HONGKONG - Oh, the curse of being good-looking. It is tough to be a heart-throb, says Chinese actor Huang Xiaoming.
"It has always been a challenge for me but I really need to make my acting abilities good enough so that they surpass my looks," says the 35-year-old actor often called China's No. 1 heart-throb.
Indeed, one glance at him in person is enough for anybody to notice his dashing good looks. So it is no surprise that he is more than willing to make himself look ugly for certain roles if necessary.
For his role in The Guillotines, Huang asked director Andrew Lau to make him look a lot more grungy than originally planned.
Referring to his character Wolf, who dons dirty rags and has a head of wild hair, Huang says: "I was attracted to the character because of his determined and wilful nature and I thought that it would be important for his looks to reflect that."
A commitment to improving his craft means that the actor is always on the lookout for tips and tricks from other actors as well as film-makers.
Working alongside Hong Kong star Chow Yun Fat in The Last Tycoon, which opens in cinemas next week, he went up to the veteran for advice "about acting techniques and how to do it the way he does."
Huang says: "I learnt a lot from him. He is always so natural in the way he performs. I think I'm a bit too nervous when I act sometimes.
"I also talk to directors because they are the best people to tell you specific things about how you work. I treat every acting project as a learning process. You can never stop learning."
His diligence has been well reported. According to media reports, he was in a car accident while filming Long Piao in 2004, resulting in bad head scratches and misaligned vertebrae. Doctors ordered him to rest for a few months but he did not want to delay filming and went on set daily wearing a neck brace.
More recently, he was said to have broken several toes while filming new movie Bride With White Hair last month and was ordered to rest for at least six weeks. Yet he still attended a press conference for The Last Tycoon in Shanghai last week in a wheelchair.
At The Guillotines press event last month, he says: "I want to keep on working as hard as I can. I do this for one goal - so that I can be proud of myself and my body of work. I'm satisfied with what I've done so far but there is still a lot of room for me to grow."
The actor, who made his acting debut in the TV series Love Is Not A Game in 1998, has been working consistently, appearing in more than 20 TV dramas and 20 films since then.
These include TV drama The Prince Of Han Dynasty (2001), where he played the future Han dynasty emperor, and TV series The Return Of The Condor Heroes (2006), where he played male lead Yang Guo in the popular adaptation of Louis Cha's classic wuxia novel of the same name.
His movies include Chen Kuo-fu's critically acclaimed The Message (2009), where he played the villain, and Chen Kaige's Sacrifice (2010), in the role of a brave and righteous soldier.
While he has an impressive fan base in the Chinese-speaking world, he says it is a far cry from the heights attained by Chinese actresses such as Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi and Li Bingbing, who have also made it big in the West.
Huang, rumoured to be dating Hong Kong actress Angelababy, says: "For female actresses, I think people are interested in both their acting and looks. But for men, it is really only about the acting. No matter how good-looking you are, you won't be accepted by the West unless you are good at your work."
Poor Huang. Apparently, it is not easy being a good-looking man.
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