Kai Ryssdal: On our last day in Shanghai before we came home, we had kind of an L.A. moment. Reminded me a lot of a game people play around the office sometimes. The one where if they made a movie of this place, who would play you. So we were sitting in my hotel room doing an interview with expat American businessman Jim Rice. He first came to China 20 years ago, right after college.
Jim Rice: I stayed, mostly at the time because I thought the women were beautiful and the beer was cheap. And so it turned into a career. Not the women or the beer, but the working in China.
Suffice it to say, he’s a character. Hail fellow well met. Knows everybody. Heads up the Shanghai chapter of the local Harley-Davidson club. And now is an unofficial consultant on a Hollywood movie. It’s about an American lawyer who comes to China on assignment, fumbles his way through the finer points of cultural interaction, and winds up looking for help from some old China hands.
Rice: One of the American business people he turns to is based on me. And this character is governor of the American Chamber of Commerce like I am, president of a chicken company and rides a Harley.
Ryssdal: And who plays you in the movie?
Rice: Bill Paxton.
Ryssdal: Oh, look it’s Bill Paxton!
Bill Paxton: Hello!
And there it was, our Hollywood moment.
Paxton: I just happened to be walking by your suite and I heard my name and I’m an actor, so of course I showed up.
Hanging out with Bill Paxton in the Shanghai Marriott on Tomorrow Square. All right, so maybe we took a little bit of poetic license there, but there is a point. Because if Hollywood’s finally figured out there’s a movie to be made about American companies coming to China, there must be something to it. You know what? There is. American companies that came to China found their fortunes or lost their shirts.
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