Interview Ekin Cheng

Ekin Cheng is surely not considered as the most talented actor in Hong Kong cinema, but one cannot deny that he is one of the major protagonists of HK cinema for 10 years. He is also one of the nicest and most modest ones. Francois and Vivian met him and his agent, Sandy, for a very friendly chat.
From TVB to Young and Dangerous
Getting rid of his idol image
His latest movies
Various questions about his career and HK cinema

From TVB to Young and Dangerous
  François : How was your training to be an actor at TVB?
  Ekin : Nothing special, actually...Mmm, do you mean the training class? At TVB, I followed the actor training course twice (smile).
  François : So, you learned directly on the job, on the movie sets afterwards?
  Ekin: Yes, day by day.
  François : Was it after Mean Street Story that you made friend with Andrew Lau? And can you tell us more about your relationship with him?
  Ekin: No, in fact we met after TVB. Andrew was a cameraman for different kinds of movies at that time; he was joking around by asking me to be the actor if he had even a chance to become director. Later he really became director and he did ask me to be an actor in his movie.
  Vivian: it was for Mean Street Story right?
  Ekin: Yes, it was my first collaboration with him.
  François : So basically it's a story of friendship ?

Ekin: Yes. He was actually very new at that time and I was very new also. So we were not afraid to share new ideas. That was how the friendship brought up. We are living next door now (laughs).

  François : You became very famous with the Young and Dangerous series, how do you think of this character now?
  Ekin: I didn’t want to accept the role in the first place, but I had to because of contract boundary (laughs).
  François : Why didn't you like it? Some people think those movies have a bad influence on youngsters. Is it because of this?
  Ekin: I didn’t really like its violence and didn't want to play in a triad movie. However, I became famous from this movie, even in New York, people recognize me thanks to this series. I think it is like a gift given by God.
  François : Which ones do you prefer in the series?
  Ekin: I like the first three ones most.
  François : Very often in your movies written by Manfred Wong, your girlfriend dies. How do you prepare yourself in those scenes? Do you act them always the same way, or you try to change your way of acting a little?

Ekin : (laughs) It depends how she dies. If we were still heavily in love, I would be much sadder.

Getting rid of his idol image
  François : You die at the end of “Good bye Mr. Cool”. Was it a way for you to put an end to your “Young and Dangerous” image, an image of an invincible character?
  Ekin: I like the script a lot at the beginning, I didn’t intend to impose anything with this movie. But I wanted to change my image a bit, and tell people I am a human being as well.
  François : When Running out of Time 2 was announced, most people were disappointed to know that you would replace Andy Lau. But you have surprised a lot of people with a very charming performance. Do you think you are changing?
  Ekin: I just get more matured and prepared thanks to experience, daily life experience. Personal experiences have also changed my view for the film.
  François : So is the character in this movie is closer to your real character?
  Ekin: No no! (smiling)
  François : How was your relation with Lau Ching Wan on this movie, did you have a nice time working with him?
  Ekin: yes, he is like my sifu (teacher), I already knew him when we were at TVB. He taught me some skills on acting. He is a bit more senior.
  François: Did you enjoy the bicycle chase in the movie, which is more about fun than speed and special effects?
  Ekin: I enjoy acting with emotion. The expression is different. In Young and Dangerous, it’s copied from a comic book, the image is young and cool. I just have to follow the character. I copied the face from the book. In Running out of Time 2, the director asked me to assimilate myself into the character and release more of my humanity, my sensitivity and true character.
  François : Since Running out of Time 2, you have played more human and nice characters. Do you think this movie was a turning point which changed your career?

Ekin: Hong Kong stars are like that, they just care about their physical appearance at the beginning, but the audience get bored afterwards and expect more. People want refreshment, they want new things. So then, you have to show your real acting skills. I had to wait for my chances to come since actors are very passive in HK, we always have to wait for someone to ask.

  François : Are you afraid that Hong Kong people will not accept your new changes of role, and want you to go back and keep your idol image such as the one in Young and Dangerous?
  Ekin: I think it is challenging. I want to establish a new image which can give the same impact as the Young and Dangerous image.
His latest movies

François : In My Wife Is 18, you were playing a man not at ease with women, that's very different from your usual image. Did you choose to play this role, or did someone propose to you ?

  Ekin: I really appreciated to have this chance to play this kind of role. It was the script writer who invited me. I think it is very challenging to act like this. This also shows to people that I can act all different kinds of roles.
  François : So it wasn't difficult to convince the scriptwriter to use you for the role?
  Sandy: No, the scriptwriter wanted to challenge Ekin in asking him to try to play a totally different sort of role in the film.
  François : You played with the other Twins, Gillian, a bit later in The Twins Effect. What do you think of the them?
  Ekin: Very annoying and troublesome (general laughs).
  Sandy: Sometimes he makes fun of them and say that they are fat, they would usually tease him back by implying that he likes only tall and skinny girls like Gigi.
  Ekin: Yes, they are very trouble. (laughs).
  François : Heroic Duo is an action movie, but you also play with emotions, to fight with Francis Ng at the end for instance. Are you happy to try something like this?
  Ekin: I think I need to appreciate the director because he didn’t look at me the way people did before, as a cool and idiot hero. I really must thank him.
  François : Was it his purpose to do action movie with human emotions like this?
  Ekin: Benny Chan wasn’t a catholic before but now he is. He was kind of inventing unrealistic characters. But now, he puts humanity in his films.
  François : What about the chase on the roofs ? You seemed to be more comfortable with this scene than Raymond Wong Ho Yin. Was it really easy for you to do this?
  Ekin: Not easy at all. In HK, action is very important and I think if I could make it, I would add some credit to myself, and I like challenge myself! So I did it.
  François : Now about, Floating Landscape. Your character is important, even if he doesn't have a long time on screen. Your voice was particularly important, did you concentrate on it?
  Sandy: Some of the audience after the premiere even said that Ekin was the ghost in the film (laughs).
  Ekin: I had been waiting long for this kind of artistic chance, I had chance to use the skill I learnt from TVB. I didn’t work particularly on my voice this time, I express myself daily. Last year, I helped a radio station for an anti-smoking campaign to shoot a short film and I met Stanley Kwan. He encouraged me to make a short movie as well. In the process he begun to know me and he therefore asked me to participate to Floating Landscape.
  Francois: Are you ready to do some other movies like that, even though you aren't paid as much? (Sandy laughs as crazy)
  Ekin: Depends on the script.
  François: In Anna in Kung-fu Land, with Miriam Yeung, you play again a passive character, especially compared to women. Men usually take the lead in HK movies but recently, female characters always make fun of male characters. What do you think of this trend?
  Ekin: When economy is not good, men will become more rational but women are always irrational. So when the economy in HK is getting better, maybe the trend will switch back.
  Sandy: In the old times, like my parents' generation, my dad used to buy movie tickets and ask my mum to go the theatres with him; while in these days, it's girls who buy the tickets and ask their boyfriends to go with them, it's girls who decide now. (laughs)
  François: What is your next project?
  Ekin: Another movie with Twins is coming... So I'm planning a lot of troubles for the next month (laughs)
Various questions about his career and HK Cinema
  François : Any character you dream to play?
  Ekin: I think I need to be a director for that – it would be a science fiction romantic story with lots of visual effects. An unrealistic love story is the most romantic and touching one.
  François: Talking about special effect, you have worked a lot with “Blue screen”, how is it?
  Ekin: It is the most difficult one. But unfortunately I never received any award by acting in these movies (smile). I enjoy it a lot since I am full of imagination. It is indeed a challenge of one's acting skill.
  François : You have played a lot of times with the same actors/actresses, like Jordan Chan, Cecilia Cheung. Were you afraid of repeating yourself by working with the same people all the time?
  Ekin: It was a challenge at the beginning to work with them all the time. But now, I stopped working with them. If I can work with them on other types of movie and it is still good, it is an improvement. But if a while later we can act in different movies, that’s even better, we can meet again and share new things.
  François : Are they your good friends in life also?
  Ekin: Cecilia is not my good friend (laughs), she is like a younger sister. Jordan Chan, we are good friends but we don’t contact each other. We just talk together when we meet. It's just like in ancient time, two Chinese swordsmen bumped into each other occasionally and said a good greeting like: “Hey! You're still alive!”.
Ekin talking about his favorite actresses
  François : Do you plan to put all your movie songs in a CD like Sammi Cheng did?
  Ekin: I have. In BMG, a few years ago. The CD's named "Ekin 13".

François : The question's actually for a friend of mine, he's your fan and has seen all your films. (<-- very cowardly attempt from the webmaster to put the blame on the lousy question of Alain)

Did you receive a special training at TVB for action movies?

  Ekin: At TVB, I made a lot of ancient style dramas sold overseas. I picked up the skill at that time. But in real movie, I have never received special training for every different action movie, I just picked up during the shooting, I learned bit by bit.
  François : Can I ask some questions about Gigi ? (smiling)
  Sandy: yes, you can try (smiling)
  François : People thought that you were not a very good actor, and that Gigi was not a good actress. But then you made Running out of Time 2, and she was nominated for the best supporting actress for A War Named Desire. You were both changing into better actors almost at the same time. Did your relationship helped you in your careers?
  Ekin : In HK, it's a very sad thing for an actor and an actress to go out together since the press keeps chasing you. All these daily experiences help us to improve our acting skills now.
  François : What do you think about her career in HK cinema?
  Ekin: She is a bit too tall and it's hard to find an actor that suits her (smile).
  Sandy: Besides this physical handicap she's perfect. Andy Lau is too small for her... there's only Takashi who is tall enough to suit her. But it's really a miner problem though in the HK movie industry (laughs)
  François : What do you think about the recent HK cinema evolution after all the big troubles since 1995? Many stars going to US, economic problems... It's slowly getting better and better.
  Ekin: When I arrived in the movie industry, it was the bad time already. But life has to go on. It is my work and I try to survive.
  Sandy: The really worst time was 1995...
  François: Or maybe 1997.
  Ekin: No, I disagree, I've already thought about that, ten years earlier, the boxoffice was almost the same as now...
  Sandy: But the truly dead period of the HK movie industry was 1995-1997 as François says, really!... Even for Taiwan and mainland China at the time. You may think about just Hk, but ten years before, it was dead everywhere.
  François : Talking about China, the Chinese market is waiting for HK movies. Are you afraid of censorship?
  Ekin: No, I'm not, China has been more open since the last few years.
  François : How do you see the future of HK cinema?
  Ekin: A good script is very important. Human resources are very essential. HK cinema is quite conservative, while Korean movies are more creative and bold to try new things.
  Sandy: They dare to try new scripts. While the HK movie industry is very conservative and movie directors are very safe, they always follow current trends and use popular actors.
  François: How do you see your career in the future?
  Ekin: Level one is finished. Now is the level two, but I don’t actually know how many levels there are. A Chinese fortune teller said I would work until 60 years old. Maybe I will. Maybe one day I can be the new Sean Connery! (laughs)
  François: Thank you!
  Ekin: Thank you!

All our thanks to Koris, Sandy and Ekin Cheng for their help, kindness and availability.

  • October 2003