Ziyi Zhang

Born Feb. 9, 1979, in Beijing, Ziyi Zhang studied dance from an early age -- a talent she put to use brilliantly in the choreographed fight scenes of movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and House of Flying Daggers (2004).

While attending Beijing's Central Drama Academy, Zhang landed a role on a shampoo commercial, and before she knew it, the ad's director -- acclaimed filmmaker Yimou Zhang -- cast her as the young lead in The Road Home (2000). After the huge success of Crouching Tiger (which came out just a few months later), Zhang made her American cinematic debut opposite Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in Rush Hour 2.

Zhang's star has continued to rise ever since as she delivered intense and luminous performances in action spectaculars such as Hero (2002) and romantic dramas such as 2005's Memoirs of a Geisha, which netted her a Golden Globe nomination.