Oscar Holland, CNN
(CNN) — Rarely seen outside China since a tax controversy threatened to derail her career, actor Fan Bingbing continued her recent return to the limelight with a succession of high-profile appearances at this month’s Cannes Film Festival.
The “X-Men” star was pictured at several red-carpet events and galas happening alongside the 12-day festival, which concludes Saturday. And while Fan has long represented major Western labels like Louis Vuitton, she instead used the spotlight to showcase lesser-known — and in many cases, Asian — designers, wearing outfits by South Korean, Filipino and Vietnamese brands, among others.
Making her first appearance at Cannes since 2018, Fan arrived at last Tuesday’s opening event (the premiere of Johnny Depp’s new film “Jeanne du Barry”) wearing a creation by Christopher Bu. The elegant sleeveless ballgown (pictured top) was printed with tigers and a bamboo forest rendered in a style reminiscent of traditional Chinese paintings.
With a voluminous train following her down the Palais des Festivals’ red carpet, she completed the look with an ornate updo hairstyle that might look at home in a Chinese period drama.
On Thursday, the actor showcased two more outfits by Asian brands. At the Women’s Stories Gala, she arrived wearing a risqué floral top with a matching silver headpiece and a long, flowing cape — all by Miss Sohee, an up-and-coming couture label founded South Korean designer Sohee Park.
She was then spotted at another red-carpet event wearing a golden butterfly-inspired dress by Vietnamese designer Chung Thanh Phong.
On Friday evening, she once again turned to Chung Thanh Phong’s label, Rin, as she attended an A-list dinner in a sculptural look from the brand’s latest collection, paired with a Jimmy Choo bag. She was also seen that night in a white floor-length gown by Filipino designer Harvey Cenit.
Fan’s Cannes outfits appear to have been well-received on Chinese social media. Her arrival on the festival’s opening night briefly trended on the Twitter-like platform Weibo, where the hashtag #FanBingbingCannes has now been viewed over 6 million times since last Tuesday.
Her looks at Cannes have not been exclusively by Asian designers. Last week, she wore a figure-hugging gown by Mikael D, the label founded by Canadian-Lebanese designer Mikael Derderian, and a strapless black dress bearing large yellow flowers from Russian brand Yanina Couture. Then, on Tuesday, she arrived at the premiere of Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” in a feathery design by Tamara Ralph, co-founder of couture label Ralph & Russo.
Fan has been a style and beauty icon in China since her breakthrough movie “Cell Phone” became one of the country’s biggest grossing movies in 2003. She has gone on to appear in both Asian and Western productions, including 2014’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
In 2015, at the height of her box office power, Fan was named by Forbes as the world’s fourth best-paid actress (and China’s best-paid actor in each edition of the magazine’s China Celebrity 100 list published from 2013 to 2017). Six years ago, she was also named in Time magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
But the actor unexpectedly vanished from public view in June 2018 after alleged copies of a film contract she had signed were leaked onto Chinese social media. According to state tabloid Global Times, she had two different contracts, one for tax purposes saying she was paid 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) and a separate, private contract for 50 million yuan ($7.5 million). Chinese state media later reported that Fan, having misreported how much money she had received for certain film projects, had been fined almost $130 million for tax evasion.
While the star was caught on camera by paparazzi in October that year, it would be almost a year before she appeared on another red carpet. Several TV and movie projects featuring Fan were seemingly put on hold or held from release in China, though she had since resumed acting work.
She returned to the screen in 2022 with “The King’s Daughter” and “The 355,” starring in the latter alongside Jessica Chastain and Penélope Cruz. But with China implementing strict travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, she did not resume overseas red carpet duties until this February, when she attended at The Berlin International Film Festival to promote her latest movie, the South Korean production “Green Night.”
She has since been seen at Paris Fashion Week and the 2023 Academy Awards, where she channeled old Hollywood glamour in a Charleston dress by Tony Ward Couture.
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CNN’s Mengchen Zhang contributed to this report.