Retro: Darren Shahlavi On Tai Chi 2
Transcribed by Adam Cemal
First of all Darren went to Hong Kong as a stepping stone to America, he wanted to learn from the guys in Hong Kong, hoping to bring some of their action skills to English language films. He is a very good martial artist himself and recently appeared in I Spy with Eddy Murphy and Owen Wilson.
Darren says the film Tai Chi 2 was shot under the title “Tai Chi Fist” but they released it in Asia and North America as “Tai Chi 2” (which doesn’t really make sense as it’s not the sequel to Jets Li’s Tai Chi Master.)
Taichi 2 was shot on location in Hangzhou, China and the crew and everybody flew there from HK.
Wu Jing Arrives
Darren remembers the first day he was due to shoot he had arranged for the driver to come and pick him up. He was working out in his hotel room when there was a knock at the door. Opening the door he saw just a young guy there looking at him. He’s wearing a Mickey Mouse baseball cap and Darren thought, “This can’t be the driver, he’s too young!”
Then the young guy introduced himself as Wu Jing! Darren thought “Oh, this is Wu Jing/Jacky Wu the star of the movie!” He was surprised, he didn’t expect the star of the movie to come on his own and introduce himself and then take him to wardrobe for costume fitting! Darren says his English is very good [Ed: If the one and only English-language sentence Wu Jing says at the end of his interview on Fatal Contact DVD (Dragon Dynasty version) is any indication, Wu Jing would seriously need to work on his English if he wishes to break into Hollywood.] and he’s just a very nice sweet person. He says they were friends since then.
One point of humour in the behind the scenes footage is when Darren was about to be thrown through the floorboards. Just be before he was launched through them, Yuen Wo Ping said, “Take care!” Then Darren was thrown down through the floorboards with a smash and cloud of dust. Sounded kind of funny but Yuen Woo Ping cares about his actors and stuntmen’s safety a lot more than people realise. Darren says Yuen Wo Ping was constantly saying “Are you ok?”, “Be careful!”, ”Take care!” to him. Nobody was badly hurt during the production according to Darren Shahlavi.
Someone nearly got hurt when Darren Shahlavi was fighting Jacky Wu Jing and he spun round and hit Darren on the side of the face sending him back into the boxes. All the boxes were knocked down and suddenly they heard someone shouting from underneath the boxes! A couple of the crew members had been sleeping behind the boxes and had the dislodged boxes landed on them! They weren’t hurt but it was quite a funny moment.
The end fight scene took 16 days to film and that was the only time someone got hurt. That was when Darren Shahlavi punched Wu Jing in the face! They had rehearsed the fight scene and on the take, Darren Shahlavi, throughout the first punch, second punch, just hit him square in the face! Darren Shahlavi says Wu Jing didn’t move or even see the punch coming at all. Luckily Darren Shahlavi fought with his hands loosely clenched or Wu Jing would have been hurt badly!
Darren was wondering WHY didn’t Wu Jing get out of the way or move at all! A year later, Darren Shahlavi was speaking to Eric Chen (who works with the Beijing Wushu Team and tours with them) and they were talking about Wu Jing. Eric mentioned how bad Wu Jing’s eyesight was and Darren thought straight away about that incident.
Wu Jing couldn’t see even a couple of feet in front of him without his glasses! Wu Jing had thought Yuen Woo Ping had shouted “Cut!” and didn’t see Darren’s punch coming at all! Since then, Darren Shahlavi has developed a new amount of respect for Wu Jing, as he was fighting so fast but couldn’t actually see very well at all, very impressive! On passing by Wu Jing, Darren Shahlavi would often wave from a distance but got no response. On getting closer, Wu Jing would say, “Oh hi, how are you?” Now he knows why! [Ed: Wu Jing’s eyesight has been rectified in early 2004 after undergoing LASIK surgery.]
The Ever Precise Billy Chow
On Billy Chow, Darren Shahlavi says “He is a very generous performer! He wants whoever fighting opposite him to do great stuff. He has the best control, his kicking ability is fantastic!” Darren says Billy Chow is a very quiet person, very humble, down-to-earth and very gentle! “He is such a nice guy.”
He used to knock on Darren Shahlavi’s door and wanted to go round with him to view the scenic spots in Hangzhou. On the fighting scenes, Darren says “He is on the nail every time! He never makes a mistake! He’s perfect every time, so professional.” Billy Chow also speaks good English.
On the scene where Billy Chow kicks the sacks of grain at Darren they had to use wires to pull the sacks away because they weren’t flying out of frame when Darren kicked them. Darren Shahlavi had to be doubled for some wire scenes because he was too heavy! Apart from that he did everything himself. Most other people were doubled by Tan Qiao, at some stage.
On Christy Cheung, they started talking straight away. Darren Shahlavi thinks she’s really cool and a really sweet person.
Yu Hai, The Real Deal
On Yu Hai, Darren Shahlavi says he’s kind of scary! He remembers Yu Hai was practicing off-camera and they said to him, he’s the guy you’re going to fight. Darren Shahlavi said “You see him and his technique and you realise he’s all about power! He’s like iron fist. I don’t mind fighting Wu Jing but I don’t want to fight the father!”
He had a short practice with him and Yu Hai gave him one hard kick in the chest and Darren knew he was the real deal. Still, he found that Yu Hai is a very nice person but they couldn’t talk much because Yu Hai doesn’t speak English.
Darren Shahlavi says everyone was just really nice to him. He stayed at a really nice hotel with Christy Cheung, Yuen Wo Ping, Mark Cheng and Billy Chow while Wu Jing and the others stayed at a little run down hotel. Wu Jing was probably sharing one room with several other guys.
The ending to the movie was going to be different originally, but because it was a day time shoot they had to cut it out. Originally after being beaten by Wu Jing in the warehouse at night, Darren runs off down the road in the daytime and is stopped by his parents Yu Hai and Sibelle Hu, and is finished off by them (with Tan Qiao doubling Sibelle Hu).
On the American and HK film industries Darren says “HK is so fast, they are always ready. They set up the cameras, lighting so fast! In America you’re sitting around a lot, they take a lot longer to set up. But they care more about the look of the film. The fights on American films are done very quickly whereas in HK they spend ages on the fights. It’s the opposite with the dialogue.”