Interview Angelica Lee Sinje

You could have gone and studied abroad, but instead, you chose to start your career in the entertainment, why?

I've always adored acting. I remember I first went on stage when I was seven, and afterwards, I participated to acting competitions in school almost every year, and then when I was in high school, I began to join associations...and started singing with my mom..., so I'm deeply in love with movies, music and acting. So when I met Sylvia Chang and there was an opportunity to start a career in movies, I sensed that I should seize it. Not that I didn't want to go on studying, I just think that if I should go to university and attend courses I don't even like, we young people can also learn so much from life and society.

You have worked with several females directors already. Is it easier to work with women?

The best thing to work with an actress is you don't have rumors, (laughing) so you can go dinner or to movies with her whenever you want, you can even be good friends with her! It really is easier at that level.

Working with actors on the contrary, when you need to communicate more and better with him and go and have a meal with him, medias immediately report there's something between you and him so it's quite annoying...
And so yes, it is more fun working with actresses!

And female directors know actresses better for sure, and I worked with Sylvia, who can also act, she's also an actress, so I think that female directors deal with love feelings with more delicacy...

You worked again with Sylvia again on 20 30 40, and you were one of the scripwriters, and one of the characters in the movie. The story of this character looks a bit like your own life, isn't it? Did you enjoy being a scriptwriter?

First I'd like to say that the second time I've worked with Sylvia, there was so much fun coz we said to each other we'd be more relax this time; and so the collaboration can be described as "happy time". I found our collaboration very special, because it is rare that directors are willing to let the actors participate to the scriptwriting. So when Sylvia told me to write the 20 part, I was so excited you know! And I just spent two hours in one evening to finish the story. Because to me, being 20 is all about courage, youth, simplicity and happiness. So I wrote when I was 20, me and a roommate of mine who's come back from America went to Taiwan and had a crazy time together, and we supported each other during that time... I wanted that experience to be my 20 story, because I think...I think although at the time we had no money, no work, we didn't have anything, but what we had was youth and innocence, so we were very happy, I can even say I was happier at the time than nowadays; I don't know why, but when you have a lot of things, you will realise that you can no more be as simple and happy as you were before, that's why I wrote down this story.

So did you really kiss your roommate at this time? :)

Oh no...! (laughs) That part has been modified, it didn't happen in the real life.

Your roommate in the movie, Kate Yang, she is another young promising actress. How was your collaboration in this movie?

First of all, she gave me a lot of pressure because in this film, I felt for the first time that age as pressure on an actor, because she was very young, 19 years old. So she was basically just playing herself and I was 27 when I was playing the role. I had to play myself 8 years ago, I had to try not to look any older than my co-star, or I couldn't give the impression that I wasn't a young woman any more... How could I play myself when I was 19 and was still simple and innocent? So it was really difficult for me to play that role. Fortunately, I had first made good friend with her, then we went every day, so it let me feel that we are from the same generation. As the time went by, it's became a natural thing. So our performances in the movie are also very natural, I had the
feeling that we weren't acting! We were two good friends living their lives in the film! So it's been a very special experience for me.

What about A1, what did you find interesting in the script?

Actually I accepted to play in this movie because I was moved by the director's sincerity. Because I think A1 is a quite raresubject which talks about medias, about news and the true version of the news... Director Gordon Chan pays much attention to the HK society and knows it very well, he'd like to express himself through this movie, it's not a commercial movie. So I really wanted to work with him, and also with Anthony Wong...Plus, I'd never played a journalist before. These are the reasons why Iparticipated in the movie.

The boxoffice of A1 in HK is quite bad, do you think that HK people are too used to the typical US thrillers with very big endings

Ahhh! That's it yes!. And it's not the case in this movie, do you think that the audience is waiting for the same thing all the time? Actually I think it's not only in HK but it's just the a worldwide market trend to make commercial and Hollywood type movies: huge budgets, many visual special effects, very big movie sets... Not
many people are patient enough to watch "human" movies with emotions, everything is just visual, nowadays.

Sometimes, I'd think I cannot change the world by myself and I cannot change the trends, yet as an actress I can choose. Although the market is like this, I'd prefer to do what I really like to do. It is true that the boxoffice of A1 is not very good, but I think that I've contributed my part, I've done my best, I also learnt a lot. The fact that the audience is accepting or not the movie is quite random, we can't control it. So what I want to say is that I do what I like to do and won't be influenced by many commercial elements.

You are now working again with the Pang Brothers, on Recycle. When you accepted this character, didn't you worry that people would be like: oh Lee Sinje, she's seeing things again, that's The Eye again, she's doing the same thing again.

I am afraid to be categorised, I played in several thrillers and horror movies. But I did read the script of Recycle, the story is told in a totally diffrent way and has an original style, which is different from The Eye. I can't explain now, you'll understand when you see it, it's a very stylish film. My character in the movie is also very different. Of course, I worked with the Pang Brothers in The Eye, they know my performances well, together we are trying our best to create a completely new Recycle this time, and not to let the audience think that the movie is another The Eye.

And when you accepted this project, weren't you afraid that your close relationship with one of the brothers would be a problem on the set? Because it's not a professional relationship only.

(laughs) Actually I didn't worry at all. I think there's a first time to many things, and we haven't worked together yet after we started a relationship. Actually both of us hope and wait to see what this working together will be like, nobody can say anything  about it yet (laughs), only we both love cinema very much, and we both wanted to work with each other again. Of course, I won't stop telling myself work is work and to separate work and private life or
relationship. I'm not sure yet I'll be dealing with it very well, but I'll try.

What about Divergence?

We can say that Divergence is an action movie, it was ok for me that I hadn't to fight in the film, I took care of the love, emotion part. I don't appear in many scenes in the movie coz it talks essentially about three main male characters. But I had a lot of fun because I play somebody's wife this time, and mother of two children
it was a fun experience for me. I...found it very happy working with director Benny Chan because he's a very nice man, and although it was a action movie, he was hoping to develop the action story  through an emotional world. That's to say emotions are the main story, and then the actions are developped around the love and
emotion, the action story is packed by the emotional story, I find it very special. Before it was always the opposite. This film is quite original, it talks about human feelings and emotions, and actions are
only a part of it. It's quite different from director Chan's former movies.

How did you first hear about the "Koma" project?

I have actually known about the director of the film Lo Chi Leung for more than two years, I first met him when I came to HK. When he was planning to shoot the film without the script being written, he contacted me and told me the story, I was pretty interested. And that's how we started to work together.

 Why did you accept the movie and your character?

 First, I think I really wanted to work with Lo Chi Leung. And then I had always played with male actors, I never shared leading characters with a woman, so I found it very amusing. And although "Koma" is a thriller, it actually talks about love; and I found very special the relationship between the two women and the man from the beginning till the end of the film, the scenario was very original. Plus I wanted to see how it felt playing face to a girl; I had seen some works of Karena before and I wanted to work with her.

Did they propose you your character first or Karena's? Which one of the two characters do you prefer?

It was funny actually. At the beginning, everybody thought that I was more suitable for Karena's character, and Karena more suitable for mine, maybe because I have more of a evil look, my gaze is more sharp(?), and Karena on the contrary looks lovely and has a sweet smile. But, when I was listening to the script, at the time, the director hadn't decided yet who played who, very naturally I was more absorbed by Karena's character, Sun Ling. But the director decided to give us and himself a big challenge and wanted us to(?). He didn't want it to be so obvious, so he switched the roles for us. At that moment, we both felt under pressure, I was afraid that I wouldn't be good at playing a soft girl, and she was worried she wouldn't play a girl with such a harsh personality well. So it wasn't easy for us at all, and with the director we tried our best to finish the film, it was very challenging!

Usually in HK cinema when a movie talks about sex, it's only in comedies, but in this film it's more realistic, what do you think of the approach of sex in "Koma"?

I think in this film, very deep is the description of emotional feelings between men and women, including fleshly desires, sex. The sex scenes aren't very much developped, many of them are insinuated. Actually I think sex is a very common thing in our every day life, but then because Chinese people are still pretty reserved and traditional about sex, in films, the question of sex is tackled in a modest way. For me, the director is willing to talk about this thing in the film, and gives the actors the liberty to try new experience, I think it's really a good thing. To me, that is also a challenge you know, because very few Chinese films tackle the subject of sex. So I think as an actress, every different role represents an opportunity to learn. I think the sex this film talks about is different from sex in other films, especially my character who is an ill girl and consequently cannot have a perfect sex life with her boyfriend, so she feels inferior; and this is also what makes my character special and quite abstract, the inferiority she feels because of her illness and problems it brings her.           

The HK movie industry is well known for its very fast production speed, but Lo Chi Leung seems to take his time to prepare a film. Were you surprised by this working habit?

You are right about the rapid rythmn of HK life. I'm actually not very used to it, 'coz I grew up at a countryside in Malaysia. So I'm always slower than everyone else here, and I need more time to prepare before I start to do something. So it's not only related to "Koma", actually in all the movies I played in, I've always made sure I could have much time to do some preparation before, especially before the shooting of the films. I know the director quite well, and I know that he is a hard worker who spends a lot of time in a film. He says that he can't do like other HK movie directors, shoot a film within two or three months and then shoot another one. So I was happy to have a chance to work with someone who has the same way of working as me, because spending more time to do something is always appreciated, it means a harder effort, or a better understanding; it really helps the acting. I always believe that the acting after good preparations makes an actor more confident about giving a remarkable performance.

When you knew you would be working with Karena Lam, did you feel any competition coming? Because you are now nominated every year in the awards.

Right. With Karena we had never met each other before the film, and at the time, the medias did a lot of comparisons between us, maybe because we were quite similar in our backgrounds and careers. So all those comparisons actually made me feel under pressure at the beginning of our working together, I did have competition feelings. But I felt ok during the film because we have similar personalities, (so the competition feelings gave us the motivation and these feelings turned into a positive competition between us.) It really helped us, it made us work harder to play our roles. And at the end I felt so happy to become good friends with Karena thanks to the movie.

You said that you have the same background as karena, you left your home country to go to Taiwan to start a career. Do you think it's an advantage for you and for Karena comparing to Hk local actresses who seem less mature maybe...?

Do you really think they are less mature?

Well from our point of view yes, that's how it appears to us, yes. While you and Karena, you are nominated in awards at this young age, and you are both from Taiwan and you have the same background... Or maybe it's just a coincidence...?

Yes I understand what you're saying. I think maybe because when you leave your home, your own country, you are alone face to all kinds of problems. Like me, when I first went to Taiwan alone, I really needed great courage and persistence. Because when you know that you can only rely on yourself, you will become more independent. As for me and Karena, neither of us grew up in Taiwan or Hk, so it's really not easy for us ((because at the beginning we must try our best to get accepted by people in Taiwan, and we lived the same experience when we first came to HK, especially as actresses. I, for example, didn't speak Cantonese at all at the time, and during these last two years, I can practise my Cantonese in living here. Maybe we need to do more than other people, and we were alone to solve our problems, so we may become more mature in our way of thinking and our notions of values.

How was the shooting of "Koma"? The atmosphere on the set?

Actually "Koma" is a film filled with heavy atmosphere. I remember during the shooting I was very tired, mentally, because my character is very ill. Yet from the start, the director told us to be serious and relaxed at the same time, he wanted us to be able to laugh in this film, he hoped to finish a serious film in a happy and light atmosphere. I personally feel very happy coz it seems that the director has changed!(laugh) Before "Koma", Karena had worked with him, she said he was very severe, a tough guy(laugh), nobody dared talk to him on the set and was scared of him. But when I worked with him in "Koma", I wasn't scared of him, I thought he was fun actually! He even made jokes on the set, Karena was surprised and said:"director, you've changed, you're making jokes!"(laugh) So I felt lucky that he was about to change when I worked with him; although the movie emits quite a suppressed feeling, we really had a great time working together!

In this scene where you have a car accident, and your character is losing control... Was it easy to record the scene?

For me, the car accident scene was indeed the hardest part to play in the film because of the constraints of the natural environment. It was winter, at 4:00am, and it was 6 or7 degrees outside, it was raining, I had to take off my clothes and kiss in the cold rain. And I had to express my painful feelings under such chaotic circumstances, so it was a very very difficult scene to shoot. We took several takes including different versions, and I was worried that I wasn't good enough for the scene, but the results turned out to be quite good actually. This scene was quite a big challenge for me, because the characters I've played before "Koma" were quite girly, and my character in "Koma" is, to me, my first womanly character, in which I had to deal with women's () problems, so it hasn't been an easy job for me.

How about the last scene in which you became crazy a bit like Jack Nicholson in "Shining", did you feel excited to play this scene?

Now that I rethink about it, it felt quite cool playing the scene (laughs). Because I'd never thought myself being a mad and frantic woman, who would kill somebody with an axe you know! Being so hysterically mad, can you imagine! Now it seems to be cool reminding of the scene, but it was so hard to play at that moment--first of all, I'm not an action actress, and then I had quite a few...actually, we've cut quite a few action scenes, in which I had to break doors and glasses, and in another scene where I was pushed down by Karena and slid out and was hurt. The reason why it was a hard scene to shoot was that I was afraid to be hurt and hurt other people, because if I'd been hurt, it would've been very annoying for the shooting of the rest of the scenes. For example, if I had to break a glass which is just here (design a glass with her hands), and I break it like this (show the action with her gesture), the camera man would just stand right behind the glass on the other side! So everytime, I would say to myself: you must be accurate hitting on the glass, come on, just one take! Otherwise, there would've been too much pressure, coz I was very much afraid that the camera man would be hurt! At the same time, I didn't want myself to be hurt either, so everytime in this kind of scene, I asked myself to be extremely serious and concentrated, hoping that only one take would be ok! So yeah, it wasn't easy at all! (smile)

What about the ending of the movie, where you have the kidney from Karena, do you like this ending and how would you feel if the same thing was happening to you in your real life?

Wow... (laughs)! I actually like the ending of this movie a lot, because I find the ending extremely horrifying. Imagine, your enemy, the person you hate the most in the world, well, a part of his body would be transplanted in your body...forever. I think I could not stand it, I would rather die! If the same thing should happen to me in my real life, really, I'd rather die! Or I would ask the doctor to take the kidney out of me, I could not accept that the kidney of my enemy exists in me and live with me. No, I wouldn't accept that. (smile)

What do you think of the whole "Koma" movie?

Basically, I like this movie very much. There's just a little thing, is that...maybe because the film was restrained by some commercial measures; as it is a thriller, certain scenes have been sacrificed because of commercial aspects. I mean...I'm a emotional person, so I think things should be shown or expressed from a genuine and emotional basis. So the sacrificed parts because of the commercial constraints are a real shame for the movie, bacause I think what the director wants to tell us does have deep meanings, and I like the essential points of the story, it's just sometimes, it's a pity to make sacrifices because of commercial considerations.

Thanks a lot!
  • September 2004