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Fan Bingbing’s Return for Jessica Chastain‘s “The 355″ Divides Chinese Internet

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Fan Bingbing, once China’s most ubiquitous famous face but now barely seen following her huge tax scandal, looks to still be on course for a big screen comeback after showing up in the first trailer for Jessica Chastain-led spy flick The 355.

Fan, who plays “mysterious woman” Lin Misheng in the film alongside Lupita Nyong’o, Penelope Cruz, and Diane Kruger, disappeared suddenly in 2018. Almost exactly two years ago, months after she’d last been seen in public, Fan was hit with an enormous fine for alleged tax evasion.

Despite her subsequent struggles to return to the limelight in ChinaThe 355 has pressed ahead with her in the production. The trailer tells us to expect the film’s release “next year.”

According to the film’s official blurb, it sees “a dream team of formidable female stars come together in a hard-driving original approach to the globe-trotting espionage genre.”

Given at least some of the movie is set in Shanghai and given the attention-grabbing cast, it will be interesting to see whether the Simon Kinberg-helmed picture will be granted a release in the country given Fan’s ongoing pariah status. China is set to become the world’s largest box office and — in part thanks to the impact of Covid-19 on cinemas across the globe — could even seal that status this year.

Regardless of the movie’s chances of release in China, it hasn’t taken The 355 trailer long to garner plenty of attention on Chinese social media. The top-rated comment on a post about the story that has attracted over 200,000 likes on microblogging site Weibo simply reads, “An artist who evades taxes.”

The second-most upvoted comment bemoans “the irony of putting such an actor in front of the national flag,” referring to the promotional materials for the film:

However, there are a number of highly-liked positive comments as well, with many expressing excitement at the international nature of the project and that Fan is part of the cast.

Meanwhile Chastain, presumably aware of the brewing backlash against Fan’s role, posted messages of support on the Chinese star’s Instagram, with one reading: “The QUEEN is back.”

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.