BEIJING (Reuters) - His face adorns countless advertisements in China, he’s sold millions of albums, and wherever he goes his adoring fans mob him. But for Taiwan singing sensation and budding actor Jay Chou, worldwide fame can wait.
Chou’s music, which intertwines Western R&B and hip-hop with a distinctive Chinese flavor, has drawn a huge and sometimes obsessive following across Asia, especially in China, since his debut with the album “Jay” in 2000.
Last year’s sports comedy “Kung Fu Dunk” was a hit across Asia for Chou. He’ll appear onscreen with Taiwan supermodel Chiling Lin in “Ci Ling,” which won’t be released for at least another year.
But unlike Korean pop sensation and actor Rain, one of Asia’s top-selling musicians, who has tried with little success to break into Hollywood, Chou says global renown can wait.
“For the international market, you have to study English,” Chou told Reuters in a rare interview with foreign media, admitting that his English skills were not up to the task.
“When the time is right, I will do the international market, but it’s not right yet.”
Brought up in suburban Taipei by his mother, Chou, 30, flunked his college entrance exam and had thought about becoming a piano teacher, until fame came knocking.
With his catchy songs, street Mandarin, boyish good looks and self-effacing, almost shy, manner, he has won the hearts of fans even outside Chinese-speaking Asia, and has had much success in Japan. He is rarely out of the paparazzi’s glare.
His global profile was raised when he starred alongside internationally renowned Chinese actors Gong Li and Chow Yun-fat in Oscar-nominated director Zhang Yimou’s spectacular 2006 historical drama “Curse of the Golden Flower.”
Already garlanded with praise and awards for his music, Chou now wants to pay more attention to his film career.
“Movies are more of a focus for now. As for music, I’ll put out one album a year,” said Chou, immaculately dressed in a white and gray checked suit, a small diamond-encrusted crucifix dangling from his neck. “I’ll probably do two films a year.”
Unusual for a star in the bubble-gum world of Mandopop, the classically trained Chou writes many of his own songs.
“He’s a god,” said Lin, getting ready to start filming “Ci Ling” with Chou, a film whose unlikely plot centers on a couple who go back in time to ancient Mongolia looking for treasure, according to Chinese media. “Nobody can match his creativity.”
The power and popularity of his songs have not gone unnoticed in Beijing. Some have appeared on a list of 100 approved songs for music lessons in Chinese middle schools.
“He’s unique, in every way. He’s the best of his generation,” said “Ci Ling” director Chu Yin-ping.
Chou has managed to avoid the political pitfalls in China that have befallen several other popular Taiwanese singers.
China banned Taiwan pop star Chang Hui-mei for a year after she sang the self-ruled island’s anthem at anti-China President Chen Shui-bian’s inauguration in 2000. China considers Taiwan its sovereign territory, not a separate country.
She was later forgiven, though, and allowed back into China.
Chou says he would like to work with Western artists, bashfully admitting a preference to team up with U.S. hip-hop group the Black Eyed Peas. Fellow Taiwan star Jolin Tsai in 2007 recorded a song with Australian pop star Kylie Minogue.
“If I have to sing in English, wow, it will take a lot of time,” Chou said. “If they don’t mind, I’ll sing in Chinese and they can sing in English. That would be a better match.” (Additional reporting by Vivi Lin, editing by Miral Fahmy)