At the pre-production press conference at the famed Shaolin Temple on Mt Song on October 22, it was announced that apart from Emperor Motion Pictures and Shaolin Cultural Communication, China Film Group, Huayi Brothers and Henan TV are also co-producing the kungfu epic, Shaolin, budgeted at close to 200 million yuan.
Benny Chan is helming this project, with Corey Yuen assisting in choreographing the action, Poon Yiu Ming as the cinematographer and Yee Chung Man behind the art direction. The luxurious lineup includes Andy Lau, Fan Bing Bing, Nicholas Tse, Wu Jing, Xing Yu, Bai Bing, Yu Shao Qun and Liang Jing Ke plus a special appearance by Jackie Chan.
Jackie Chan indicates that while he has known the abbot Shi Yong Xin for more than 10 years, and he had expressed interests in working him Jackie Chan says that he is not likely to shave his head as he’s doing another film, Chinese Zodiac, which is about treasure hunting, that begins production in January 2010.
Originally, he was wavering, turned it down after accepting due to Chinese Zodiac, that has been in works for 5, 6 years. But Albert Yeung told him that the film needed him, that’s why he took up this project. However, it’s by and large a cameo.
He says that he’d be directing Chinese Zodiac, for the script is really excellent, and the cast will be new blood predominantly, with his friends like Louis Koo making guest appearances. It will be shot on location in Europe, such as France.
Andy Lau, who has been training in Shaolin kungfu for three months, is playing an ruthless military officer who eventually turns over a new leaf, “This character will undergo quite a bit of changes, turning from bad to good. This is a kill or be killed era, and as a warlord’s son living under such circumstances in the 1920s, I’m forced to do all those bad things.
“Fan Bing Bing will be my wife, and we’ll have many scenes together. But as life gets tougher and more unbearable for her due to civil wars, she goes missing. And I’m under the impressions that she left me. However, I cannot reveal too much of the plot.
“By a twist of events, amidst the bloodbaths, I become disillusioned and take the tonsure at Shaolin Temple. I come to realise that wushu is not a means of killing, but rather one should apply wushu principles to resolve conflicts. And it’s only at Shaolin Temple that I first meet Nicholas Tse.
“Director Benny Chan’s first film was A Moment of Romance, that I starred in, and it was a rather important film to me. So, when I learned that Benny Chan is directing Shaolin, I had already decided to join. I look forward to working with him again.
“Of course, I was also drawn by the script too, the rich and diverse Shaolin culture, it’s very good to be able to propagate Shaolin spirit and Shaolin martial arts philosophy through a motion picture. And my character is very challenging, turning from bad to good.
“I believe we’ll be approaching this film from a different angle, I have seen Jet Li’s Shaolin Temple, his outstanding martial arts are still fresh in my mind. I’m partial to cudgel, and hope that there’d be cudgel fight scenes in the film.”
Based on his description, it appears that Andy Lau’s role is very substantial, could he be the protagonist? Andy Lau remains cryptic, “I dare not say I’m the lead actor, you have to ask the boss. But I feel that there are no supporting actors in this film, everyone is equally important and cannot be done without.”
Benny Chan adds that there is no lead or supporting role, everyone shares an equal footing.
Nicholas Tse, who was said to be handpicked for the role by Shaolin abbot Shi Yong Xin from a selection of photos, plays a young, arrogant brat who is forced to seek refuge at Shaolin following the demise of his family. He’d be specialising in Chin Na (Joint-lock).
Being especially fond of martial arts films, Nicholas Tse, he has been training in Wing Chun of late. It wasn’t purely on the account of this film. Rather, he simply enjoys it, and moreover, it helps him keep fit.
A few years back, when they met, the Shaolin abbot Shi Yong Xin, knowing Nicholas Tse’s interests in martial arts, invited him to stay in Shaolin for 6 to 12 months to train in Shaolin kungfu. But he wasn’t able to take such a long break from work, and had to turn down the offer. And being able to play a chivalrous Shaolin disciple, and to be able to visit Shaolin Temple, the Mecca of martial arts, is like a dream comes true to him.
The trio – Jackie Chan, Andy Lau and Nicholas Tse – will unite against common enemies. Nicholas Tse says that he will have numerous fight scenes against Wu Jing.