Given the chance for some major media exposure at the Shanghai International Film Festival, the muscular 28-year-old fledgling actor didn't hesitate. He donned a gray tank top, a jaunty charcoal vest — and a matching pair of stretchy, long fingerless gloves that stopped halfway between his elbow and his armpit. Left bare: just his rounded deltoids and bulging biceps and triceps.
Unsubtle? Sure, but Lin knows a few well-circulated photos of his beefcake physique could put him over the top in an online Chinese casting contest to land a part — known only as "action guy" — in Michael Bay's 2014 giant robot film, "Transformers 4."
“Right now, I think I’m fourth in the ‘action guy’ category,” Lin said after mugging for the cameras at a news conference Tuesday for the
In all, four "Transformers 4" roles — the others are "tech geek," "sexy goddess" and "cute girl" — are up for grabs in China as Paramount seeks to cement the box-office prospects for the movie here. The contest is a way for the studio not only to add "Chinese elements" to the movie but also seed consumer interest in the film a full year ahead of its release.
According to Marc Ganis, whose Jiaflix Enterprises is helping to orchestrate the contest, more than 500,000 people have voted online for their favorite contenders, clicking 200 million times on photos, sample acting videos, biographies and other pages on the contest site.
The third installment of the franchise, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," sold more than $145 million in tickets in China 2011 even without significant Chinese plot elements, making it one of the top-grossing U.S. films of all time here. ("Dark of the Moon" did have multiple Chinese product placements, including Shuhua milk.)
China is now the second biggest movie-going market, behind the United States, and box office receipts grew 37% year over year in 2012. So the $200-million record notched by "Avatar" in 2010 could be within striking distance for "Transformers 4."
Launched about six weeks ago, the casting contest drew about 70,000 entrants, both professionals and amateurs. Those ranks have now been whittled down to 2,400. As of Tuesday evening, Lin was actually No. 5 in the "action guy" category, with 36,495 votes (the leader was Jiro Wang, a.k.a. Wang Dong Cheng, a well-known Taiwanese actor, with more than 133,000).
Lin, who was born in China but later lived in
English language ability is a requirement to win a role, but exactly what “action guy,” “tech nerd,” “sexy goddess” and “cute girl” will do hasn’t been determined, Ganis said, even though the film, starring
"There are quite a few Chinese elements that are already in the film, but the four actors and actresses have not yet been selected," Ganis said. "So we want to make sure the roles that they are given are roles that are best suited to their specific talents."
In addition to the four contest winners, Chinese star
Unlike the filmmakers behind “
"There will be one version, the version Michael Bay wants the world to see," Ganis said. "The American version will be the version that is shown here in China, a single version."
"There is a meaningful China story line in the movie that involves quite a few Chinese actors and actresses," he added. "There's a number of six floating around out there, six Chinese actors and actresses. Actually it's quite a few more than that."
Given that China allows only 34 major foreign film releases into its cinemas per year, Hollywood studios are taking extreme care to make sure their movies are Sino-friendly.
In Paramount’s upcoming
LeeAnne Stables, a Paramount executive in charge of marketing partnerships and brand integration, told Chinese reporters in Shanghai on Tuesday that the new Transformers film was "a wonderful opportunity to bring the wonderful culture and the beauty of your country to theater audiences around the world," adding, "We're thrilled to be showcasing China within the film."
Lily Ji, 24, invited to appear at Tuesday's news conference as a representative contestant from the "sexy goddess" category, said she was thrilled that China's rising clout has opened up such Hollywood opportunities for performers like her.
“I don’t care how much I would be paid,” said Ji, who recently graduated from Australia’s prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Arts, the alma mater of