December 22, 2006


This is news to me. Studio 4C's upcoming feature animation, TEKKONKINKREET (aka TEKKON KINKURITO) based on the manga known in the States as "Black & White" is directed by a white guy. Huh??!?? Is this the first Japanese theatrical anime to be directed by a whitey? You can read all about Michael Arias in an interview with Patrick Macias. And here's Patrick breaking down the tale of how this came to be.

(See a trailer for the film)

December 22, 2006 at 12:32 PM in Interviews, News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 21, 2006


Ronny Yu directs Jet Li in FEARLESS

The director of FEARLESS, THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR and BRIDE OF CHUCKY recently made some time to speak over the phone to plug this Friday's release of FEARLESS (you can read my review here). But despite the fact that this was a promotional event, Ronny Yu was an absolute joy to talk to. Unafraid of stating his opinion and eager to talk about absolutely everything the only criticism I have is that he didn't laugh at my Jean Claude Van Damme joke and that I didn't come better prepared with more controversial questions.

So what was it like to go back and shoot a movie in Hong Kong after being in Hollywood for ten years?
I think it was like anything else: you’ve been away for a while so you have to readjust to the system. Working in China or Hong Kong, there is no defined system in place for making movies. You don’t have to have a lot of preparation, especially when dealing with all the action sequences. I’ve gotten used to storyboards, but they do it on the spot and come up with all the choreography right there. In Hollywood, everything has to be prepped so that you can coordinate between the photographer, the action choreographer, the director, the various department heads. I think that’s because in Hollywood you have a much bigger budget than you have in China, where the budget is very limited. But overall, you know, moviemaking is the same all over the world. You just have to adjust your thinking and adjust to the physical aspect of doing the work.

Hong Kong has a very unique system of filming action where the action directors are very involved, often picking camera angles and participating in the editing. Can you talk about the role of the action director in a movie like FEARLESS?
First of all I don’t know how this whole system came about. In my movies, in all the years I worked in Hong Kong, I never had an action director. I thought it was below me. There’s only one director. This system has survived somehow but it reflects the laziness of the director. No director should have another director doing his work for him. I think this came about back in the 60’s when they were credited as “action choreographer” but they soon figured out that they were doing all the work. The director would just say, “Give me five minutes of fighting here,” and then they’d be off at home eating their dinner while the action choreographer did all the work. It was an unfair system, and later on some high-powered choreographers demanded that since they have to do all the work anyways, they wanted the “action director” credit.

Yuen Wo-ping (center) on the set of FEARLESS On FEARLESS I went along with all this because of marketing. Yuen Wo-ping has such a fantastic reputation based on all his previous work that the distributor thought this would have a lot of marketing value. And I have such a high degree of respect for Yuen Wo-ping that I had no problem going along with it. If you look at the credits of FEARLESS in the worldwide release you have Yuen Wo-ping as the stunt choreographer and he’s also the second unit director. I think this is more accurate, because sometimes he has to do shots on his own that are second unit and he designs the stunts.

Working together, he and I talk about the story and we talk about the tone and we come to an understanding. We didn’t storyboard the action scenes because that’s not how Yuen Wo-ping works, except of course for the visual effects shots where you need to plan them carefully. All the action was designed on the set on the day of shooting and luckily we had Jet Li as a leading man which makes life easy for me. I’m there during all the action scenes, even though I know some directors pass on this responsibility and let the action director do everything. I did all the editing myself, too. Some directors let the action director edit their sequences, but by that standard then why no let the photographer who shot the movie edit it? Why not let the costume designer edit it? The director can just take a holiday. To me this is disrespectful to the artistic value of the movie, and it’s unfair to make the action choreographer do so much work. Directors do this who are lazy or have no vision. If you don’t know action and can’t direct an action scene then don’t direct an action movie.

Was it a difficult decision to cut 40 minutes from the movie?
It was tough. I think it was tougher for Jet. I remember I had to convince him, he felt really bad. We had worked on the script together. We spent a long time living with this story. But when you make a mainstream, commodity movie you have people saying that the market cannot support a 2 hour and 40 minute action movie, a foreign movie, a Jet Li movie. It’ll never happen – that’s what I was basically told. So in order to bow to commercial demands I had to comply. It was a terrible experience. How do you reconstruct the movie after taking out so much? Fortunately I have a good attitude about life: it’s not meant to be fair. You make a choice. Do you want 2000 theaters and millions of people watching your movie? Then there’s a price to pay. If you can accept this philosophy you’ll be happier. Was it the right decision? I’ll never know because the 2 hour and 40 minute movie was never released, although I just finished up my extended director's version that will come out on DVD by the end of the year.

There are so many different accounts of Hua Yuan Jia's death. Why did you decide to go with the poisoning story for the death of Hua Yuan Jia?

For dramatic reasons. I did a lot of research and there’re a lot of different descriptions about how he died, but none of them make sense. The most popular version points the finger at the Japanese. This version says that Hua accepted a challenge from a Japanese karate master and in a very short time he broke his arms and defeated him. That same night he was invited to dinner with the fighter and his doctor. Hua had asthma and during the meal he was coughing so badly that the Japanese doctor offered him some medicine. He took it for three months and died. When an English doctor examined him at the autopsy he found that all of his internal organs were damaged from the medicine. He'd been poisoned. That doesn’t make any sense. If you take cough medicine and it's not working then you probably stop taking it the next day, sooner if it's making you feel bad. You wouldn't take it for three months. So I thought, "How am I going to shoot this ending?" I decided to forget about the historical fact since there were no historical facts. And we weren't making a documentary about Hua, this was more of a chance for Jet Li and I to explain the spirit of Chinese martial arts. So like I said, everything serves the story and I changed the ending to enhance the dramatic effect.

You saw a lot of movies as a kid and I wondered if there were any actors or movies that had a lot of meaning for you from that time?

I went through different stages. When I was young I was so intrigued by action movies because they made me feel like I’m 10 feet tall and I saw all the Shaw Brothers movies with Jimmy Wang Yu who was my hero. Later on I really enjoyed King Hu's movies because he changed the genre. And then later in life I got to watch a lot of Mainland Chinese movies, and I especially love all of Zhang Yimou's movies.

How have you succeeded in Hollywood? It seems like something difficult for Hong Kong directors to do. And you didn't have to make a Jean Claude Van Damme movie. How'd that happen?
A lot has to do with my own philosophy. When I was 8 months old I got polio, so right off the top I’m a little bit handicapped. You learn to accept that. In the beginning you have a lot of anger: why can’t I play soccer or football? Why can’t I start a fight? Slowly you learn to accept that: this is life. I have to go on this journey, so I accept any challenge. Challenges are a motivation for me to continue. I didn’t study film but I love film. It’s my father’s doing. I didn’t have friends because of my handicap so he would just drop me at the cinema every day during the summer holiday and I watched tons of movies. I realized a director had the power to transport an audience to a different world and all the audience's pain, all their problems, can be forgotten for two hours. I wanted to do that but my dad didn’t agree because it wasn’t regular work.

Later I got into the film industry and started making movies. When I pick a project the motivation is not that I have something to say and you need to listen - I just want to entertain, it’s my duty to entertain people for two hours in that dark cinema. All along I’ve been accused of being a sell-out but I believe a movie is designed to enterain. I don’t care what they say. That mind set got me through cutting 40 mintues of FEARLESS.

Making these B-movies in Hollywood is fun. I wanted to try to make them as entertaining as possible. And I get to learn. Being an artist is the most painful job because you need to convince the audience to come in and watch your movie. You have to ask them to come in and sit through your movie. It’s a commercial thing. You make a choice and everybody has the right to make that choice, but once you make that choice you have to stick to it. My choice is to make mainstream entertainment and I have to accept that. Just like I have to accept polio. I have to take 100 steps to get somewhere, I have to accept it. That’s fine. That’s the choice you make early on.

I still don’t think I’m successful. I wish I could be Spielberg and every one of my movies strikes gold. One very important element in filmmaking is that it’s a collaborative art. You have so many artitsts working on a movie: photographers, actors, writers, art department. So I always hire people who are more intelligent and more talented than me. If you accept that moviemaking is collaborative you make your life a lot easier.

Can you talk a little about working with these actors?
I think he’s still crazy after 10 years, but I think it’s all relevant. He’s such a talented actor and he has so much creative energy that maybe the industry doesn’t allow him the opportunity to express himself. I love that he’s crazy, and I learned a lot from him. I learned not to build a boundary when you try to be creative, just let it all out and then try to put it back. That’s what he said to me and I truly agree with him. But the trick is that you have to have a way to pull back, otherwise you’re just a crazy horse.

Shido Nakamura (FEARLESS)
I love his face. I love his acting skill. I really love his training in Kabuki. He has the body language. I was told japanese actors were very professional, and he's the only one I've ever met and he takes his art very seriously. We had a fantastic time. Yuen Wo-ping trained him for 2 weeks, just basic movies and jumps, because he understands the camera. That helped sell his skills onscreen. Also, he studied Mandarin. He didn't want his fans to think he copped out so he worked really hard on that.

Just now, when you mention him, I get goosebumps. I think a good movie comes about when the director and actor really understand and respect each other and that's what I had with him. I have that same experience with Jet. He was such a kind human being, it doesn’t matter how talented you are, you have to be a kind person. You can pretend, but the audience can read it. He would accept other people’s opinions and express his own opinions. He didn’t have a huge ego. And he was very generous with his fellow actors and actresses. He was a great collaborator. He would try anything. If I came up with something different he would say, ”Yeah, yeah, yeah - let’s see if it works." Leslie and Jet share that positive energy. It makes me miss him so much. All those memories. All those long hours shooting on the set. It all that comes back.

What are you doing next?
Right now I'm preparing the adaptation of an anime, BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE. This was meant to be a long time ago, but I couldn’t find the time. We're still casting. We’re looking for Asian actors. Hopefully we’ll be able to start in January.

September 21, 2006 at 02:40 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (12)

September 12, 2006


Panna Rittikrai is Thailand's most famous action choreographer thanks to having one of his students turn out to be a little guy named Tony Jaa. But his career before ONG BAK and TOM YUM GOONG (aka THE PROTECTOR) isn't very well known. As part of the publicity push for THE PROTECTOR he agreed to do a very brief email interview, and my thanks to the publicity folks at the Weinstein Company for making this happen. And if you want to see his best work yet, check out BORN TO FIGHT, either in one of the many versions that are out there or when it makes its bow on a special edition DVD from the Dragon Dynasty label.

How did you start out in the movie business in Thailand?
My first step in the movie business was to apply for the stunt position at Colisium Film. 
At that time, Mr. Kom Akkadej wanted to shoot a film called PETCH TUD YOK and he hired me as a stunt man and assigned me to teach Kung-Fu to Sureewan Suriyong who was considered the queen of action movies. Then, I became a stunt choreographer for the film called PHAYAKYEEGEY. Last but not least, I became the director of my own movie called BORN TO FIGHT in which I also played in a leading role.
(note: he's referring to the first BORN TO FIGHT. See below.)

What was the first movie you made where you felt the audience really saw what you were trying to do with action choreography?
The answer is the original BORN TO FIGHT which I both directed and acted in. In this movie, I intended to present the genuine action scenes which looked very real and risky.

What were some of the influences on your action style?
My action style was influenced by Bruce Lee. My early works were also influenced by Akira Kurosawa. However, at the present time, Steven Spielberg is my idol.

Can you talk about the movie you made with Tony Jaa before ONG BAK?
It was a low-budget movie in which I wanted to mainly present Tony Jaa. However, I could not wrap up the project because of the shortage of financial support. I also thought that movie lacked uniqueness. When I made ONG BAK, I realized that the uniqueness that I had looked for is Muay Thai.

You've made BORN TO FIGHT twice now. How are the two versions different?
They are very different. The first version had a very low budget but still the concept of the two are similar. In both, we planned to show the action scenes, the stunts and to make them exciting and realistic.

How would you describe your particular brand of action choreography? 
For my style of choreography, I try to utilize natural abilities. I prefer realities to techniques. I want to show that we have real fighting talents which are different to other foreign stars with big budget productions. Although our productions can be compared to them on budget, we do have talented actors who can show their natural abilities. 

What projects are you working on now?
There is the new title, CHOCOLATE. We will also have ONG BAK 2, and POWER KIDS.

Proust it's not, but I'm hoping that this is the first of many interviews that Panna Rittikrai starts giving to the Western press. He really did create the modern Thai action industry out of nothing and it'd be interesting to learn more about his early days. If anyone has info on some of the earlier films he mentions then please sing out.

Update: Here's the trailer for SPIRITED KILLER, an early Panna Rittikrai/Tony Jaa film.

September 12, 2006 at 01:41 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 04, 2006


Tony Jaa In an interview with Ed Douglas on ComingSoon, Tony Jaa speaks at length about TOM YUM GOONG and talks about his directorial debut, ONG BAK 2.

Jaa says they'll spend more time focusing on the script for that movie which is sort of a gimme because they could hardly spend less.

At the end of the interview his agent reveals that Tony will not be in RUSH HOUR 3, despite Brett Ratner's sweaty-palmed fantasies to the contrary.

September 4, 2006 at 03:37 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (3)

April 10, 2006


Ryoichi Kimizuka has been the creative force behind Japan's BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN series since it first appeared on TV, before becoming four feature films (BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN, BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN 2, THE NEGOTIATOR, THE SUSPECT). Hoga Central gives the full-on interview treatment to Ryoichi and it's interesting stuff.

April 10, 2006 at 07:25 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 11, 2005


Director Im Sang-SooOn October 14, Kino will release THE PRESIDENT’S LAST BANG, the new movie from director Im Sang-Soo about the 1979 assassination of Korea’s President Park by his Chief of Intelligence. The movie has caused huge controversy in Korea and there has been a legal injunction filed to remove footage from the movie. Director Im gave this interview when he was in New York recently to attend the New York Film Festival where his movie premiered.

Why did you make this movie now?
Mr. Park was assassinated when I was in high school and, coincidentally, the safe house where he was murdered was also very close to my high school. When it happened, everyone was sobbing about the president’s death, but my father was very happy. That’s my family tradition.

Currently the political party is a liberal party, so I thought this was the right moment to bring the matter up.

Actually, Western people sit back and laugh and enjoy this film, but in Korea nobody laughs, they are very sincere about it because they feel very close to the assassination of Mr. Park. And they feel a kind of pain, because maybe many of them were weeping at his funeral. But that time is gone, and our views on it have changed, and some people feel confused by this. So they can’t enjoy it like you Western people.

What kind of research did you do for this movie, especially the characters played by Baek Yoon-Shik (the Chief of Intelligence, Kim Jae-Gyu) and Han Suk-Gyu?

Actually, it was easy to research this. I used original documents, trial documents mostly, because the trial was open to the public. What you saw in my film is what happened. Right now, there is surviving historical footage but it is only of the facts: the trial and the investigation. But, of course, I think the trial documents were first worked out in the basement torture rooms, so maybe you cannot completely trust them. So the documents remain but nobody knows what really happened that night.

Baek Yoon-Shik and Song Jae-Ho who plays President Park Chun-Hee, are from an older generation and they’re more Republican than Han Suk-Gyu. But Baek Yoon-Shik gave a very famous quote saying that he is not doing this movie for political reasons or to make a statement, he’s doing it as an actor to be in the best film.

**Spoiler Question**

The ending of the movie is very disappointing for the audience. Why do you think Kim Jae-Gyu bungled things so badly?
The problem is that the Chief of Intelligence, Kim Jae-Gyu (Baek Yoon-Shik), went to the military headquarters, not the KCIA (Korean Central Intelligence Agency) headquarters. If he had gone to the KCIA headquarters he would have been able to grab power and his coup would have been successful.  Nobody knows why he went to the military headquarters instead, but there is one conspiracy theory about this: maybe he was led to believe that the American CIA would support his actions. But I think maybe they deceived him about that.

Why wasn’t that portrayed in the film?

It’s just a conspiracy theory – I have no proof and I have to pretend to be objective in my films. Although I did include some lines referring to this. 

**End Spoilers**

Director Im Sang-Soo on the set Was President Park’s love of Japan and Japanese culture widely known while he was president?
It was widely known to intellectuals, but not to the general public. He was a Japanese officer when Korea was a colony of Japan and his job was to hunt members of the Korean Independent Army in Manchuria. He loved Japanese culture, and thought of himself as half-Japanese, but for political reasons he pretended to bash Japan in public. That this kind of guy became president of Korea is the most tragic thing in Korean history.

There are parts of this movie where people act ridiculously. What did you think the value of treating the assassination this way was?
I think my film is very serious film, but you may find very silly thing or comic things in it. But I would say that our serious lives contain such stupidity.

Who is giving the voiceover at the end of the movie?
The actress who was with the President that night.

Was she the only survivor?
No. The singer and the actress are alive, and the mother and daughter at the start of the film are fictional. The butler is still alive but he disappeared. He must still be in Korea, but no one knows where.

While researching the movie did you talk to anyone from that night?
No one.

Did anyone get in touch with you?
Yes. The son of the president’s secretary called me, and he wanted to meet me and say something on behalf of his father. But I rejected his invitation. Very politely.

Did you change anything in the movie from what happened that night?
I changed some very small things. But I say again that what you saw in my film is what really happened. Because I say that, that’s the reason why they are very furious with my film and sued it and why CJ Entertainment [the distributor] abandoned it. Because I say it’s true.

During production were you aware of the potential difficulties the movie would face?
No. In Korea we have the constitutional right of free expression. We’ve accomplished many things in our recent history.

So during production, with the media’s help, there was no article about the film, and the content wasn’t released to the public. But one reporter got a copy of the script before the movie was finished and he wrote an article saying that this movie was bashing President Park. Then Mr. Park’s son saw the film a week before the premiere, and two days before the film’s release we got the injunction saying we can’t include the documentary footage in the release print.

Was the injunction politically motivated?
Frankly speaking, the judge in the case is a strong candidate for the Supreme Court so he needs to play the game, save face and do what’s good for him.

The person behind the injunction is Park Geun-Hye, the daughter of the president and the leader of the right opposition party. In the funeral footage at the end of the movie, she appears in the footage and I think it personally hurt her feelings, and it would have hurt her politically.

Have you spoken with her?


Are you appealing the decision?
Yeah. The trial is ongoing. It’s a very silly judgement. It was tremendously painful to me when I saw the re-edited film. The right of final cut is not mine, it’s my producers, so I couldn’t help it. But the trial is ongoing and someday my director’s cut will be shown.

After the injunction, CJ Entertainment abandoned the movie as well. Were you disappointed?

Definitely. I can say that any time. I can say that to the head of CJ Entertainment. You have to understand Korean society. CJ is a kind of chaebol, and the chaebols were created by Mr. Park, so in a way they are partners. So how can they release this movie about their partner?

But why didn’t it occur to CJ earlier that this might be a problem?
Because they are stupid. They read script but they don’t know how powerful this film will be. When they saw the edited footage they were shocked and they had many meetings at CJ headquarters and finally abandoned it.

Will this film hurt your career?
We will see. I don’t know. I’m a little bit worried because the ultra-wing press hates me. But hey, I’m a brave man. I’ll continue.

Many recent Korean movies, like JSA, have talked about Korean politics and they always seem to face trouble. Do you think Korea is still living in a fantasy about its recent history?
Maybe, but a few are struggling for the truth. You know, I don’t see JSA as political. I don’t think it’s close to my film at all.

Did you feel responsible to history and the people involved in the assassination when you made this movie?
Personally I really enjoyed making this film because all the actors were very professional and they did a very good job. As I said, Korean people could not enjoy this film because they don’t want to face the facts. They’re too close to it in their own lives. But as a film director I think that’s my duty, to make them face the facts of what happened.

I don’t want to frame or blame Mr. Park - it was 25 years ago. I just want to depict a certain mentality in which every human relationship is based on hierarchical power, and every problem is solved by violence. I want to depict that kind of mentality. I saw “The West Wing” on TV recently and all the characters are so politically correct, so decent, so sincere, it’s just a fantasy about politics. I ask you Americans whether you believe politics are closer to the way they are on “The West Wing”, or closer to the way they are in my film.

(THE PRESIDENT'S LAST BANG opens in New York on October 14)

October 11, 2005 at 05:25 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 29, 2005


Director Lee Myung-Se will be premiering his latest film, THE DUELIST, at the Toronto International Film Festival and he's hoping that his entry in the "Big Director Makes Period Action Film" Sweepstakes will be his ticket to the global high roller club he should have gotten access to with NOWHERE TO HIDE. Like NTH, the actors in THE DUELIST didn't get much access to stunt doubles and instead of trying to portray movement, the philosophical game behind the movie is Director Lee trying to portray the emotions that motivate action.

Read a full interview on Twitch here.

August 29, 2005 at 09:51 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 23, 2005


BORN TO FIGHT remake Panna Ritthikrai, the legendary Thai stunt choreographer, gave this interview back when his mind-boggling BORN TO FIGHT remake was released.

August 23, 2005 at 11:03 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 24, 2005


Xiong Xin-xinXiong Xin-xin is one of Hong Kong's greatest action directors, but he hasn't done that many films. What he has done (THE BLADE, TIME AND TIDE) are movies that look different from anything else on the market. Most of us will remember him as Clubfoot in ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA 3-6 or as the bald baddie in THE BLADE. Listen to him slag on CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON and cry with frustration over his career. The guy deserves better.

(Courtesy of Wu Jing)

May 24, 2005 at 08:32 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

In the Mood for Action

Tony Leung Chiu-waiDuring an interview this morning with Tony Leung Chiu-wai, I asked him about his next project. Here's what he had to say:

What are you doing next?
Me and Kar-wai will do another movie next year. A kung fu movie about the master of Bruce Lee. I will start training after this promotional trip.

What will the approach be? Will the film be slow and delicate like IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE?
I think we want to do something different. These 10 years time I think we are doing the same movie: we start from DAYS OF BEING WILD to 2046, we are somehow doing the same thing. One time we talked on the set and said we should do something different, at least for the audience. They want something different from us. So why not a kung fu movie? We never did a kung fu movie before. A pure kung fu movie, especially one set in the 60's, could be very popular.

Will it be historically accurate, or feature more action?
I think it will feature more action. I have to start training after I get home. I plan to train for six months. Because if you're the master of Bruce Lee, you should at least look like it.

An action movie from Wong Kar-wai and Tony Leung? Who'd've thunk it?
Here's a link with some of this info as well.

April 28, 2005 at 12:29 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2005

SAVE THE GREEN PLANET director speaks

Kung Fu Cult Cinema has an interview with Jang Jun-Hwan, the director of SAVE THE GREENSAVE THE GREEN PLANET PLANET. Director Jang explains that the Raelians (remember their Canadian clone baby?) and an anti-Leonardo DiCaprio website (which has since been replaced by a page selling hydrocodone) claiming the dewy young actor was an alien engaged in an plot to conquer our planet by seducing our women, were his inspirations for the film.

He's also curious as to how the movie will do in "the most powerful country on the planet", America. Um, not so well.

Currently, Jang is working on a script for a superhero movie. He's locked up in a motel, outside of Seoul, re-drafting his script to make it more audience friendly, right this minute.

You can see the SAVE THE GREEN PLANET trailer here.

April 27, 2005 at 08:55 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

WU JING interview

Wu Jing, the next big 
thing.People who bemoan the death of Hong Kong action films haven't seen SHA PO LANG. Directed by Wilson Yip and starring Sammo Hung, Donnie Yen, Simon Yam and Wu Jing it's a pitch black cop drama that unfolds over Father's Day night and it contains the best action seen in a Hong Kong movie in years. It's deadly serious and lightning fast.

Sammo Hung plays the main bad guy and his right-hand man is played by Wu Jing. Who? Wu Jing is a Mainland Chinese martial artist who comes from the same team (and coach) as Jet Li, and who started out in Yuen Wo-ping's TAI CHI 2. He's appeared in Tsui Hark's LEGEND OF ZU (the bald guy), and several other movies but he's never had a chance to shine the way he does in SHA PO LANG. He took the time to give us a quick interview about his work on the film.

Can you tell me a little about your background?
I started practicing wu shu around 1980 on the Beijing National Wu Shu team. It was the same team Jet Li was on, and I trained under his coach, Mr. Wu. I won several championships – about six – and traveled to America a few times for competitions and to teach. I did some coaching in New York, LA, San Francisco. Five of my brothers (teammates) and I went to Ohio for a competition, but I thought it wasn’t fair. The people we were competing against were sincere, but they practice wu shu part-time. We were professionals. I felt really embarrassed about that.

How did you get into film?
Cheung Sing-yim is the director of Jet Li's first movie, SHAOLIN TEMPLE, and he saw me training. He was looking to make a film, TAI CHI 2, with Yuen Wo-ping and they wanted to use me. But I had to wait until I left the wu shu team, since it’s against regulations to be on the team and to make a film. Whoa. Zippers.

Yuen Wo-ping is a very important person in my life. He is my teacher and he brought me into the movie world. He directed my first movie. The first, second, third and the fifth productions (film and television) I made were all arranged by Yueng Wo-ping.

What kind of character do you play in SHA PO LANG?
The first Chinese character in the title of the movie is “wolf” and that’s my character. A wolf is fast and cunning. I look at the rest of the cast and I see them as food. The wolf is a cruel, cruel animal: they take anything they can grab, without reason.

How was working with Sammo Hung?

Interesting. He’s a real gentleman. I treated him as an uncle. Throughout the shoot I learned from him.

Donnie Yen choreographed SHA PO LANG, and he is also one of Yuen Wo-ping’s students. Had the two of you worked before?
We had met socially before, but never spent much time together. We worked together quite a bit before shooting began, but for our big fight scene we improvised the choreography.

The fight between the two of us takes place in a long, narrow alley at night. We didn’t even talk to each other about it. We just showed up that night and started shooting around nine o’clock. The shoot finished at seven o’clock the next morning. We were exhausted but we didn’t want to give up. We’re both really demanding people, and we tried again and again to make it faster and more exciting. Wu Jing in SHA PO LANG.

In the scene, Donnie has a metal baton that he uses. The prop was made of wood and he broke it on my wrist in the exact same place…four times! I hurt his hand a few times in the same place, as well.

We’re both good martial artists, and sometimes that makes things easier, because we both know how to fight onscreen.

But sometimes it makes things more difficult because we stand across from each other and we get very competitive.

And, sometimes, it just makes things more painful.

What are you working on next?
I’m working on a movie that’s going to be shooting at the end of this year. It’s an action movie, of course, and I’m hoping to do something entirely new with martial arts choreography.

To read more about Wu Jing, check out the one and only Wu Jing fan page.

April 25, 2005 at 12:23 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 13, 2005

Stephen Chow Speaks

I got to sit down with Stephen Chow recently and he was an incredibly nice guy. Very funny, soft-spoken and sporting the kind of non-haircut that only a totally confident superstar can get away with. Here's what he had to say:

I think i started directing becaue I can't control myself. I had this idea that in order to make sure the film is good quality I needed to have more control. I kept asking questions and asking more questions about it, until I had to do it.

I just want them to laugh. I just want to entertain them, and make them happy.

I think...I don¹t know...I don¹t quite understand the US market and I¹m still learning that. I'd like to find a way to fit in, actually, but of course it's a lot of adjustment. But one thing that I always believe is that a film that has good ideas and is of good quality will be accepted by different people all over the world.

I met Ng Man-tat on a TVB drama. Somehow you just meet someone that you feel easy to work with  and Man-tat is one of them. But also I think I learned a lot of things from him. There's a story that I like to think about. The first time I saw him sitting  on the ground and reading a script, only one page, and Ithink he had one line, one single line on that page, and he's just reading it fiercely. I go away for dinner or lunch, and then I came back after a few hours and he was still reading the page, looking at that one line with a lot of concentration and I was curious why he's doing this. So I say, "Are you really reading the line or are you thinking about something else?"

And he says, "Yeah I was reading the line. But it's only one line. You take a couple of hours to read this."

And he told me, "Yes, just because it's only one line I have to figure out how to make it exceptional. It has to be unique and very different because I only have one."

And this thing inspired me.

Who is Ng Man-tat? Go here and scroll about halfway down the page for photos and a bio.

April 13, 2005 at 12:22 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 08, 2005

Stephen Chow Speaks!

WNYC's "Leonard Lopate Show" interviewed Stephen Chow today. Chow is an ever-perplexing interview subject who's able to verbally judo-throw the ablest interviewer. Listen to the broadcast here. Just scroll down the page to "Kung Fu Hustle."

April 8, 2005 at 12:35 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2005

Why Michael Wong has a Career

For decades Michael Wong has been Hong Kong's resident great white dope. A Caucasian actor in an Asian industry, he's elicited shrieks of laughter for his sorry Cantonese and his wooden acting from audiences around the world. Recently he starred in Stephen Fung's HOUSE OF FURY playing a bald meanie who's paralyzed from the neck down.

Fans have torn their hair out over Michael Wong -- why is he in movies? Who casts him? What's their problem?

An answer is here. Michael Wong is a really, really nice guy.

He appeared at the HOUSE OF FURY opening with Stephen Fung and Daniel Wu and the audience loved him. Fung was almost totally silent, and Daniel Wu did his level best to bring some life to the proceedings. But Michael Wong had the whole house in his hands from the moment he opened his mouth, gave Wu and Fung hyperbolic props and then introduced himself with, "I haven't done a whole lot. But that's okay." He went on to joke that although he only speaks English in the film "my Cantonese is good."

The presenter ushered a supermellow Fung and Wu offstage while Michael Wong was left to his own devices, blundered off in the other direction, couldn't find his way offstage, bantered with the audience, and then dropped the fabulous non-sequitir, "Watch me breakdance!" and he proceeded to do the wave and slice off some smoking hot pop and lock moves (not technically breakdancing, but still...)

Truly this man is magic. I will never laugh at Michael Wong again. He is a gentleman's gentleman.

March 23, 2005 at 02:53 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack