The Chinese government softened for Angelina Jolie, letting her fiancé, Brad Pitt, into the country for the ongoing "Maleficent" press tour despite the fact that he was banned from China after filming "Seven Years In Tibet." Now, Jolie's the one on the outs with the nationalists.
The Independent reports that the A-lister and UN Goodwill Ambassador recently “became the subject of controversy in China, after she labelled film director Ang Lee Taiwanese, not Chinese, inadvertently embroiling herself in complex cross-Strait relations.”
It seems Jolie was asked by an AP reporter during a "Maleficent" press conference in Shanghai to name her favorite Chinese director. Her answer, reprinted in the Independent and the Wall Street Journal, was arguably carefully delivered:
“I am not sure if you consider Ang Lee Chinese, he’s Taiwanese but he does many Chinese-language films with many Chinese artists and actors, and I think his works and the actors in his films are the ones I am most familiar with and very fond of,” she reportedly said.
The speech was “widely” disseminated across Chinese media, according to the Chinese-language news site ET Today. Those who took issue with it pounced on Jolie’s reference to Lee as Taiwanese.
“By implying that Taiwan and China are two separate countries, in a moment of excitement, a brilliant woman [Jolie] became a stupid laughing stock,” said one Chinese Weibo user, according to the Independent. Another reportedly labelled Jolie a “deranged Taiwan independence supporter.”
China has disputed the sovereignty of Taiwan since a rival government was established on the island in 1949, after the Chinese Civil War. Tensions have cooled, but China still sees Taiwan as a “renegade province” they are prepared to take by force, as the WSJ reports.
“It’s not clear whether Ms. Jolie knew that she risked getting caught in the cross-Strait cross-fire,” continues the WSJ story, “but her comments certainly set off a volley of scathing comments among Chinese Internet users, with some threatening to boycott her movies for, as one put it, 'disrespecting China’s sovereignty.'"
The movie has yet to open in China, but has held at number two in Taipei since its opening on May 30.
Indeed, the WSJ reports, there’s been a “new surge in popularity” for the "Maleficent" star in Taiwan because of her comments. As the saying must go in the very large Jolie-Pitt household: you can’t win ‘em all.