Actor and filmmaker Billy Bob Thornton has joined the line up of speakers at Asia Society Southern California’s U.S.-China Entertainment Summit, which takes place Tuesday at the Skirball Cultural Center.
Thornton will take the stage for a conversation with this year’s honoree, acclaimed Chinese actor, writer, director and producer Xu Zheng. Thornton is well-known to U.S. audiences for a body of work that includes his Academy Award-nominated performances in Sling Blade and A Simple Plan. Xu is one of China’s most popular and influential contemporary film figures, whose movies have had commercial success as well as social impact.
“Billy is the perfect choice to pair with the brilliant performer and filmmaker Xu Zheng for his introduction to a North American audience,” Janet Yang, Chair of the Entertainment Summit, said in a statement. “He matches Xu not only in professional stature, but in their seemingly infinite range of creativity and unassailable level of authenticity and commitment to social justice.”
In addition to his two acting nominations, Tornton received an Oscar for writing the adapted screenplay for Sling Blade. His film credits include the Coen Brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There, Bandits starring Cate Blanchett and Monster’s Ball starring Halle Berry.
Xu’s 2012 film, Lost in Thailand, electrified China’s film industry by grossing more than $200 million and caused a surge in Chinese tourism to Thailand, earning Xu a meeting with that country’s prime minister. This year, he produced and stars in Dying to Survive, which depicts the true story of a man’s plight to get life-saving leukemia medication. Not only was the comedy a box-office hit, it struck a chord among the Chinese public and accelerated government efforts to bring down the cost of cancer drugs.
Xu joins other leading entertainment figures who will be honored at the Summit: Actress Michelle Yeoh, Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara and Elizabeth Daley, Dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Other spotlight speakers at the Entertainment Summit include Belle Avery and Catherine Ying, who will discuss The Meg, a U.S.-China co-production that was this summer’s surprise hit.
Avery produced the film and built the cross-border team with Gravity Pictures, now led by Ying, and Warner Bros. Other speakers include executive producers Jiang Wei, who was then at Gravity and is now CEO of Legendary East, and Ben Erwei Ji; director Jon Turteltaub, and Warner Bros. Vice President Chantal Nong.
Former Disney animation legend Glen Keane, will talk about finding and telling multicultural stories. He’s directing an animated feature for Netflix, Over the Moon, which was inspired by China’s mythological moon goddess.
Cathy Yan, the first Asian woman to direct a superhero film, Birds of Prey, starring Margot Robbie, will talk about the transition from making a Chinese indie black comedy to a major studio movie. Yan’s first feature, Dead Pigs, about contemporary China, has won awards at Sundance and other film festivals.
For full program details, click here.