Guo, which is is the hardest part of his hero’s journey to play. It’s a man-child role that needs to be carefully balanced between big kid and young protector. I still don’t know how Huang Xiaoming played him to be so smarmy and sleazy when that was never in his personality description. He’s mischievous but preternaturally jaded after growing up on the streets as an orphan for a few years, and then feeling totally tossed aside by his parents best friends and sworn family. He’s fully grown but emotionally still a kid, which is why his entire reaction of confusion after Xiaolongnu mistakenly thinks they slept together is totally legit and understandable. He doesn’t emotionally wise up until he reunites with Xiaolongnu again.
I really don’t know how Yu Zheng could make Chen Xiao anything other than the hottest wuxia hero ever to walk the Earth. Aesthetically speaking, Huang Xiaoming’s face might be chiseled perfection, but Chen Xiao hits me harder with the pretty. The above stills are from earlier this year when Chen Xiao got all wuxia-fied to play the male lead for an RPG game. A freaking RPG game video shoot could make him that gorgeous, and instead Yu Zheng turns him into a cheap two-bit beggar for a drama of RoCH. It boggles the mind, it really does.
Little Yang Guo and little Guo Fu are adorable though! The 2006 version of little Yang Guo was unbearable. One of the worst child actors I’ve ever seen. Conversely, the child actor who played little Wei Xiaobao in the 2008 Zhang Zhi Zhong adaptation of Louis Cha‘s Duke of Mount Deer (drama was called Royal Tramp) was hands down the best thing about that drama. He was so awesome! I was seriously in love with that drama during the entire first episodes when he was onscreen. And then Huang Xiaoming showed up, LOL. Here’s to hoping these two kids bring it.
Yelu Qi played by Zhang Zhe Han. Okay, he’s pretty darn gorgeous. And I just realized that he’s playing the Infante of Guang Ling in the upcoming Yu Zheng drama adaptation of Yun Zhong Ge. He should have been picked to play the Infante of Chang Yi instead.
Li Mo Chou played by Zhang Xin Yu. She’s quite bada-bing-bada-boom if you ask me.
Guo Fu played by Mao Xiao Tong. She’s playing Shang Guan Xiao Mei in Yun Zhong Ge. Quite a 180-degree character personality swap here to play a sociopathic spoiled bitch.
Zhao Han Ying Zhi as Cheng Yin.
Sun Ya Qi as Lu Wu Shaung.
Zhang Xue Ying as Guo Xiang. She’s so…..young. She’s a 1997-er which makes her actually 16 years old! I’ve always shipped a drama Guo Xiang with Yang Guo, but that is not happening here. It would be so pedo to ship her with Chen Xiao.
Above is renderings of the character outfits for the drama. The usual Yu Zheng tasteless style.
This is a really angry fan comic strip that came about after Michelle Chen’s casting.
Carmen Lee‘s Xiaolongnu is to-date the one that most perfectly captures her aura.
Gives people the impression that Yin Zhi Ping (her admirer/rapist) lucked out big time.
Crystal Liu‘s Xiaolongnu is to-date the most dream fantasy-esque one.
Gives people the impression that Yang Guo lucked out big time.
Gu Gu is younger and more fresh-faced than Guo Er.
The soon to come Michelle Chen version, gives people the impression that she is going to luck out big time with Yin Zhi Ping.
A spoiler: Xiaolongnu drags a crying Yin Zhi Ping into the bushes, while Yang Guo averts his eyes and hugs his Giant Condor.
The three goddesses Idy Chan, Carmen Lee, and Crystal Liu. And then there was Michelle Chen. ‘Nuff said. Of the current crop of right-age C-actresses, there are so many I can list right off the top of my head that was leaps and bounds better suited to play Xiaolongnu. Not perfect, at least they capture the ethereal quality required. If we all are Earth-bound mere mortals, as is Michelle Chen, what we want is an extraordinarily beautiful screen goddess to play an extraordinarily beautiful novel goddess
Liu Shi Shi. She made a cameo appearance as the Yellow Robe Maiden in Zhang Zhi Zhong’s 2009 adaptation of Dragon Sabre and Heavenly Sword, the final book in the Condor Heroes trilogy. We all know the mysterious Yellow Robed Maiden is the great granddaughter of Yang Guo and Xiaolongnu. Shi Shi is gorgeous and a trained ballet dancer. She has the airy lithe physique and icy face to be XLN.
Gu Li Na Zha. She’s as close as a modern day goddess as it goes. Her face is too exotic to fit Xiaolongnu look but she’s drop-dead gorgeous and rocks all-white like no other.
Tong Li Ya. I’m surprised Yu Zheng didn’t pick her. From head-to-toe she screams Xiaolongnu to me.
Li Bing Bing. I personally think she’s now too old for this role, but she is a stunning woman. But Xiaolongnu needs to look more girl than woman.
Ying Er is too lush for Xiaolongnu, but looking back she was actually quite well suited to play the soft and feminine Princess Xiang Xiang in The Book and the Sword. Too bad she was such a bad actress back then, though she has gotten better. But she still gets flack, most recently when she was picked to play Xi Shi (one of Chinese history’s Four Classic Beauties) in the period drama Hero.
I really wished Crystal knew how to act, because God made her that beautiful so she could grace our screens. I’m seriously tired of the reverse howls of outrage over being unhappy with the casting of actors or actresses that physically do not fit the part as described in a very famous novel. Looks and acting ability are always open for critique when it comes to a professional actor or actress since those two attributes are fundamental requirements of doing their job.
If Yu Zheng really wanted a Taiwanese actress, any of these will do way way WAY better than Michelle Chen.
Janine Chang. A bit school marmish but has the icy aloofness.
Ivy Chen. This was when she played Xiao Die in the recent adaptation of wuxia writer Gu Long‘s famed Meteor, Butterfly, and Sword. She’s more pixie than goddess, but she can do a mean bitch face. But it’s pretty depressing if she keeps playing wuxia heroines that get raped. Even if they always ended up with the hero in the end.
Ady An. She’s been two Louis Cha heroines now – in the Zhang Zhi Zhong 2009 adaptation of Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre, she was Mongolian princess Zhao Min. She was also Miao Ruo Lan in the 2009 adaptation of Fox Valant of Snowy Mountain. For some juicy gossip – the male lead of Hu Fei in the 2006 Fox Valant was Nie Yuan, who was supposed to be Zhang Zhi Zhong’s Yang Guo in the 2006 RoCH. And it was acknowledged that Huang Xiaoming swooped in and stole the role. I really liked Nie Yuan’s Hu Fei and he lucked out because the way 2006 RoCH was directed, there was no way Yang Guo could be played anything less than sleazy.