Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien said on Friday he had not started out wanting to make the lead character female in his film ‘Nie Yinniang’ (The Assassin), but had tailored the role to suit his lead actress, Shu Qi.

The veteran director’s film, in which the Taiwan-born Shu plays a black-garbed ninth-century assassin who never loses a fight, even against huge odds, has vaulted into the ranks of top contenders for the coveted Palme d’Or prize on Sunday. ‘I never thought of making a female assassin movie, but for me the choice of people is very important,’ Hou told Reuters in an interview.

‘When I look at the actor or actresses, I would think what sort of movie would suit them, and I’m trying to make a movie that depicts their personality more.’ The character of a female assassin is, however, historically correct and documented in Tang dynasty literature, Hou said, adding that he had read so many books about the period that he had plenty of material for several more films. Hou said he was aware of the buzz surrounding his film since its premiere on Wednesday, but he would not venture a prediction on what the prize jury would decide. ‘The jury is very different each year and also the quality of each jury is very different, so you don’t know who will like what. ‘That is why it is better not to think about this, and concentrate on what I am doing best.’