"What a girl wants / What a girl needs / Whatever makes me happy sets you free."
In 2003, Dennie Gordon directed the teen flick What a Girl Wants, borrowing its name from the pop song. Now, Gordon's first Chinese film, My Lucky Star, which opens with the same Christina Aguilera tune, may prove whether the US director is attuned to what a modern Chinese woman wants.
With international sweetheart Zhang Ziyi taking on producing duties as well as reprising her role as the boy-crazy Sophie and Taiwanese heartthrob Leehom Wang costarring as the spy David, the film looks like it's already got luck on its side.
But more importantly, with Gordon's direction and a production team pulled from both the US and China, the film attempts to combine the best of both film industries.
A prequel to Sophie's Revenge (2009), My Lucky Star will hit theaters on Tuesday. The fanciful Sophie takes center stage again in this flick, and goes on another bumpy journey in search of love. In order to pursue David, Sophie has to fight villains with him, and plenty of hijinks ensue.
Costing more than 50 million yuan ($8.17 million) to make and earning more than 100 million yuan at the box office, Sophie's Revenge was a major success. But that has set expectations for the prequel even higher, not just because of the cast or the story, but because this is a major motion picture for the Chinese market that is directed by an American woman. This collaboration marks a new level of cooperation between China and Hollywood.
Yet this is just the beginning. Gordon reveals that she is already preparing to shoot more Chinese films. Among them is a sequel of another feature, Go Lala Go!, which is adapted from a popular Chinese novel.
A 'scary journey'
Gordon has accomplishments in both the big and small screens. She has directed many network TV series including The Office, 30 Rock, White Collar, Everybody Hates Chris and Tracey Takes On…. She won the Directors Guild of America award in 2000 for her work on Tracey Takes On….
Between TV directing roles, Gordon also found success in directing lighthearted, laugh-driven films. White trash comedy Joe Dirt (2001) and What a Girl Wants, starring Amanda Bynes and Colin Firth, were both well received at the box office.
"Making a film is certainly the most fun thing, every director will tell you. It is the biggest sandbox. If you are a real director, you really want to make a movie," she said in an interview with the Global Times on September 11 in Beijing. "I love the challenge, being able to do different things in different countries. It keeps me young."
Yet, she described her entree into Chinese films as "really scary" in the beginning. "In the United States, I have a team of people that I work with. I couldn't bring them to China. I had to make all new friends," Gordon said.
She acknowledged, though, that "running towards the thing that scares you the most, you can end up with a big triumph."
The scary venture turned out to be a worthwhile challenge.
"You have tremendous film artists here," Gordon said, naming off a few of her personal favorites, such as Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou. "I'm just so thrilled to think that I can come to this country and work with people like them."