John Foster Dulles

In 2009 I was asked to play John Foster Dulles in a play called “Dongfang” (东方) about Asian history (dongfang just means the east). It was one of those plays where they don’t record the sound, they just record a rough guide track so that all the dialogue can be dubbed in afterwards. The guy playing General MacArthur is actually Russian.

We filmed this scene in an outdoor military museum in Qingdao. Qingdao was for many years a German concession with the result that they now brew some of the best beer in China.

Although I didn’t dub my own dialogue for this play, strangely enough I did get called in to dub the dialogue for some of the other foreign actors. They gave me the script and told me to listen to the guide track adjust the lines to what the actors were actually saying. It was a bit of an eye-opener for me, because mostly what the actors said bore hardly any resemblance to what was in the script. I bodged, creatively, and somehow managed to make my contribution sync what was on the screen. But there was just one exception, which was a foreigner playing an interpreter speaking absolutely perfect Mandarin, character for character exactly as it was in the script. I expressed my admiration and they told me that he was actually brought up in China. Chinese was his mother tongue. I asked them why, in that case, did they want his beautiful perfect tones to be over-recorded with my horrible western accent. They said because he was supposed to be a foreigner and so he had to sound like one.

Liu Bocheng and Dr Walker

Liu Bocheng was a marshal of the People’s Liberation Army, a close friend of Deng Xiaoping. During his youth he was shot through the right eye. His eye was operated on by a German surgeon about whom I cannot discover much information but it seems that his name was Walker. Legend has it that Liu refused an anesthetic and after the operation he told the surgeon he had made 72 cuts. The surgeon was very impressed with Liu’s stoicism and gave him the nickname “Chinese Mars” (军神).

This scene was filmed in an old complex of buildings based around a church on a mountaintop near Chongqing, probably quite close to where the event actually happened. The frightful looking wound is made of honey and red food colouring.