Fan Bingbing has had a spell of bad luck recently. Her Chinese historical series The Legend of Ba Qing, in which she and Chinese actor Gavin Gao play the leads, was originally slated to air in China on April 19. However, the series, which Bingbing invested NT$1.2 billion (S$54mil) in, was put on indefinite hiatus after Gavin was arrested for allegations of sexual assault in Australia in March (P/S As the court case is still ongoing; the actor remains behind bars to this date.)
Now, the actress’ upcoming movie, Cell Phone 2, directed by Feng Xiaogang, is the reason behind her recent tax evasion scandal. We’ll get to that in a bit, but if the latest reports regarding the actress are to be believed, it seems even the gambling gods are not on Bingbing’s side. The actress reportedly lost a staggering US$12mil (S$16mil) in three days at a Las Vegas casino.
On June 3, a netizen revealed that he had seen Bingbing and her fiancé, Chinese actor Li Chen, at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas a few days prior. Bingbing had accompanied Li Chen there to film his upcoming Chinese movie Seven Days. The pair allegedly arrived at the airport in a Rolls Royce. According to the driver, the duo had lost US$12mil (S$16mil) in gambling over three days. The duty manager at the Las Vegas casino where they had allegedly gambled in claimed that on May 28, there was a male and a female, both Asian, who checked into the hotel’s presidential suite. In the casino, they used cash cheques to exchange for US$15mil (S$20mil) worth of chips. The casino reportedly not only arranged a Rolls Royce for the pair, but also two Mandarin-speaking assistants. The duty manager added that the duo loved playing blackjack, and each time, they would place bets of up to US$50,000 (S$67,000).
However, on June 8, an insider clarified that when Bingbing and Li Chen were in Las Vegas, they never left the crew of Seven Days. He said they never had a Rolls Royce to ferry them around, but had always used the company car. He added that they never went to the casino to gamble as Li Chen didn’t know how to gamble. Bingbing and Li Chen was said to have ended their Las Vegas trip prematurely to fly back to Beijing to assist in investigations regarding allegations that the actress had committed tax evasion.
It all began when TV anchor Cui Yongyuan made a shocking expose about the practice of yin-yang contracts, or double contracts for the same job to help stars evade taxes, in China’s entertainment industry. On May 28, Yongyuan wrote on his Weibo, “Don’t bother acting, you really suck!” along with screenshots of what appeared to be Bingbing’s employment contract. The document showed that Bingbing would be paid 10 million yuan (S$2mil) for four days’ work on the Feng Xiaogang-directed Cell Phone 2.
In a second post, Yongyuan revealed that the 10 million yuan contract was in fact only one of two contracts for the same job, and that the other was worth 50 million yuan (S$10.4mil). He suggested the person in question had evaded taxes by not reporting the full 60 million yuan (S$12.5mil) remuneration to the tax authorities. Although he didn’t name Bingbing in the second post, several media outlets and netizens jumped to conclusions and assumed that he was talking about the actress.
Following his expose, China’s State Authority of Taxation ordered local tax bureaus to investigate yin-yang contracts in the film industry. After news of the crackdown broke, several leading Chinese film studios and production companies saw their share prices plummet. Affected companies include leading studio Huayi Brothers, which Xiaogang has equity in, as well as Zhejiang Talent Television and Film, in which Bingbing owns a 1.6 per cent stake as the 10th largest shareholder. The regional tax office in Wuxi, China, where Bingbing’s company is based, announced that it has launched an inquiry into the studio.
However, things took a sudden turn when Yongyuan came out to clarify in an interview that Bingbing had nothing to do with the two contracts. He said that the contracts were not for an individual, but a “gang”. He also apologised to the actress for getting her into trouble with the tax authorities after he leaked the two contracts. Bingbing’s studio has denied that the actress ever signed separate contracts for a single job. They added that they were considering legal action against Yongyuan for damaging Bingbing’s reputation and infringing upon her legal rights.
Yongyuan’s leak of Bingbing’s contract also unveiled several surprising T&Cs. For instance, Bingbing had the right to amend the script and refuse hairstylists. She would also have access to two limousines, a voice coach, a daily food allowance of 1,500 yuan (S$300), as well as a makeup artist who had to be paid a full month’s wages of 80,000 yuan (S$16,700).
So why did Yongyuan leak the dual contracts? Simply put, it was to get back at the director Xiaogang and screenwriter Liu Zhenyun of Cell Phone 2. Yongyuan has publicly criticised the 2003 film Cell Phone, which revolves around the story of a famous talk show host, for what he deemed were similarities between his own life and that of the protagonist’s. In fact, Yongyuan has threatened that if Cell Phone 2 ever saw the light of day, he’d expose even more things about the director. Unfortunately, the movie’s female lead Bingbing has been unwittingly dragged into the saga.
Yongyuan’s revelation of Bingbing’s sky-high salary has divided netizens. While some argue that huge salaries are an integral part of China’s showbiz scene and driven by demand, others lamented that many actors in China are overpaid. Last year, the China Alliance of Radio Film and Television issued guidelines that sought to cap actors' wages at 40 per cent of the production’s total cost, as well as the leading star’s pay at a maximum of 70 per cent of the cast’s total wages.
According to Forbes, Bingbing has been China’s highest-paid celebrity for the past four years, taking in 300 million yuan (S$62.5mil) last year. In 2016, Forbes also listed Bingbing as the world’s fifth-highest paid actress, with earnings of US$17 million (S$22.6mil) that year.
Scroll through the photo gallery above to see more pictures of Fan Bing Bing.