Taiwanese teen star on stratospheric movie rise

Amber WANG
Vicky Chen is a laid-back 14-year-old with an easy smile -- and she's up for two major awards at the Chinese-language equivalent of the Oscars

Vicky Chen is a laid-back 14-year-old with an easy smile, but the Taiwanese actress is already a force to be reckoned with, nominated for two major awards at the Chinese-language equivalent of the Oscars.

Chen could make history on Saturday as the youngest ever contender to be crowned best actress at the Golden Horse film awards in Taipei.

Local media have dubbed her a "prodigy" able to play complex characters in movies that tackle a range of difficult subjects.

Chen is nominated for the best actress award for her role in "Angels Wear White" directed by China's Vivian Qu, in which she plays a runaway who witnesses a sexual assault and struggles between her conscience and saving her job by staying quiet.

She is also up for best supporting actress in Taiwanese director Yang Ya-che's thriller "The Bold, the Corrupt and the Beautiful," where she takes the role of an upper-class heiress in a family gripped by dark political and business intrigues. The film includes a scene in which her character is raped.

Chen describes the roles as "very challenging".

"I wanted to try them out, even though I felt nervous," Chen told AFP in an interview.

"I am very young so there are some things I don't understand. I rely on communicating with my seniors, other actors and the director about any questions I have over the script."

Chen's acting career started four years ago when she was cast in a film in China, where her family is based. She went on to appear in a number of movies and TV dramas before landing a lead role in "Angels Wear White," which competed at this year's Venice film festival.

"I like acting because I feel very happy and accomplished after finishing a scene," she said.

- In safe hands -

Giving back-to-back interviews ahead of Saturday's ceremony, Chen appeared poised, but said days can be long as she balances her acting commitments, school work and private tutoring.

Teachers and fellow students are not treating her any differently after the nominations, she said.

"My classmates see me as their classmate and my teachers see me as their student. I don't put too much pressure on myself," she said.

"Perhaps the most difficult part for me is to get up early and go to sleep late."

In the wake of more than 100 women coming forward to accuse Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct -- ranging from harassment to rape -- there is a spotlight on the global film industry and its treatment of young actresses.

Chen said she was aware of the issues but felt she was in safe hands, with her family and management constantly by her side.

"I am very well protected and I am also careful," she told AFP.

Her ambition is to continue with her studies alongside her movie career -- she counts Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman and Australian singer-actor and YouTube sensation Troye Sivan among her role models.

While she has made her name by taking on heavy-duty parts, Chen says she would next like to play a "sunny girl", which is closer to how she sees herself.

Director Yang said he has no doubts about her potential.

"She has talent of course," he told AFP.

"But most importantly she has a lot of passion."