Yu Zheng Selects Michelle Chen as Little Dragon Maiden

Yang Guo might end up being prettier than Xiaolongnü in the upcoming Return of the Condor Heroes adaptation…

Ben Affleck may be the next Batman, but guess who the next Xiaolongnü (Little Dragon Maiden) is going to be? Producer-screenwriter Yu Zheng finally announced who he’d selected to play the female lead in his upcoming adaptation of Return of the Condor Heroes (神雕侠侣). Amid heavy speculation that the role would go to Angelababy, Guo Biting, or even Yuan Shanshan, Yu Zheng decided on the one name no one would have thought of: Michelle Chen.

The revelation led to much criticism online. Although Michelle shot to fame after starring in the 2011 Taiwanese romance film You Are the Apple of My Eye (那些年,我们一起追的女孩), many netizens feel she lacks the physical characteristics requisite to portray Xiaolongnü. “The string on which Xiaolongnü sleeps will be crushed by her weight,” some wrote.

The hashtag “Yu Zheng, get out of the entertainment industry” soon became a hot topic on Sina Weibo, but like always, Yu Zheng has stuck to his guns. “I dare to guarantee that after Michelle’s costume photos are released,” he said in an interview, “no one will say she doesn’t look like Xiaolongnü.”

Now that the photos have been released (there’s another one behind the cut), you can take a look and decide for yourself. Does Michelle Chen fit your image of one of the most ethereal beauties in the wuxia universe?

According to Yu Zheng, 66 females auditioned for the role, but only Michelle and Angelababy stood out as most resembling Xiaolongnü. Initially, he doubted that Michelle, who was second-to-last in line, would be suitable for the role, but he changed his mind immediately after seeing her in costume. Since Angelababy was already involved in filming another project, the part went to Michelle instead.

“She’s very celestial, as celestial as Liu Yifei,” said Yu Zheng when asked to compare Michelle with Crystal Liu Yifei, who portrayed Xiaolongnü in the 2006 adaptation. “But she’s also not as soft as Liu Yifei, who felt like a younger sister to Huang Xiaoming in their collaboration. Michelle seems both like an aunt [gugu, i.e. what Yang Guo initially calls Xiaolongnü] and an immortal.”

Chen Xiao, who is slated to play the male lead Yang Guo in this adaptation, was in Beijing when the auditions took place, but reportedly remarked, “Very celestial, very pretty” after seeing Michelle’s tryout photos. “The photos I sent to him weren’t even Photoshopped,” Yu Zheng added. “They were all taken with my phone.”

Celestial enough? Michelle Chen in the 2012 movie Ripples of Desire (花漾).

Since Yu Zheng has been known to drastically alter storylines in his adaptations, netizens have also been worried about the inevitable embellishments in his version of Return of the Condor Heroes. As usual, Yu Zheng claims that the changes won’t be big: “The basic structure won’t change. What I’ve touched are the details.”

However, he did reveal that he would be editing characters like Huang Rong, Zhen Zhibing, and Li Mochou in order to flesh out their characters more. Huang Rong, who is beloved in the prequel Legend of the Condor Heroes but usually becomes slightly insufferable in ROCH, will now have a stronger sense of protecting her family, in the hopes that viewers will understand her attitude toward Yang Guo. Likewise, Li Mochou will have an increased number of motives for her villainous acts.

The one change some viewers might not take kindly to is that of Zhen Zhibing, the Quanzhen Sect student who falls in love with Xiaolongnü and later takes advantage of her. Yu Zheng says he plans to make him very stupid, foolish, and adorable, and that the rape scene will give viewers a very different feeling. He is quick to add that of course Xiaolongnü won’t feel anything for Zhen Zhibing, since her heart belongs to Yang Guo and she sees all other people as if they were flowers or trees.

During the interview, Yu Zheng revealed a few of the other roles in the drama, which will be outlined below in a table for the sake of brevity. Lu Yi is also in talks to join the cast, but nothing definite has resulted yet.

Character Actor Description
Yang Guo Chen Xiao Male lead
Xiaolongnü Michelle Chen Female lead
Li Mochou Viann Zhang Xinyu Villain
Lu Zhanyuan Sean Chen Xiang Li Mochou’s lover
Lin Chaoying Qin Hailu Founder of Ancient Tomb Sect
Wang Chongyang Yan Kuan Co-founder of Quanzhen Sect
Yang Kang Li Chen Yang Guo’s father (guest appearance)
Mu Nianci Zhao Liying Yang Guo’s mother
Kublai Khan Jiro Wang Mongol army commander


29 thoughts on “Yu Zheng Selects Michelle Chen as Little Dragon Maiden

  1. Michelle Chen is the ideal type of(XiaoLongNu) for Chen Xiao. They are very match, and those who comment about Michelle Chen nt suitable for XiaoLongNu, people have different taste. Michelle Chen is adorable and her features make her look too adorable she should not change. The “rape” scene makes me angry and got damm irratated.

  2. Michelle Chen doesnt fit the image to be xiao long nu at all, definitely the worst Xiao long nu ever cast.She doesnt have the elegance, beauty, and slim physique for XLN.
    She can’t hold a candle to the previous XLNs. Her chubby girl next door look is TERRIBLE for the character. She should know better as an actress than to accept such a miscast role.
    It doesnt help that all the other actresses are more beautiful and have better personalities. It makes you wonder what on earth possessed Yang guo to pick her, gah they dont even have any chemistry. It must be hard for Chen Xiao to act like she’s the fairest of them all when she looks like a common palace maid.
    I was looking forward to this drama but Michelle Chen’s crappy casting and acting has ruined it. Michelle Chen is too fat, too ugly and too old to play xiao long nu. She should know better.

  3. A couple of things, Michelle Chen is out classed by her supporting actresses, such as Zhang Xue Ying or Zhao Han Ying Zi. So, yes, it was a terrible choice to choose Michelle. Perhaps, there are things amiss for this decision.

    Instead of Michelle, I could have let it slight if Gao Yuan Yuan is chosen for the role of XLN. Michelle just cannot carry the role—lacking both physical beauty and talent.

  4. Yu Zheng just don’t know how to make a wuxia series, since the swordman I already give up to this adaption of shengdiaoxialv.
    Ok I like the fact that he prefers new and young actors/acretress over olders. I like the youthful feeling of his drama. But why choose JingYong’s novel? If he want make a wuxia novel with all beautiful, handsome and young people there are a lot of other wuxia novels, in which characters are all young and beautiful,that he can choose.

  5. I thought that Michelle Chen might not be very pretty like Liu Yifei but at least she is sweet and innocent looking. Angelababy, who I think is a very pretty plastic girl, looks too Eurasian to portray her role as Xiao Long Nv.

    Anyway is Yan Kuan not popular in China anymore? His role seems to be a minor one.

    • It’s just a guest character. His role is long dead by the time of Yang Guo, so he’ll probably be in like one memory scene.
      I think the thing with Angelababy is that she looks otherworldy (although imo in a different way), which XLN looks. XLN isn’t sweet. She’s naive and sort of innocent, but also emotionless and not cute or sweet, which is what Michelle Chen is. The baby fat really doesn’t work with XLN’s coldness.

      • Angelababy is really pretty, but I’ve still I never really liked the way she looks. It’s not that interesting for me to look at her for a long period of time, and her acting isn’t good enough for me to stay for that…she also looks really modern.

        Michelle Chen definitely does not have that sort of ethereal beauty, though. But I was expecting Yuan Shanshan, so, not too many qualms about that. It’s what Yu Zheng promises to do for the rapist that makes me want to slam my face against a wall.

        Also, /of course/ Chen Xiao would speak well of his co-star. I also find that he’s something of a mismatch for Yang Guo…lol at Zhao Liyin for Mu Nianci.

      • Eh well, Yu Zheng is probably going to completely change XLN’s character, so who knows, maybe Michelle will be the right choice… lol. At least she’s a decent actress.

      • yep, Liu Yi Fei nailed XLN’s aloofness spot-on. I feel like Michelle is too cutesy for the character…unless Yu Zheng changes that too. also Liu Yi Fei had the posture to portray XLN’s regal-ness and slight snooty feel. The way you feel like she disregards everyone but Yang Guo (his characters quite quirky too). Michelle looks too sweet, like you said.

        I don’t think Chen Xiao really fits my picture of Yang Guo either (esp. after associating Yang guo = Huang Xiao Ming for so long). But I think he’s a great actor and I love him, so I’ll withhold judgement…

    • I think it’s a pretty known fact that Yu Zheng gives Yan Kuan crap roles. Like a few minutes appearance in Scheme of a Beauty where he gets stabbed in the back of the head (although Yu Zheng reaffirms that Yan Kuan is the hottest actor to appear the least in that drama…whatever). He also casted Yan Kuan as the jilted lover of Yang Mi in Gong. Yu Zheng was once again going to cast in one of his dramas called Tang Gong Mei Ren Tian Xia where he was going to play the cuckolded king until Yan Kuan give that up to be in Ruby Lin’s The Glamorous Imperial Concubine (which greatly boosted his popularity). So, yes, even though they seem to have known each other a long time, graduated from the same university, and worked together in a lot of dramas (including The last Princess) Yu Zheng just get gives Yan Kuan crap guest roles and prefers to cast inexperience and young actors in his dramas.

  6. JIRO WANG?!?! Kublai Khan?! Are you kidding me?! Woah! Seriously! I just can’t imagine this character portraying by him…

    • Lol right?! In all adaptations of Jin Yong’s novels so far, the mongol peeps have always seemed extremely rough and extreme manly-ness (like scruffy, bearded, style)…I feel like Jiro’s too…pretty.

      And I definitely don’t agree with what yu Zheng’s comments on Michelle Liu Yi Fei…but I’ll withhold judgement until it comes out. I hope this adaptation is at least watchable and decent. (I do love Chan Xiao…a lot). I don’t want to hate every single new adaptation of Jin Yong’s novels (still by far my fav wuxia storylines…esp Legend of the Condor Heroes…(2008…although I do like the 2003 one too). Xiao Ao Jiang Hu was disappointing (except the visuals and Chen Qiao En’s fantastic acting), and I hear Tian Long Ba Bu turned out god-awful (despite my love for Zhang Meng).

      They had better not remake Legend of the Condor Heroes anytime soon. It’s too good to butcher.

      • I’m not sure if you’ve read the book, but the 2008 LoCH main characters are vastly differently from that of the book, except as usual with Tangren, they do it in a way so that they pretend to be serious when they’re butchering it as much as Yu Zheng. I’m actually now okay with XAJH because at least Yu Zheng isn’t trying to sell it as a serious adaptation.

  7. Zhao Liyin’s playing Chen Xiao’s mother?! So much lol.

    Also, whitewashing rapists is a no-no. Rape isn’t excusable by “stupidity” or “playfulness.” I think the fact that it has become a little more common recently, partly due to internet novels, is really problematic (highlight example – Hawick Lau and Ying’er’s drama that was so wrong on so many levels)

    Michelle Chen seems too… playful? I also find fault with whoever complains that Liu Yifei isn’t “aunt” like enough. In the novel, Xiaolongnv is suppose to look and seem much more younger than Yang Guo, although she’s older than him. I still consider Liu Yifei the embodiment of Xiaolongnv.

    And Li Mochou has always had motives. In some ways, her love story is just as embodying as that of Yang Guo-XLN given that she speaks the most famous line about love in the book. I think in general, Jin Yong’s major villains are rarely just villains. They all have motives, be it love of family or lover or country, and even the most cold-hearted ones often have soft spots. Yet he never whitewashed them, and they always paid for their wrongdoings, even if they eventually repented. (Although later on this becomes a little more ambiguous … for example, Tian Boguang was a bit too lovable of a rapist, but he eventually gets castrated, so …)

    • Yeah, the comment about Zhen Zhibing was more surprising to me than the casting news. Tbh, judging from Michelle’s performance in You Are the Apple of My Eye, she might be able to pull off Xiaolongnü if she gets better styling and has good chemistry with Chen Xiao. She’s definitely come a long way since her twdrama days.

      “…the rape scene will give viewers a very different feeling.” — Ugh, this sentence is so disturbing. How else are we supposed to feel about a rape scene!? This alone turns me off from wanting to watch this. =_=

      • To be fair, Zhang Jizhong also had a very pretty rape scene where XLN was floating in water (since she thought it was Yang Guo), although the overall rape segment didn’t make anyone feel anything other than Liu Yifei’s really pretty in water and the other guy’s evil.

        I feel like the key problem with a lot of Yu Zheng’s casting is that some of his roles aren’t ones that you can just be cute and not a terrible actress. They’re often roles with very specific looks that are established in the minds of the audience. Like Yuan Shanshan is a perfectly pretty girl, but when you get her to play roles like YuJi or Ren Yingying, it simply doesn’t fit because she doesn’t look like them. Similarly, XLN has that specific look about her, so you can’t just can’t anyone who’s pretty. Also, based off Michelle Chen’s past ancient drama roles, she looks almost as out of place as Angelababy in them …

      • So I did some baidu-ing and it turns out that Jin Yong’s the one who whitewashed this Zhen Zhibing person in the latest edition… he turned out to be a righteous person who won’t betray his country ((#*@?!)

        Good thing I never read any of his latest revisions …

        • Oh my God, are you serious???? I also remember Yu Zheng commenting that his insertion of the Huang Yaoshi/Mei Chaofeng relationship was from the latest edition too, but… this is even more mind-boggling and disturbing. >__>

        • lol late reply but just wanted to correct something incase others come across it.

          Zhen Zhibing was always from his 1st appearance in LOCH was a righteous person, the rape was his one mistake in life. Jin Yong used that as an example of how no matter how honourable one lives their life, a single mistake could mar it. Zhen Zhibing in the end realised his how his actions had tormented XLN and choose to commit suicide to repay the debt.

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