Not since Lana Turner was “discovered” in Schwab’s drugstore, has an actress gone from zero to 60 as quickly as Michelle Chen after her performance in You Are the Apple of My Eye. With her intense focus, her comic timing, and her unconventional good looks, her career has taken off so fast that it’s practically on fire. She went to the University of Southern California to study painting, but she switched from fine arts to music in the middle, then went back to Taiwan where she was advised to try acting since the music industry was in a slump. Without missing a beat, she dropped music and an actress was born.
After turning out some commercials and appearing in a few TV dramas, she received a Golden Horse nomination for “Best Newcomer” after she played a deaf swimmer in her first film, Hear Me. Then came the night when, on the way out of a party, she was standing in the elevator and saw Giddens Ko picking his ears with a housekey. She started to scold him and in that one, dumbstruck moment the first-time director knew he’d found the lead for his movie, a film based on his novel You Are the Apple of My Eye, which Michelle had already read. The movie went on to break box office records in Taiwan and Singapore, to become the highest-grossing Mandarin-language movie ever in Hong Kong (beating Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle), and the highest-grossing Taiwanese movie ever released in China. It also changed Chen from an actress, and made her a star.
Her next two projects are The Soul of Bread, a contemporary romantic comedy charting a love triangle in modern day Taiwan. Then comes the period piece, Ripple, in which she plays a Taiwanese geisha. Her success has also allowed her to return to music, and her first album is on its way. And, hopefully, so are many more movies to come.