“Director, I think Tang Feng’s acting just now was very good. He’s already surpassed my expectations of him on some levels. Aren’t you just deliberately putting pressure on him?” During the break, the secondary director for the film struck up a conversation with Li Wei. He had been watching from behind the monitors the whole time. Starting from the first take, he’d thought that Tang Feng was quite good at acting. He didn’t understand why the director was bent on calling cut time after time.
Li Wei was eating lunch in his trailer. When he heard the question, he smiled mysteriously. He put down his chopsticks and took a drink of water. He explained, “The only reason you think he’s good is because you’re comparing him with other actors his age. But you’re right, compared to those inexperienced young actors, he really is exceptional. And not just by a bit, he’s leagues ahead of them. Be it his comprehension of his character or his attitude around the set, he’s simply exceptional.”
“Director, does that mean you’re comparing Tang Feng with veteran actors instead?” The secondary director was shocked. That was simply too high a standard to measure a new actor against. Tang Feng had a long road ahead of him, to pit him against actors who had years of experience on him was unfair.
Li Wei shook his head. “I’m not comparing him with the veterans. I’m simply drawing comparisons between Fiennes and him. Fiennes’ death has left a hole in our film, but I would never select a random actor to fill in for him. If I did select someone new, then not only do I want him to reach Fiennes’ level, I want him to surpass Fiennes!”
If the secondary director was shocked before, now he was stunned. He widened his eyes and stared at Li Wei for a long while before he finally understood what the director was saying. He shook his head. “No, no, that’s ridiculous. How is that possible? Fiennes was a natural born actor. He was a genius recognized by the public. Tang Feng’s too young. It would be a miracle if he could reach Fiennes’ level.”
As for surpassing Fiennes? That was unthinkable.
The secondary director wasn’t wrong for thinking that way. If someone suddenly declared that a new unknown singer was going to surpass the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, no one would take him seriously. They would think of it as nothing more than a foolish fantasy.
However, Li Wei truly believed his words.
Like he had explained to Tang Feng earlier, there was something unique about the young actor. He had the charm that could set him apart even in a crowd of thousands. To a director, discovering a talented actor was sometimes even more exciting than filming a movie. A movie could be filmed anytime, but there was no guarantee that he would find a promising seedling to nurture every time.
He needed to put pressure on Tang Feng. Even though it would make the actor stressed in both body and heart, a diamond would never shine unless it was polished and cut into the correct shape. It was his choice to put Tang Feng through the trial, but Leroy’s expectations also had a hand in the decision.
If Tang Feng lived up to their expectations, then this movie would push him right into the limelight. If he couldn’t shoulder the pressure, then it would mean that he didn’t have the ability to survive in this competitive industry.
After Xiao Yu left, Tang Feng curled up on the couch. He covered his face with his hands and pulled his legs in, nesting his head between his knees.
After acting for over twenty years, it was inevitable that he would develop a few habits; a series of small movements and expressions. Adding everything up, it gave his acting the “thick and smooth” feel that Director Li Wei had mentioned.
Most of the time, smooth and flawless acting would add many highlights to a movie. However, there were occasions when that type of acting wasn’t suitable. There wasn’t an actor in the world who would declare that he could act in any type of movie. Even someone talented had moments of mediocrity. Tang Feng was a good actor, but he had his faults. It wasn’t possible for him to act any type of role in any type of movie and expect to succeed.
Tang Feng had thought he was capable of acting well in Li Wei’s film. After all, the film had been made for Fiennes Tang.
But Tang was a character that didn’t need any excessive acting. It was the complete opposite. His character was a sensitive one, full of naivety and frailty. It could be said that he was full of nervous energy.
The characteristic Tang Feng had been trying to cast away his entire life was ironically the one he needed the most. He had to take off the armor he had wrapped himself in and expose his soft and delicate side for everyone to see. Like a snail without its shell.
But it was easier said than done.
“Frailty. A fragile feeling. Maybe I can start by thinking of unhappy things.” Tang Feng took a deep breath. He closed his eyes and held his head in his hands.
After submerging himself in the darkness behind his eyelids, Tang Feng could faintly hear the quiet chatter of people walking by his trailer. He wondered if they were talking about him. Maybe they were talking about how he had wasted their morning on one scene alone. About how he had wasted a whole reel of film and had nothing but a pile of garbage to show for it.
Tang Feng felt a bit miserable when that thought appeared in his mind. But rather than deliberately ignoring those dark thoughts like he normally did, he caught onto their tendrils and sank down into them.
He remembered the time when he had been abandoned on the streets by his parents. It was rather similar to Tang’s situation inside the film. He had never seen his parent’s faces. When he had been picked up by some kind stranger, he had probably been crying, feeling cold and hungry. As an infant, it was his natural instinct to cry at discomfort. He never knew that he had been branded with the mark of an unwanted child at that moment.
While sitting at the window inside the orphanage, he yearned to be normal. He wanted to nestle inside a mother’s warm arms, acting spoiled like any other kid. He wanted to sit on top of a father’s shoulders, bouncing up and down with his father’s gait. At bedtime, he wanted someone to tell him a story, kiss his forehead, and tell him goodnight. He dreamed of the childhood years he never had.
But he didn’t have anyone to act spoiled around. He didn’t have anyone to lift him high up into the air. And he didn’t have anyone to read him a bedtime story or kiss him gently on the forehead.
He could only sit beside the window and hope that someone would come to take him outside the orphanage.
The reality he lived in forced him to grow up early. While everyone around him was running around playing games, he had learned to take care of himself. He learned to motivate himself in his studies and to take his medicine on time.
More than once, he wished that he were a bird so that he could spread his wings and fly over the earth. But he could only sit beside the soccer field and watch as other kids his age played soccer with their friends. As he didn’t have any friends, no one ever invited him to play soccer. Children liked noise and excitement, they didn’t want to play with someone who couldn’t do anything but read books.
At that age, children didn’t possess any evil thoughts. They only followed their natural instincts. However, the blunt actions and words of children were often the most hurtful.
When Lu Tian Chen pushed opened the door to the trailer, he was faced with the scene of Tang Feng curled up on the couch. The actor seemed to be choking on his emotions, giving out sounds like the cries of an abandoned kitten. Xiao Yu had told him earlier that filming wasn’t going well for Tang Feng, which was why he personally came over to check on him.
“Tang Feng, what’s wrong?” Lu Tian Chen was unexpectedly warm for someone who always appeared cold and indifferent. His voice was light, as if speaking to a child. He didn’t mean to treat Tang Feng as a child, but faced with the actor’s completely unguarded state, he didn’t know what else to do.
“They say that I’m going to die soon.” Tang Feng’s muffled voice came through between his knees; his voice carried none of its usual calm and gentle cadence.
“Who said that to you?” Lu Tian Chen walked over and crouched down.
Tang Feng still had his head between his knees, his entire body cowering into the couch.
Lu Tian Chen glanced over him, his eyes stopping on the actor’s bare feet. Every toe was curled up on itself, trembling in time with every word Tang Feng forced out.
“Every…every single one of the kids.” Tang Feng could see the ring of kids surrounding him, drowning him in their chatter.
You are the same as us. We’ve all been abandoned by our parents, but I think your parents must have really hated you. Because you’re sick! The teacher said you could die at any time and that you won’t live long. That’s why nobody wants to adopt you. Because you’re weaker than a cat! You won’t even live as long as a cat!
Go away! Don’t come near us! You’re sick. I don’t want to be infected.
What? You want to play basketball with us? No, we don’t want to play with you. You scare us.
“Many, many people.” Keeping a hand on his forehead, Tang Feng took a deep breath. He had almost been swallowed by the dark reaches of his memories, by everything that he didn’t want to remember.
When someone was finally willing to adopt him, he couldn’t even remember how happy he was. He was happy and worried at the same time. He was afraid he would scare off his new parents if his heart started acting up. He didn’t want to cause trouble and make his new parents unhappy, so he forced himself to act mature and keep up a smile at all times.
When he had been bullied in school, he would wrap himself in blankets and cry inside his bed instead of telling anyone.
After wiping away his tears, he would still be the strong, mature, and optimistic Fiennes Tang.
“I’m fine.” Tang Feng lifted his head. Through unshed tears, he saw the worried face of the man crouching before him.
Proofreaders: Lyrick, Ryoko-chan