Sunday, May 19, 2024

Meet Liu Haoran, the Chinese heartthrob that’s more than just a pretty face

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Remember that classic scene in 2014’s Beijing Love Story (北京爱情故事), where the love-struck Son Ge shares his earbuds with his crush Liu Xingyang, and holds hands with her? Liu Haoran’s performance as Son Ge catapulted him into superstardom.

According to Sohu, a Chinese media site, he now makes tens of millions of yuan per movie, making the 21-year-old one of the hottest up-and-coming actors on the mainland.

Liu was born on October 10, 1997, in the eastern province of Henan (河南). At the age of 11, he joined other art students and migrant workers in a phenomenon known as “Bei Piao”, where people move to Beijing, usually in pursuit of their dreams and a better life.

Despite his current status as an A-lister, life wasn’t easy when Liu first moved to Beijing to study at the Beijing Dance Academy – the top mainland dance school. He had low self-esteem and found it hard to adjust to a foreign environment.

Liu isn’t just a great actor – he was also one of the top scorers of his year when he took the gaokao.

Photo: Handout

On his first day of school, he even wrote his own withdrawal letter. He told a Chinese media site called The Paper that, when he first arrived in Beijing, he stayed in a tiny flat which was no larger than a couple hundred square feet. He had to share a bed with his mum whenever she came to visit.

Thankfully, years of hard work and persistence finally paid off, when, at the age of 16, he was starred in Beijing Love Story. The film, directed by Chen Sicheng, came out on Valentine’s Day in 2014, and earned 406 million yuan (HK$475 million) at the box office.

Unfortunately, being a hotshot actor doesn’t give him a pass to escape the dreaded gaokao. In the days leading up to the annual national college entrance examinations, he flew to Thailand to film comedy-mystery Detective Chinatown.  

Despite having had to juggle schoolwork with a hectic shooting schedule, he passed with flying colours. His score of 454 made him one of the top scorers that year. Unsurprisingly, he was accepted into the class of 2015 at the Central Academy of Drama, one of the top drama schools on the mainland.

Last November, his performance as Qin Feng in Detective Chinatown 2 earned him a Best Actor nomination at the 27th China Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival – awards that honour the best in the film industry.

Although he didn’t walk away with a trophy, he melted netizens’ hearts and made headlines the next day after a video of his interview with China Movie Channel hit the internet.

In the middle of his interview, Liu suddenly lowered his voice and covered his mouth as he muttered an “urgent request” to his interviewer, “Sorry, I need to use the restroom,” he said, with a serious expression on his face.

Granted, a life under the spotlight might be enviable to some, but it also comes with a great deal of public interest in his personal life. His every move is well-documented by paparazzi and netizens. For instance, there are rumours that he’s not a self-made underdog, but instead comes from a family that has a net worth of more than 10 billion yuan.

Also, in January this year, an online blogger posted photos of him with one of his alleged ex-girlfriends. At the eye of the storm, Liu handled everything with grace and elegance – he responded to one of the comments, saying, “nope, we were just classmates”.

He will soon graduate from university and is more hard-working than ever before. In the interview with The Paper, he says he’s been following a strict workout routine and diet, to increase his chances of getting more mature roles.

“I’ve lost several kilograms now, but my face still looks a bit chubby,” he tells the Paper. Luckily for fans, it won’t be long before we see him on the big screen again. His film, The Twins, will be in theatres on the mainland tomorrow. The third instalment in the Detective Chinatown series will also be released in 2020, just in time for the lunar new year.

Edited by Ginny Wong

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