MACAU – In the latest example of China’s rising entertainment industry clout, a bevy of top Hollywood stars took part in the country’s Huading Awards show in Macau Monday night -- an event virtually unknown outside of Asia until now.
Quentin Tarantino, Nicole Kidman, and Nicolas Cage all walked the red carpet and received special honors for their work at the live gala held at the sprawling Venetian Macao Casino in the southern Chinese gambling city.
The show was carried live for Chinese audiences by Beijing-based online streaming video service LeTV. According to the founders and producers of the Huading Awards, Beijing-based media company Global Talents Media Group, the show will reach a “projected audience of 800 million” when it is aired during a delayed broadcast next week on 67 local and provincial TV stations across China.
Asked by The Hollywood Reporter backstage why he decided to attend the event, Tarantino quipped, “I was invited and it sounded like a lovely event. And who would pass up an award that was given to them by 800 million Chinese people – that would be a real selfish bastard.”
A live gala awards show roughly akin to the Oscars, the Emmys, the Tonys and the Grammys all rolled into one – with a strong Chinese twist – the event dishes out awards to talent from all fields of entertainment, from stage theater to film, pop music to TV – and even traditional Chinese opera.
Other Hollywood names in attendance included Sam Worthington, Jeremy Irons, Mathew Perry, Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), Booboo Stewart (Twilight, X-Men: Days of Future Past) and Avril Lavigne.
Sources close to the event say awards show veteran Don Mischer, who was hired by Global Talents to advise on the show as a consultant, was instrumental in securing the Hollywood presence. Mischer has produced or directed three Academy Award shows, two Olympics opening ceremonies, several Super Bowl halftime shows and the 2009 Obama Inaugural Celebration in Washington, D.C.
In a pre-show chat with THR, Mischer said Global Talents has ambitions to take the Huading Awards to Los Angeles in the summer of 2014 and he is in ongoing discussions about working with them on a U.S. edition. He described Monday’s show as a first step in bringing the Hollywood and international arts community into the Chinese event.
“The stars understand that this is a huge market and they are brands,” Mischer said. “This is an opportunity to reach that new market, which supposedly is going to be the number one market in the world soon -- there’s no question that people in our business want to connect to the audience here.”
“I’ll go wherever the work is and wherever the people [who watch films] are to say thank you,” said Worthington, who remains a major star in China, thanks to Avatar, still the highest grossing film in the country ever, at $221.9 million.
“The world’s tiny and it's getting smaller,” he added backstage after receiving his best global action movie actor prize.
The show indeed showcased a remarkable diversity of backgrounds and talent. From the Chinese industry Jackie Chan, Wong Kar Wai, John Woo each took the stage to present or receive awards. Musical segments ranged from performances by K-Pop star Steve Yoo, Japanese-Brazillian bossa nova singer Lisa Ono, Avril Lavigne (Huading’s best global singer), who performed her hits “Girlfriend” and “Here’s to Never Growing Up,” along with an impassioned song from the winner of the best traditional Chinese opera singer category.
With a few small logistical delays and no cap on acceptance speech lengths, the show ran nearly four hours. Translations of the proceedings were intermittent.
Stepping behind the podium late in the night to receive her best global actress in motion pictures trophy, Nicole Kidman thanked the crowd and said, “I haven’t understood all of it, but I’ve had a great time being a spectator.”
She added that she hopes to come back and make a film in China -- and to show her daughters the country someday.
Jackie Chan next presented Tarantino with the best global director in motion pictures award – a somewhat surprising honor for the celebrated pop auteur, given the difficulties he encountered in releasing his last film Django Unchained in China (it was suddenly pulled from theaters on its opening day in the country and only re-released weeks later after cuts were made to tone down its bloody sequences – Tarantino curtly declined to comment on the imbroglio when asked about it backstage Monday night).
Referring to the director as his ‘best friend’, Chan thanked Tarantino for all the years he supported both himself and Chinese cinema, back when “Jackie Chan was nobody.”
In his acceptance speech, Tarantino noted his lifelong love for Chinese martial arts cinema and said, “When I did Kill Bill, that was my tribute to y’all’s cinema. I shot that in Beijing at the Beijing Film Studios that Mao’s wife created, and I was there for a year shooting Kill Bill... I love Chinese cinema, so to get this from the Chinese people and Chinese film industry, means everything to me.”
Nicolas Cage told THR backstage that he flew in for the event from a village three hours south of Beijing, where he is currently filming Nick Powell’s Outcast, with Hayden Christensen and Yifei Liu – his first project in the country. “I was excited to do a film here, as I believe in the ‘genius loci’ of a place -- the 'genie' of the place is what I call it – and I absorb that energy and it affects performance. So I can tell you 100 percent, that making a movie in China, you know I’m buzzing with good energy.”
He added that he even plans to partially relocate to Hong Kong: “I want a base in Asia, and I decided that Hong Kong would be the perfect place for me to have a life.”
While approaching the stage to accept his award as best actor in motion pictures, Cage went out of his way to shake hands with a young Chinese boy seated near the front of the hall and wearing a Superman costume.
In beard and pony tail – presumably for his role in Outcast, in which he plays a warrior in Imperial China – Cage raised his hands above his head dramatically and said: “Nihao, people of China. Xie xie, people of China. Wo ai ni ren, people of China.” (“Hi, thanks, I love you people.”)
The awards are listed below.
Lifetime achievement award: Jeremy Irons
Best global actor in motion pictures: Nicolas Cage
Best global actress in motion pictures: Nicole Kidman
Best global singer: Avril Lavigne
Best global director in motion pictures: Quentin Tarantino
Best global actor in a TV series: Matthew Perry
Best global actress in a TV series: Michelle Dockery
Best global action movie actor: Sam Worthington
Best emerging global talent: Boo Boo Stewart