Natasha Liu Bordizzo – Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

There’s not much to say about Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who stars as young Wuxia acolyte Snow Vase in the exclusive Netflix release of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, because the film is the 22 year old’s first screen credit.

After growing up in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs, the Chinese/Italian/Australian actress studied law and then did some modeling before getting the role that’s changed the course of her life.

Her martial arts background certainly helped, but as she tells in Los Angeles – where she’s recently moved to make her career – Nordizzo wants to stretch herself much farther than that.

How much influence from Chinese and/or Italian cultures did you have growing up?

I think they kind of in a sad way cancelled each other out. I still have little influences from both but we were very Australian. We had barbeques at Christmas, that kind of family.

Since being involved with this movie, I’ve gotten a lot more in touch with my Chinese side and that’s always the more dominant side because I have a lot more relatives from my Chinese side in Sydney, whereas my Italian relatives are all in Italy.

Do you think that helped with the role or the approach?

It did for sure. My Mum was really happy because she always felt that I was disconnected from Chinese culture in some way.

How so?

You’re just Westernised. Growing up in Australia I’m just another Aussie at school who’s like, ‘I don’t want to learn Mandarin, that’s lame’. I’m just so happy I can speak to her now in Mandarin and I understand so much more about China because we went there for the film.

And I studied Chinese cinema now for this film so she’s just really happy that I’ve gotten more in touch with that side.

Who is Snow Vase and what does she want?

Well, there’s so many layers to her story. She comes from quite a sad childhood in the sense where she was never really wanted by her mother figure. She always felt displaced and she was raised very much like a warrior or a student, not like a daughter.

So she always had this pent up longing for guidance and real affection which she kind of finds with Yu Shu Lien, Michelle Yeoh’s character. She’s very secretive and she’s holding a lot within her but she’s also very fiery and loses her temper quite easily. So I just loved that there were all these human flaws.

You were six when the original came out, when did you see it?

I watched it in preparation for this movie. My friends and I just missed that cut off of being a little bit too young to have seen it when it was a big deal. But that’s also why I was excited about the project just being a new, fresh take on things.

The original was so ground breaking, were there any concerns you couldn’t possibly live up to the name?

We never really tried to because I mean, the first film was Ang Lee. You can’t replicate Ang Lee, he’s the master. Master Yuen [Woo-Ping, director] and the team and crew, everyone all just wanted to create something in that timeless martial arts world but not necessarily a continuance. It’s a very standalone story, especially for me because I was too young to have seen the first one.

So how did you come by the role, it’s pretty big for a debut actress?

I was in law school and it was my first audition ever. I went into it because my modeling agent forced me to, she wanted to sign me as a model and I just wasn’t interested. I was studying law and had exams and I just had more of an interest in acting if anything.

So she said if I wasn’t interested in modeling she had this audition for the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I hadn’t seen the first film but I knew it was obviously a classic so I thought, ‘Oh that’s pretty cool. I’ll go to that’. That was my first audition or anything like it.

Do you like modeling now, you’ve done a little more of it?

Mostly modeling has come as a result of acting, they come hand in hand I find. I do enjoy modeling, I feel very comfortable with it.

Turned your back on law?

I have, yeah. I dropped out. I don’t want to go back. I don’t know how much I think university is as valuable as it used to be because everyone these days has a degree. You know, work experience is everything. Networking is everything. So I’m not in any rush to go back.

Martial arts obviously served you very well for the audition, but what do you get out of it in your life in general?

I used it as an outlet when I was a teenager. I did taekwondo for about 9 or 10 years, and it was a space where there was no judgement.

For teenagers, there’s a respect, there’s a discipline that was not present in other parts of our lives like high school. So it was just like a great space for me to be mentally together. A few times a week I found that it helped me concentrate on other areas of my life.

Aside from fighting skill is there anything you think it’s done spiritually for a career in acting?

Maybe not in ways I can name but I’m sure it has effects. I mean, it affects all parts of your life. I feel to have like an outlet where you really just clear your mind. Would be like yoga for some people.

You seem very calm and centred for someone so young embarking on such a cutthroat career path.

It takes a lot for me to get stressed. But I don’t know, I just feel like I’ve been through a lot with filming and now I’ve just achieved this sort of Zen state.

There’s a lot of talk about diversity and strong roles for women. Do you feel like you’re entering the industry at a good time as far as that goes?

I feel very strongly about that. I’m careful about the scripts I read and I’m very keen to take on characters that are not just martial arts based or racially based in any way. I’m very keen to take on the market and make a mark for diversity.

I think it’s time and I’ve come at a time where there seems to be a lot of interest and very open mindedness to the whole thing. So I’m very excited to see where that goes.

Do you think you can become an example of what can be achieved for both women and minorities in the industry?

Definitely, I’d love to. I mean, all I can do is do my best with craft and I’m very passionate about it. And you know, if people find that’s inspiring even better. I do get a lot of people in China and other countries in Asia telling me they find it inspiring that I’ve made a mark already just as an Australian-Asian.

I’m a bit undefinable. I’m a half-Asian raised in a western country and now working in America, and I can mould into whatever I need to be, accent-wise, looks-wise. So I think it’s a cool concept because there’s a whole demographic of Asian kids who are raised in western countries who are not represented in film or TV.

If you’re Asian in film or TV it means you’ve come from Asia. It doesn’t mean you have an American accent, it means you’ve literally flown from Asia.

So I think that demographic needs to be represented more in film and TV. And yeah, I’m definitely one of those people. I mean, I have a lot of Asian friends, but my friends and I all grew up never seeing anyone that looks like us on TV.

So I think that’s why a lot of people are surprised when I say that I’m an actor because they say, ‘Oh really? You’re an Australian actor and you look like that’. You know, you’re not blonde!

Anything else on the horizon?

I’m kind of really just making my rounds. I feel like I need to meet everyone in LA, do my meetings. There is some stuff on hold though, but I can’t talk about it.

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