When Natasha Liu Bordizzo makes her wide-screen debut on Friday in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, premiering in IMAX theaters and on Netflix, she will have a much smaller screen to thank. “My agent in Sydney, she found me on Instagram,” the Australian beauty explained by phone this week from Los Angeles, where she is just setting down roots. If Liu Bordizzo’s career beginnings have a fairy-tale ring, so does the story of her first-ever audition. After reading for a supporting role in the follow-up to the 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, she got a surprise call the next day announcing that she’d landed the lead. “I flew to New Zealand [to the set] a week later, I dropped out of university, and here I am,” she said, still a bit incredulous two years later.
With her finely modeled features, calligraphy-stroke eyebrows, and dimpled chin, Liu Bordizzo cuts a striking figure as Snow Vase, the free-spirited ingenue who trains under Yu Shu Lien (played by the regal Michelle Yeoh, reprising her role). Though certain aspects of the sequel are quite a departure from Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning original—the unconventional distribution; a new director (the respected martial arts choreographer Woo-Ping Yuen; and dialogue in English, not Mandarin—the fight scenes still reveal an impressive technical mastery. And Liu Bordizzo accepted the challenge: Already a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, she underwent intensive training in Wudang sword-fighting. Here, the 21-year-old talks about the rigors of the two martial arts disciplines, what saves her skin on long-haul flights, and why breakfast rules the day.
You’re part Chinese and part Italian—Did you grow up with any traditional Chinese notions of beauty?
It’s like that stereotype that Asians will carry umbrellas—now I’m one of them because it’s so necessary, especially in Sydney. The best way to avoid sun aging is just prevention. CosMedix has a great hydrating sun mist—that’s my go-to.
How did you first get interested in martial arts?
When I was about 9 or 10, my parents told me I’d either have to start martial arts or dance. I was always a tomboy, so of course I was like, “Martial arts, definitely. I’m not a ballerina—come on!” And I stuck with it. Through my teenage years it really became an outlet for me to let out any frustration. I think it transfers into your life as well: You just become more disciplined and more focused. [And] it’s so relevant for acting now. There are so many movies that require you to have control over your body in some way.
Both the original Crouching Tiger and the sequel center on master-student relationships. Who did you study with to learn Wudang sword-fighting, and what was that process like?
It was kind of terrifying because Master [Woo-Ping] Yuen is, like, legendary. He choreographed Kill Bill, the first Crouching Tiger, [and] The Matrix. I had Tae Kwon Do, but that was just so different from Wudang that it was like starting from day one again with the best choreographer in the world. It was pretty intense. I was in the dojang from about 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., five days a week. We definitely got there in the end.
What part of your body was most affected by Wudang?
Funnily enough, it was probably my arms. Everything else hurt, of course, but twirling that sword and holding it out—it’s not something you usually ever do. I had one scene with Harry Shum, Jr. where we don’t use weapons. It’s the only scene in the movie that’s just us—body on body, fist on fist—and that was really hard because he’s a professional dancer. He’s like a stone! [laughs] I would hit him, and then my hand would be, like, broken, so that was definitely the most challenging fight in the movie.
You’re no stranger to long-haul flying. Do you have an in-flight skin-care routine?
Now I do! I use this amazing black rose mask by Sisley. I just slather that on. And there’s a hydrating mist from CosMedix that’s great as well. I try to sleep on the plane, but I remember to wake up and quickly cleanse and apply moisturizer because the plane definitely gets to your skin.
Healthy living seems to be the norm in Australia, starting with a solid brekkie. Are you much of a breakfast person?
Oh, my God, yes! It’s my favorite meal of the day. Right now I’m eating Farmer Jo [muesli], which I brought over from Sydney, and then I just add different things every morning to keep it interesting, like cinnamon, blueberries, bananas, all that. I don’t drink dairy, so I always add coconut milk.
Are you already finding your favorite spots in L.A.?
I definitely am trying to make L.A. my home. It’s very similar to Sydney, to be honest—very spaced out and breezy. I’m finding where I like [to eat]. I love Blu Jam; I think everyone loves Blu Jam. And Earthbar—oh, my God, the smoothies there. It’s so easy to be healthy in L.A.!
Photo: Courtesy of Natasha Liu Bordizzo / @natashaliubordizzo
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