Kyle Rothstein, a 17 year-old, says his friends sometimes compare him to Jackie Chan as they view him as being one of the first Caucasians to bring American culture to China, just as Jackie Chan was one of the first Chinese to bring kung fu culture to America. Of course, the comparison is also a commentary on the youth of Mr. Rothstein and his friends as an older generation would probably have made the comparison to Bruce Lee, rather than Jackie Chan.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that Mr. Rothstein is breaking new ground as an American actor. His new movie, Milk & Fashion, in which he plays Tyler, nicknamed Milk, an American raised in China who dances ballet. In the movie, Milk befriends a Chinese ballerina, nicknamed Fashion, for her dream to become a professional fashion designer. What is ground-breaking is Mr. Rothstein’s Chinese language skill. He speaks fluent Mandarin in the movie, a sight rarely seen in movies. Where non-Chinese do speak Chinese in a movie, it is usually a token line or two in broken Chinese (i.e. Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour movies). Vanessa Branch, who slapped Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, speaks fluent Mandarin in the movie as well. Whether we see more movies featuring non-Chinese speaking fluent Chinese may depend on the commercial success of Milk & Fashion. That remains to be seen.