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Making 'Mao's Last Dancer' required some fancy footwork

August 20, 2010 | 10:10 am


"Mao's Last Dancer," the new movie directed by Bruce Beresford, tells the true story of Li Cunxin, a ballet star from China whose defection to the U.S. in 1981 while a resident at the Houston Ballet prompted a dramatic 21-hour standoff with Chinese officials.

During the shooting of the movie, the crew became intimately acquainted with the draconian caprices of China's Communist Party. Just as production was getting underway, the Film Bureau in Beijing rejected the filmmakers' request for permission to shoot in China. The decision forced the director to shoot significant parts of the movie in secret in areas around Beijing.

"Mao's Last Dancer" is a biopic of the inspirational variety. (The producer, Jane Scott, and screenwriter, Jan Sardi, worked on the movie "Shine.") Playing the role of Li as an adult is Chinese-British ballet performer Chi Cao, whose father taught Li at the Beijing Dance Academy. The role of Ben Stevenson, the former artistic director of the Houston Ballet, is played by Bruce Greenwood.

Read the full story on the making of "Mao's Last Dancer" as well as the Times' review of the movie.

-- David Ng

Photo: Chi Cao and Camilla Vergotis in a scene from "Mao's Last Dancer." Credit: Simon Cardwell / Samuel Goldwyn Films