Acting and Chinese History

Acting and Chinese History

Chinese History in Chinese TV

This blog covers some the things I learned about Chinese history through filming in China, and particularly about some of the foreigners who helped shape history there.

John Foster Dulles

HistoryPosted by Ben Thompson Sun, April 14, 2013 21:59:49
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.