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November 19th, Friday…
Zhang Zuting and Lu Zhiyao were going to arrive in Jingzhou the next day. Coincidentally, it would be a Saturday, and they could host a welcome feast for the latter at Ming Yun Private Kitchen.
Pei Qian took a lift to Jingzhou Station in the south and surveyed a few houses. From there, he shortlisted a few. Finally, he picked a beautifully-renovated house that measured 140 square meters. Its price was not far from what Pei Qian had expected. Furthermore, Pei Qian paid the full amount upfront. Thus, he managed to get a small, five percent discount. The final price was 1.63 million yuan.
Since the house was not yet complete, he had to wait until March next year before it could be handed over.
Property prices would balloon in the next two to three years. Most good houses would be paid for in advance and then completed within a certain time frame. If Pei Qian insisted on moving in immediately upon paying the purchase price, he would probably only be able to get second-hand homes.
He did not have much of a choice. Thus, after considering all the factors, he decided that this house was the most suitable. Although he had to pay for it in advance, it was worth buying. In any case, Pei Qian was in no hurry. His parents’ house was quite small, but they had already been living there for so many years. A few months more would not make a difference.
Furthermore, even if the house had been handed over immediately, he still had to inspect, design, and furnish it. All of that would take him a few months anyway. He could not rush the process.
Now that the house was bought, a huge burden was taken off of Pei Qian’s chest. He felt much more relaxed.
The only thing that made him unhappy was seeing about two hundred thousand yuan left in his Personal Wealth. Pei Qian could not help but feel sorrowful—all of his hard-earned money was gone just like that.
Still, it did not really matter. As long as he could incur more losses before the next settlement, he would be able to earn all the money spent on the house back!
He was busy all of Friday. After signing the sale and purchase agreement for the house, he finally returned home to rest.
On Saturday afternoon, Pei Qian instructed Little Sun—the company’s chauffeur—to send him to Ming Yun Private Kitchen. There, he waited for Zhang Zuting and Lu Zhiyao.
Both of them were on afternoon flights. Zhang Zuting had arrived slightly earlier, and so he went to the hotel to get some rest first. Lu Zhiyao arrived slightly later, but Pei Qian also arranged for someone to pick him up, send him to the hotel, and let him settle in before fetching him to Ming Yun Private Kitchen. Of course, as the director of the film, Zhu Xiaoce was joining them as well. He had already arrived ahead of time.
Pei Qian and Zhu Xiaoce sat in the private room, snacking and waiting. Pei Qian noticed that there were two printed scripts in Zhang Zuting’s briefcase. Those were probably meant for Zhang Zuting and Lu Zhiyao.
Pei Qian’s head was hurting just thinking about the scripts. When Zhang Zuting asked to see it earlier, Pei Qian managed to dodge the bullet. Now that Lu Zhiyao was here, Pei Qian guessed that he would likely make the same request. Pei Qian knew for a fact that both of them were very picky with movie scripts. They were not the kind of actors who would star in any role they were told to as long as they were paid. Thus, Pei Qian would definitely not be able to gloss over the script.
old Zhang would probably be easier to deal with. After all, they had worked together before, and he was willing to cooperate. However, Lu Zhiyao was not acquainted with Pei Qian in any way, and he was quite famous. How could Pei Qian expect him to star in a film that was being produced by an unknown director? Even if they paid him a lot of money, he might not agree to play the role once he saw the script. Thus, Pei Qian was worried. On the other hand, there was not a hint of worry on Zhu Xiaoce’s face. Instead, he looked confident and prepared.
Pei Qian thought that it was quite ridiculous. The script was so rubbish, and yet Zhu Xiaoce looked like he was holding onto works that had won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Pei Qian tried asking, “Director Zhu, when Lu Zhiyao arrives, he will likely ask about the movie script. When he does—”
“Don’t worry, Boss Pei! There’s nothing to worry about!” Before Pei Qian could finish speaking, Zhu Xiaoce patted his chest. “Your script was so well-written. For all we know, the more Lu Zhiyao reads, the more he would like it! He might even request to star in it in exchange for a lower pay!”
Pei Qian was speechless.”…”
You’re too optimistic, aren’t you?
Yet, at that point, Pei Qian saw no point in asking more questions. He could only watch how things went when they all finally met.
A while later, the company’s seven-seater car arrived. Zhang Zuting and Lu Zhiyao alighted from the car and were led into Ming Yun Private Kitchen by a waiter. They each had an assistant trailing behind them.
It was common for celebrities to bring their assistants along. After all, most celebrities were extremely busy. They needed someone by their sides to help them or they would risk becoming overwhelmed. The fact that each of these men only had one assistant with them showed how low-profile they were. Other popular celebrities would bring eight to ten assistants with them whenever they left their homes. It almost looked like they were the moon, always behind held up by surrounding stars. This was the first time Pei Qian was meeting Lu Zhiyao in person. Before this, he had only seen his pictures and his scenes in movies online.
The first impression he had of Lu Zhiyao was that he was very handsome!
There were photogenic and non-photogenic celebrities. Some celebrities looked good on camera but practically glowed in real life. Those far surpassed ordinary handsome men and pretty women. Others were not particularly eye-catching in real life but were made to look much more presentable on camera with make-up.
Lu Zhiyao was a special kind of celebrity. He looked extremely handsome in real life… but not that handsome on the screen. Pei Qian had to admit that celebrities depended heavily on their affinity with the audience. No matter how good some celebrities looked, it would not matter as long as the audience did not like them.
“Boss Pei! It’s been a long time!” Zhang Zuting walked briskly towards Pei Qian and shook his hand.
“Boss Pei, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Lu Zhiyao followed closely behind Zhang Zuting After exchanging some pleasantries, Pei Qian led them all into the private room. They then took their respective seats.
It was the same private room, the biggest one on the third floor of the villa. Zhang Zuting could see the golden sunset through the window, illuminating the infinity pool. He could not help but recall the first time he had come here.
His surroundings and the view made him… salivate uncontrollably. The mere thought of the delicacies he had enjoyed during his first time here made Zhang Zuting yearn for the experience once again. He could not wait to dig in. However, at that moment, Pei Qian was not paying any attention to Zhang Zuting or Lu Zhiyao. Instead, he was staring at Zhang Zuting’s assistant. You’re the brat who wrote down Ming Yun Private Kitchen’s position the last time and lured all the ballers in Jingzhou City here!
Boss Pei was furious, but there was nothing he could do. On Zha Zhuti’s account, he had to bury the hatchet.
Pei Qian introduced Director Zhu Xiaoce to Zhang Zuting and Lu Zhiyao. They had some casual conversation as the dishes were served one by one. Although Lu Zhiyao had eaten a lot of good food in his lifetime, he looked surprised when the food was laid down in front of him.
Before he arrived, he was told that there was a pretty good nameless restaurant in Jingzhou City. However, he had not been too hopeful. After all, he often traveled around the world for filming. What kind of restaurant had he not eaten at before?
Yet, when he ate the food here, he realized that it was not worse than the food he had at the best restaurant he had ever visited. In fact, the environment and service here far surpassed that restaurant!
The moment he tasted these delicacies, Lu Zhiyao’s recent troubles and worries faded significantly. Lu Zhiyao had cooped himself at home after his new movie failed. He had also decided not to star in any more films for now. The cast in the previous movie was so good, and yet it still failed. What if the next movie he starred in failed as well?
He could not bear it anymore.
In fact, Lu Zhiyao had not decided whether to take up the role in this movie or not yet. He had only decided to come to Jingzhou to rest his mind and not to work.
Yet, at that moment, as he was being served dish after dish and being well taken care of by the kind waiters; Lu Zhiyao could feel how highly Boss Pei regarded him.
At first, he had only wanted to look around Jingzhou City. That made him embarrassed to continue eating this meal. As the saying went, gifts blinded one’s eyes. Although Lu Zhiyao had not decided whether to star in the movie or not, he felt the need to ask more questions about it to understand it better.
At that thought, Lu Zhiyao said, “Boss Pei, Director Zhu, let’s talk briefly about this movie.
“To tell you the truth, I’ve been in low spirits lately. I’m not in my best state. Mr. Zhang should understand this—an actor’s ability to display his skills is very closely related to his state. I rejected the offer earlier because I was worried that I would not be able to act well in this movie and end up dragging everyone down.
“Moreover, I’m now known as the ‘toxicity in the box office’. I don’t want to be a burden to all of you.”
Before rejecting the offer altogether, Lu Zhiyao had spoken very lowly of himself. That way, even if he decided to turn it down in the end, both parties’ relationships would not be hurt.
As for whether he would end up rejecting the offer or not, that depended on what the script was like and how sincere Boss Pei was.
If the script was horrible, he would reject the role. If the film looked like it had potential, he would give it a shot. Pei Qian smiled. “Don’t put it that way. Mr. Lu, I think your talents have been severely buried!
“Others may think you’re toxicity in the box office, but in my eyes, you’re the best candidate to star as the male protagonist in this movie!
“I have high hopes for you.”
Lu Zhiyao knew that Boss Pei was just being polite.
Still, his sincere gaze moved Lu Zhiyao.
Boss Pei looked very genuine!
It was rare to come across someone like that.
“Boss Pei, the fact that you trust me so much makes me feel ashamed. Boss Pei, Director Zhu, I can sense your sincerity, but can I take a look at the script first?”
As expected, he had asked for the script. Pei Qian knew that Lu Zhiyao probably would not agree to star in the movie if they did not show him the script first. He had no choice but to watch Zhu Xiaoce hand the scripts over to Zhang Zuting and Lu Zhiyao respectively. Lu Zhiyao wiped his hands with the hot towel that the waiter handed to him, received the script with a somber expression, and then flipped through it. Pei Qian watched Lu Zhiyao’s expression turn from an expectant one, to confusion, to shock, and finally to blankness. He suddenly had a bad feeling about this.
At that moment, after flipping through the script, Lu Zhiyao was at a loss for words. Scripts like that were extremely rare! Of course, it was not that Lu Zhiyao had never seen such scripts before. Many Western artistic films had very misleading plots as well. However, Lu Zhiyao had really never seen a local film like that.
Lu Zhiyao had never played a male protagonist like that in his entire acting career.
It was a bit too tragic, wasn’t it? He was a brown-noser at first, who failed to buy a new house despite working so hard. After more hard work, he finally struck it rich in the middle. He cast his old lover aside and ended up with nothing after being schemed against. Lu Zhiyao had never experienced such wrong being done to him!
Every male protagonist he played in the past was a winner in life. He had always been surrounded by beautiful women, and he had always had a successful career.
In the most tragic movie he had starred in thus far in his career, he had still played an inspiring and magnificent man who died a glorious death. Even when he had been cast as a supporting actor, he played cute, charming antagonists. This movie was different in a good way. He was supposed to play a male protagonist whose life was terrible! He was neither cute nor pitiful. Up until the end of the story, the audience could even wind up feeling disgusted by him. Lu Zhiyao looked up at Pei Qian. “Boss Pei… this script…”
At that moment, he had no words to describe how he felt.
Pei Qian braced himself as he watched Lu Zhiyao’s expression. Indeed, the highly toxic script had ended up repelling even the most toxic man in the box office.
After some thought, that seemed about right. Every film that Lu Zhiyao had starred in had failed, one after another. However, he had always played the hero or good guy. At best, he was a domineering CEO; at worst, he was a rich second-generation heir who did not need to worry about clothes or food. He always played someone successful in life.
Could Pei Qian expect him to be happy playing a poor person, a brown-noser, an ingrate, and a fool who ended up with nothing after being taken for a ride by others?
Pei Qian glanced at Zhu Xiaoce, gesturing for him to speak up. No matter what you say, make the script sound much better than it really is! Stop Lu Zhiyao from overthinking!
However, before Zhang Zuting could speak up, Zhang Zuting smacked his thigh. “What a good script! This script is great! “In all my years of acting, I’ve never read a script this meaningful and deep!
“This is a biting satire. It’s a criticism of overly consumeristic people, the fickle and impatient society, and the way money changes a person. This script is very meaningful indeed, and it’s worth chewing on to appreciate it further! “Boss Pei, where did you find this scriptwriter? He has such high standards!” Zhu Xiaoce immediately answered, “Boss Pei wrote this script himself.”
Zhang Zuting immediately looked at him with newfound respect. “I didn’t realize that you were so talented, Boss Pei! Abler people do more work indeed!
“Something’s not right… Boss Pei, the script was already done when I spoke to you over the phone the last time. Why did you try to avoid the topic? “Oh… I understand. You’re humble and low-profile!
“Boss Pei, humility is good, but it’s not good to be too humble. I only agreed to star in this movie because of our good relationship. Other actors might not have agreed to come down if they had been told that the script wasn’t ready. What a waste that would be! “Based on this script alone, I would agree to act in the movie for free, much less for a discounted price!” Pei Qian looked at Zhu Xiaoce, and then at Zhang Zuting, confused. Things were developing in a completely opposite direction from what he had expected. What is going on…?
Pei Qian had only expected to get support from Zhu Xiaoce. He wanted the latter to help bluff Zhang Zuting and Lu Zhiyao into accepting the project. Yet, it turned out that even Zhang Zuting had been bought over. He supported Pei Qian of his own accord, and the three of them were working together to lead Lu Zhiyao on board! Lu Zhiyao still looked quite confused. He had only roughly scanned the script and had not understood its main plot points. Zhang Zuting continued flipping through the script, obviously emotional. “Boss Pei, if I’m not wrong, this script was custom-made for Brother Lu, right?”
Pei Qian, “?”
Custom-made? You’re overthinking. When I wrote this script, I had no idea who Lu Zhiyao was…
However, Pei Qian could not possibly have told the truth at that moment, right? He smiled subtly, not agreeing or denying Zhang Zuting’s guess. When he saw that smile, Zhang Zuting became even more certain. He turned to Lu Zhiyao and said, “Brother Lu, can you tell?”
Lu Zhiyao felt light-headed.
I can’t see sh*t! Custom-made for me? Do I look like a brown-noser to you?! Seeing Lu Zhiyao’s explanation, Zhang Zuting explained, “Brother Lu, do you know what you’re lacking now? You’re not just lacking a good script or a good role to play. “The most important thing you’re lacking is a good image!” Lu Zhiyao’s expression remained one of confusion. Zhang Zuting continued, “When I say ‘good image’, I’m not referring to powerful or strong roles. You’ve played the ‘successful person’ in many movies before, and yet you’ve only achieved mediocre reactions. Have you thought about why that’s so? “A good image is not formed when you play flawless characters. Instead, it is formed when you obviously distinguish yourself from other actors through your own unique points and when you allow the audience to relate to you and remember your character! “When I was younger, I got the title of ‘movie king’ by playing an insane person as well. “The male protagonist in this script looks like a good-for-nothing, but it is—without a doubt-an excellent character. He’s complicated and voluptuous.
“A role like that will allow you to mold every aspect of your acting skills. What’s more, it could help you to shake off the stereotype that the audience has placed you in.
“Why haven’t your previous roles appealed to the audience? I personally think that you’re too handsome!
“Thanks to your looks, the audience cannot take your role seriously. You don’t look grounded, and you don’t look convincing. It’s extremely difficult for them to be immersed in the movie.
“I think your attractiveness has become a burden to you to a certain extent. If you don’t let go of this burden and take up roles like that, it would be very difficult for you to break out of this state.
“You’re always playing flawless characters. How can you leave a deep impression in the audience’s minds? “That’s why I think this role was custom-made for you. It suits you very well! “Honestly, if I was more than ten years younger, I would take up this role for sure. Now, I’m too old for that. The chance is yours.”
After listening to Zhang Zuting’s words, Lu Zhiyao fell silent.
Pei Qian and Zhu Xiaoce fell silent as well. However, all three of them were silent for different reasons.
Lu Zhiyao was silent because he wanted to reap as many benefits as he could from the heartfelt advice of a movie king. No matter how popular Zhang Zuting was now, he was still a senior who had achieved much more in his career than Lu Zhiyao.
The fact that even Zhang Zuting thought this role was a good one to take up showed how good the role really was.
Zhu Xiaoce was silent because he felt emotional. Indeed, Zhang Zuting was a veteran actor with a deep understanding of movies. From both actors’ reactions to the script alone, Zhu Xiaoce could tell that Zhang Zuting was of a much higher standard than Lu Zhiyao!
On the other hand, Pei Qian was confused.
He had thought that Zhang Zuting would react in the same way as Lu Zhiyao did. He imagined both actors would have many criticisms, and Zhu Xiaoce and Pei Qian would have had to spend more effort trying to win them over.
Yet, as it turned out, Zhang Zuting liked the script!
Not only did he like it, but he was also helping to buy Lu Zhiyao over. He even went so far as to say ridiculous things like the script being custom-made for the latter.
Pei Qian really wanted to know if old Zhang was speaking from the heart or if he was just trying to bluff Lu Zhiyao.
Is it the former?
That’s unlikely. I wrote this script with the intention of including as many toxic points as possible. How could a veteran actor like Old Zhang, who has starred in many movies before, like it?!
Yes, it must be because I’m Zhu Xiaoce’s boss and Zhang Zuting’s financial backer. Both must be finding it extremely difficult to critique the script objectively. That’s probably why they’re praising it so highly.
Look, Lu Zhiyao, someone who has no relationship with me whatsoever, had a different reaction to the script!
That means Old Zhang and Zhu Xiaoce must be trying to bluff him on my behalf.
Both of them have done a good job today. As long as I can rope the ‘toxicity in the box office’ into this project, I will increase both of their salaries for sure!
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