BEIJING–At noon on Monday, Brad Pitt joined China’s massive microblogging service Sina Weibo and issued a short missive as open to interpretation as his Chanel No. 5 ads.
“It is the truth. Yup, I’m coming…” Pitt posted in his verified account.
The words sent his Chinese fans into a tizzy. Within hours, his profile gained over 101,000 followers, over 30,000 retweets and more than 13,000 comments on the service that has 400 million registered users.
With China’s rapidly growing movie market, a Hollywood celebrity popping up in Beijing or Shanghai has become a common sight. Keanu Reeves was seen wandering the old hutong alleyways of Beijing last year. Months earlier, Gwyneth Paltrow jumped onstage and started singing at a Beijing nightclub. Even Louis C.K. showed up to do his routine for packed crowd at a Peking Opera theater back in June.
But Pitt has never been seen in China. Pitt has been effectively barred from entering the country since he starred in the 1997 film “Seven Years in Tibet,” where he portrayed the young Dalai Lama’s Austrian tutor. At the time the Chinese Foreign Ministry took issue with the film’s sympathetic portrayal of the now exiled 14th Dalai Lama and the negative depictions of Chinese soldiers in Tibet.
The “Banned From China” distinction is one Pitt has shared with the likes of Richard Gere, Martin Scorsese and Harrison Ford, all big Dalai Lama supporters.
One excited user named “chrinore” wrote back in English to Pitt’s post, “Oh my god! It is really a big surprise. and welcome!! hope u use (Weibo) frequently.”
It’s not yet known whether Pitt is actually coming to China, but there is speculation that if he does it might have to do with the fact that Pitt is a brand ambassador for the French fashion house Chanel.
The tech blog TechinAsia.com points out that “lots of celebrities from around the globe have joined Sina Weibo – mostly for social marketing purposes.”
The fact is not lost on some Weibo users like “SuperBusyEveryday” who sarcastically wrote: “I see Brad Pitt’s coming to China to do business…”
China, after all, is the fastest growing luxury market in the world.
It is worth noting that Pitt’s “Seven Years in Tibet” director Jean-Jacques Annaud, who was previously banned from China as well, was welcomed last year to chair the jury at the Shanghai International Film Festival.