It's been more than three months since anyone has heard from "X-Men" actress Fan Bingbing, and rumors are swirling over where she is.
Some say she's in hiding from Chinese authorities. More speculate she's being held by those authorities, possibly because of a tax evasion investigation. But the fact is, there are few facts, only speculation. There is no word she has been charged with a crime, or even that there's an investigation.
Fan, who turns 37 on Sunday, usually maintains a prominent presence on China's main microblogging service, Weibo, where she has more than 62 million followers. However, her account hasn't been updated since June 2, when she wrote about the work of her charitable foundation.
Her boyfriend, actor Li Chen, has not updated his account since July 6.
Unconfirmed reports circulating online say both have been barred from leaving China as the authorities look into claims that Fan was given dual contracts for her work: a public one giving her official salary and a private one stating her actual, much higher, pay.
Chinese media reports say neither Fan, her production company nor agent can be reached, boosting speculation that all have been caught up in the probe. USA TODAY has reached out to her agent for comment.
However, in a June 3 statement, Fan's production company stated that Fan had never signed any "ying-yang" contract, so named because of their dual natures.
On Sept. 6, an article (later deleted) by state media Securities Daily said Fan had been brought "under control, and will accept the legal decision" of authorities.
Fan has appeared in dozens of movies and TV series in China, but is best known internationally for her role as Blink in 2014's "X-Men: Days of Future Past." She was at Cannes Film Festival in May to promote "355," an upcoming spy film she stars in with Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz and Lupita Nyong'o.
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She is one of China's wealthiest entertainers, pulling down tens of millions of dollars for her roles. Her face is – or was – everywhere in China, endorsing everything from De Beers diamonds to Cartier and L'Oreal. She ruled Forbes China Celebrity List from 2013-17.
Chinese authorities have sought to rein in high salaries for actors that can eat up much of a production's budget. In June, regulators capped pay at 40 percent of a total TV show's production budget and 70 percent of the total paid to the actors in films.
Criminal cases can be career-ending for Chinese celebrities because the communist authorities, who possess ultimate control over what content is released, have ordered offenders blacklisted.
It appears the damage to Fan's career and reputation has already begun.
The New York Times says her name has been removed from the posters for a Chinese production starring Bruce Willis; the release has been delayed for it and an animated motion-capture film in which she also had a role. Chinese film critic Raymond Zhou has claimed that Fan’s role has been edited out of the animated movie.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that lifestyle brand Swisse Wellness has suspended the use of Fan’s name in its marketing. A duty-free store in Thailand has done the same.
Wherever Fan is, the rumors are making people nervous. And whether it was officials' intention or not, people are talking. And counting the days since she was last seen.
Contributing: Susan Haas