HONG KONG -- Olympic champion Tian Liang is making the jump from diving to movies.
Tian won the men's 10-meter platform champion at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and synchronized platform champ four years later in Athens.
In his new line of work, he plays an autistic young man who marries a mute woman in the upcoming Chinese-language romance "A Beautiful Life." The movie is directed by Andrew Lau, best known in the West for his "Infernal Affairs" trilogy of crime thrillers.
"The surprise this time was Tian Liang," Lau told The Associated Press. "He was very hardworking. He bought many books about autism. He studied how autistic people speak. And I was very happy that he even mastered the gestures of autism sufferers."
"He needs more experience," the prominent Hong Kong filmmaker added. "He also needs to come across the right scripts. But I think he has potential."
Lead actor Liu Ye, one of China's top young talents, was also impressed by Tian's diligence, and offered Tian acting tips on the set.
"An Olympic gold medal is the highest honor in popular opinion. He doesn't have to prove anything with his acting. He is not a trained actor, but I saw the hard work he put in," Liu said.
Besides "A Beautiful Life," Tian also appeared in the 2010 romance "The Fantastic Water Babes" and has starred in several TV series.
Tian is not the only Chinese star athlete looking to switch to entertainment.
Gymnast Liu Xuan, the women's balance beam champion at the Sydney Olympics, released her debut pop album in February and stars in "Grace Under Fire," a kung fu drama on Hong Kong television.