Fan Bingbing, the Chinese star of X-Men: Days of Future Past and I Am Not Madame Bovary, has disappeared. The actor, who was previously a mainstay of public appearances and popular social media platform Weibo, has not been seen since July 1, and hasn’t posted on the network since the end of that month.
It was initially reported in state-run Chinese media that she had been banned from leaving the country and would would “accept legal judgement” for alleged tax evasion, only for that claim to be swiftly retracted.
Fan’s meteoric rise to fame began with roles on Chinese television, which lead to performances in films on both sides of the South China Sea, including Iron Man 3, Skiptrace and The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom. Earlier this year she was accused of tax evasion in a series of social media posts by presenter Cui Yongyuan, who shared images of documents suggesting Fan Bingbing was indulging in the practice of “yin-yang contracts.”
“Yin-yang” contracts refers to double-billing a production, in this case first for 10 million renminbi ($1.6 million), and then for 50 million renminbi ($7.8 million) for the same work. The lower figure is then reported to Chinese authorities, meaning less tax is paid.
Yongyuan was quick to add he was not accusing Fan Bingbing herself of wrongdoing, but nonetheless Jiangsu province and Wuxi City tax authorities, where Fan’s production company is based, announced they were “investigating tax evasion by “certain film and television professionals as alleged in online discussions.”
In light of these accusations, Chinese publications are now speculating that Fan’s disappearance is an enforced “removal from the spotlight” orchestrated by the government. A knock-on effect of this negative publicity has been Fan’s removal from promotional materials for the upcoming Bruce Willis film Unbreakable Spirit.
She may also be cut out of the suggestion she may be recast in international spy thriller 355, where she would have costarred alongside Jessica Chastain, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz and Lupita Nyong’o. Fan isn’t the only one suffering from this fiasco, as Feng Xiaogang — who directed Cell Phone 2, the production where the yin-yang contracts were purportedly employed — has had his cameo from gangster drama Ash is Purest White cut out.
No formal allegations have been made public against Fan Bingbing by the Chinese state, making both her disappearance and the removal of her image from films and advertisements alike all the more bizarre, if not chilling. Her latest finished project, L.O.R.D.: Lord of Ravaging Dynasties 2, has also had its release indefinitely postponed.