Interview Stephen Chow

 

Shaolin Soccer is edited for its release in the European cinemas. In your opinion, should audiences choose the movies they watch according to their taste instead of the majors editing the movies according to their preference?

I think audiences have their rights to choose what to watch and which version of the movie is the best. But at the same time, as filmmakers, we should understand what do audiences want from us. It's because the fact is, audiences from different places have different tastes, and it's very true. There's no common taste in this world. If you treat filmmaking is a business, then there's a need that we have to consider about the editing.

Shaolin Soccer is released in DVD form before it came out in theaters. Are you surprised to see that dozen thousands of gwailos like your movie?

This is a good thing indeed. But actually I am not very surprised with that. It's because, when I shot Shaolin Soccer, I already thought this movie could reach out far away from HK. And now, the fact tells us that the movie is very popular in the Asian region, such as Japan and Korea. So what will be the box office results in European and US region? I have my confidence that Shaolin Soccer will be well received by audiences in those places, but how well received the movie will be? We'll know that soon.

The music in Shaolin Soccer is composed by Raymond Wong. I think the music is really tailor-made for the movie. Did you work closely with him?

Wong is a very good composer. Actually I think we collaborated since the making of "King of Comedy". I can't remember whether we teamed up even before that, maybe we did, but I can't remember that. But I am impressed since "King of Comedy". Now we come up with Shaolin Soccer, and I am most satisfied with this movie, especially the music composed. For the soundtrack music, I have to thank 2 people, one is Lowell Lo and another one is Raymond Wong. They really have helped me a lot.

Will you work with Wong in the future?

Of course we will have the opportunity to work together.

Shaolin Soccer
autographed by Stephen Chow

You had very intensive body exercises for the shooting of Shaolin Soccer. How did you keep fit and what exercises you did?


Those were mainly body exercises such as running, cycling, swimming, and boxing. Actually I have been practicing boxing from time to time, as I am interested in this sports since I was a child. But for Shaolin Soccer, I needed to upgrade my physical strength because I am the director, scriptwriter and actor of the movie. You can understand that it's not easy for one running all around the soccer field with sometimes holding the camera.

So you should be a good boxer?

Not dare to regard myself as a good boxer, I just learn the skills.

You were born in a middle-class family. Are your movies partly autobiographic?

I don't think my movies are autobiographic. But it's true that my movies mainly describe lives of "small potatoes" in the society and the general public.

There is a male dressed like a woman in several of your movies (SS, God of Cookery, From Beijing with Love). Who is he?

A male who always dressed like a woman?

Yes, the one who works in the beauty salon in Shaolin Soccer. He appears in several of your movies

The one with mustache and fingers his nose?

Yan in From Beijing With Love
Yan in Shaolin Soccer

 

Yes, who is he exactly ? Why does he appears in your movies ?

I think he's a human being. Actually his name is Yan.

Oh Yan? Meaning "kind" in Chinese?

Yes, "Yan" means "kind". It was just a fortuity. I can't remember in which movie, but it's long time ago already, that we needed such a role existing for a very short time in the movie. He's one of my friends and I just asked if he's interested in playing a role. Of course he didn't know how he had to be dressed up, so he said yes to my request. But after putting on the costume and cosmetics, and he is needed to finger his nose all the time, he's a bit resisted. Anyway, he did that in the end. But you know, finishing one and still we have another one, and so on. Actually this classical character has disappeared in several movies until in Shaolin Soccer, because we need such a "woman¡" existing in the movie, and he's at the shooting area. So I just asked him to re-appear in front of the camera.

He's not a professional actor?

He's interested in acting, but he's "half-half" --- he works a lot behind the screen actually.

Bruce Lee said once "Have no limitation as limitation". Will you follow this advice and try yourself to new kinds of movies?

Of course this is possible, absolutely possible.

You worked as a director, producer, scriptwriter and actor. Which one do you prefer now?

I like working as a director most. I have very good experiences by being a director, and I have great satisfactions on that. Of course it doesn't mean that I don't like to be an actor. But I have been acting for years and I think I have more rooms for development as a director. Also for scriptwriting, as we're making movies, scripts are the souls of movies. So I think scriptwriters and directors are inseparable. As a director, it's the best for him/her to be the scriptwriter as well. And as a scriptwriter, if he/she can also be the director, it's the best situation.

So will there be a day that you don't act but directs and writes scripts ?

It's absolutely possible. I have been thinking about this for a long time.

Wouldn't this be so awkward that Stephen Chiau no longer appears in Stephen Chiau's movies?

Not at all, it's very normal indeed.

So audiences in HK and other Asian countries will need time to accept your new identity as a director, but not an actor anymore ?

Anyway, for a movie, if you can make it entertaining¡Kin other words, it's a good movie. Then it's already very enough, and who stars in the movie is really not a problem.

Your 3 last directings seem more mature, more complex than a classic comedy. Is it because you get another person, Tsang Kan-Cheung, to write the script with you?

My collaborations with Tsang are more than in the recent three movies. In fact we have worked together even before that. Tsang is my long-time partner in filmmaking, and I knew him for a long time, when we worked in TVB, a HK television broadcasting company. I can say he's one of my best partners, and we had very good collaborations that we have brought out many new ideas.

So will you two work together in the future?

To me, I prefer working with different people. Besides Tsang, there're lots of people helped me to work on the movies such as Shaolin Soccer as well as God of Cookery. I believe that, whether as a director or a scriptwriter, filmmaking is a creation. A creation needs not only subjectivity, but also objectivity. This is my point of view. So I really hope I can work with different talents in the future if possible. It would be the best if I can team up with those who I haven't worked with before. I believe we can have more "chemistry" come out with this arrangement.

Among the movies all over the world, which one do you most prefer?

It's hard for me to name just one.

So would you name several movies that you prefer?

It's really hard for me to do that, I like countless movies.

What about those immediately come up to you mind now?

I like too many movies since the very old Cantonese ones. You know it"s very hard to pick my favorites.

Is there a movie, which makes you watch again and again and you cry for it and feel touched by it?

I have this feeling for numerous movies, so I really can't name them all.

Recently the famous Hong Kong director Chang Cheh passed away. How do you estimate his legacy for HK cinema?

Director Chang has left a very valuable legacy to us, and I believe many of my colleagues of the HK cinema have Chang's movie principles shown in their works, and I am one of them. His concepts on martial arts movies have a great impact on us, and we just apply those in our movies naturally. His death is indeed a great pity to us. On the day of his memorial service, I was working outside HK. But if I have a chance later on when I am in HK, I will express the last salutation to him.

Speaking about martial arts movies, in recent years, there're very few good ones in HK, do you think it's a pity?

I think it's okay because a genre's ups and downs is periodic.

You worked several times with Ching Siu-Tung. His films are stylish and distinctive, but his talent is quite underestimated compared to other directors/action directors like Corey Yuen and Yuen Woo-Ping. Don't you think it's a pity?

Just like the characters in Shaolin Soccer, if you never give up, and you always try to do your best, eventually you'll have fruitful results. I personally regard Ching as a very talented person, and I can say if there were no Ching's commitment in Shaolin Soccer, we wouldn't have the movie completed.

You can talk as fast as Wong Fei-Hong kicks. Do you imagine the torture it can be for gwailos to try to read the subtitles of your verbal fight?

Actually I didn't talk very fast. I talked fast in some movies because of the characterizations, but I didn't talk very fast. But I guess, to foreigners,.even if you talk slowly, they will still have difficulties to read the subtitles. Basically, it's really hard for foreigners following subtitle by subtitle. So I think the best way to do is, talk less and act more.

Suppose you there's a soccer team with the following people. Bruce Lee is the goalkeeper, Samo Hung is a defender, Jet Li is a mid-field player and Jackie Chan is a striker. Who else would you team up with them for a dream team?

Still adding more?

Now we only have 5 players only.

I think these five people are already very enough.

So 5 Vs 11?

Yes, these five are very excellent enough already.

King of Comedy
autographed by Stephen Chow

Is it true that there would be a Korean actress starring in your next movie such as Jeon Ji-Hyun or others?

I think this is just hearsay only. But, to me, it's always good to work with talents from different places. Because I always have this thinking, so maybe this will come true eventually. But the collaborations are not limited only to actors, they can be collaborations with the production talents. I don't mind to team up with those who I haven't worked with before, even the ones who are from different places. I believe such kind of collaboration is a good idea.

Last question,. You have won several HKFA awards including the best director and you have made tens of movies at such a young age. Do you think you have reached the peak of your career?

I have never thought of that. But I always feel that, like now, I don't feel that I am very good, and that"s true. When I am awarded as "the best", actually I didn't feel as if I am really "the best". But on the other hand, when I am not awarded as "the best", I have never felt that I was bad. So I think awards are very good encouragement to me, but actually it doesn't make a great difference.

 

Thanks a lot to Stephen Chow, Elliot Tong, Tamara and Wing-Cheung.

date
  • June 2002
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