Huang Xiaoming: The Next Big Thing

You can't go wrong with choosing Huang Xiaoming as the leading man to represent the future of Chinese movies.

That's the praise heaped upon the 35-year-old Qingdao native by veteran film-makers and cinematic greats.

The graduate of China's prestigious Beijing Film Academy has won many industry seniors over with his charisma and acting chops.

Back in 2009, acclaimed Chinese director Feng Xiaogang even predicted that Huang would "be hot property for at least 10 years".

With two of Huang's major blockbusters - martial arts epic The Guillotines and action period drama The Last Tycoon - opening back to back in China last week, his name is on practically everyone's lips.

At a recent event in Hong Kong, The Guillotines' executive producer Peter Chan said unabashedly, albeit half-jokingly: "This is Xiaoming's era... I'm putting all my remaining money on him."

Echoing similar sentiments was Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun Fat, Huang's co-star in The Last Tycoon.

The gregarious 57-year-old thespian praised Huang effusively in front of reporters.

"I would say that his portrayal of Xu Wenqiang (iconic Shanghai mobster in drama The Bund) is actually better than mine. He gives the role more attitude and it is more grounded," said Chow.

Both actors have played Xu Wenqiang to rave reviews - Chow starred in the 1980 original TVB series, while Huang reprised the role in a 2006 Chinese TV remake.

Added Chow cheekily: "Xiaoming is such a pretty boy. If I'm a girl, I would definitely fall in love with him."

The pair share wonderful camaraderie as mentor and mentee.

Just two weeks ago at the Shanghai press conference for the film, the veteran actor pushed the wheelchair-bound Huang on stage in-between fast-flowing jokes and laughs.

The latter had fractured his leg while filming swordfighting flick The Bride With White Hair and had undergone an operation last month.

Due to his injury, he skipped the world premiere of The Last Tycoon in town earlier this month. It was attended by Chow, producer Andrew Lau, director Wong Jing and Chinese actress Yolanda Yuan.

In an e-mail interview with FiRST to promote The Guillotines, which opens in local theatres today, he said: "Haha, if Fat Gor (Cantonese for brother) really wants to date me, I'd readily accept it.

"He called me personally after the Singapore premiere (of The Last Tycoon) to tell me that the audience response was great and that he was personally very touched after watching the film.

"I've always seen him as my idol and to have him as my teacher now, I'm extremely happy and honoured... I don't think I can ask for anything more."

The Last Tycoon opens here on Jan 3.

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