On 11 June afternoon, press conference for Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame was held in Hengdian. Tsui Hark worked through the night to rush out a teaser trailer, which does anything but teases. It shows nothing more than a brooding atmosphere, with barely anyone in sight. To quote Tsui Hark, “Kept under wraps.”
As the skinny version of Di Ren Jie, Andy Lau says that what makes this character in Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame so special is that he is able to read other people’s mind, “He is a forensic psychologist who knows what you’re thinking, from your eyes, your breathing, the pauses in your speech, he could tell what you’re withholding, a melancholic detective.”
While Di Ren Jie is Casanova, who adores all girls, no girls show any interest in him. He carries a torch for Li Bing Bing, for she’s like Hua Mulan. He admires and stands in awe of Empress Wu, but does not approve of her ruthless, punitive measures.
Carina Lau, who hasn’t done any films in the past three years, says, “As an actress, acting still has a very mysterious draw on me. I’ve always been waiting for a role that would move me.
“After reading Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame’s script, I loved it very much. I feel that Wu Ze Tian is a ‘superman’, her fate is very tragic, but she would find opportunities to defy her fate, to bring her, step by step, closer to her dreams. She has very strong willpower and is very wise, unlike myself. But the director is seeing an iota of her shadow in my personality.”
Tsui Hark says, “Actually, in many areas, the Tang people are more open-minded than modern people. It was such a big, thriving city. So, Empress Wu Zetian was indeed very exceptional. I very much wanted to see Empress Wu herself, and I’m seeing many traits of her in Carina Lau.”
The character Li Bing Bing is playing was originally known as Shangguang Wan-er, but it has been changed to a fictitious character Shangguang Jing-er in the film. Tsui Hark says that it’ll afford more room for creativity, so that history (Mainland censors) won’t restrict the plot development, “There’re some things that Wan-er couldn’t do, like being a top-notch martial arts expert.”
Having been actively involved in programs promoting environmental awareness, Li Bing Bing says, “Being green is a lifestyle I advocate. Even before becoming Chinese goodwill ambassador for Earth Hour, I’m already very particular about conservation.”
There are two incidents that made her realise that global warming is not something to be worried about in our next lives. She watched An Inconvenient Truth a few years ago, which informs us the urgency and threats of climate change. And on another occasion, she saw on discovery channel the rapid melting of polar ice cap, “The kind of shock is hard to express, it’s really nerve-wracking.”
Almost a complete vegetarian herself, Li Bing Bing suggests that everyone should cut down on meat, “Try to reduce meat intake, it’s good for your health and is green. There’s a Wild Aid message: When the buying stops, the killing can too. Let me reiterate, without killing, there won’t be any resource wastage. You can feed 20 vegetarians what you feed to 1 meat eater. If everyone stops eating meat, or reduce meat intake, it can save plenty of resources.”
On Detective Dee and the Mystery of Phantom Flame, Li Bing Bing says excitedly, “I’m using whip, sword and some other unique weapons, I help protect Empress Wu from dangers. I like fighting, especially when we have such an outstanding martial arts director Sammo Hung here, who could let others see their own strengths, so I’m pulling out all the stops.”
Li Bing Bing says that she often injures Andy Lau on the set, Andy Lau smiles, “Whenever Li Bing Bing trains fighting, I would shout, ‘Everyone, find a place to hide!’ She is too fatal.”
“That day, we were fighting with each other till Andy Lau turned tail. He whispered to me, beseeching me not to fight anymore. To me, it’s a dream to shoot action scenes, in the future, I’ll be an action star.” continues Li Bing Bing.
Di Ren Jie, Empress Wu and Shangguang Jing-er share an intricate relationship, “Sister Lau is my boss, and I’m above all else but Empress Wu, we have very complex relations, of which involve the stability of the nation. I’m not only attracted to Di Ren Jie because of his looks, but also because of his strong sense of justice. In our previous two films, I slipped away from Andy Lau. This time around, I have to ponder carefully. “
Tsui Hark begins, “I first heard of Di Ren Jie in the 1980s. When I looked up the materials back then, didn’t leave much impression. But subsequently, my desires to film the subject grew. A few years ago, when Chen Guo Fu showed me his script, I was already very interested on Di Ren Jie.
“He was someone very special, one possessing nerdiness, good deportment and great foresight. His mentality and philosophies were very different from Sherlock Holmes or James Bond. He can dwell forever in my heart, so I have a very romantic view on him, and must also be immaculate.”
On working with the ever mercurial Tsui Hark who would often change his script all of sudden, Sammo Hung says, “Bring it on, come what may, I can take it all. Whatever he asks, I’ll do, he’s the director. My job is to assist Tsui Hark in fulfilling the film in his mind. Though I have been a director too, I won’t argue with him. If he were my assistant director, I would be telling him, not this, not that, no, no, no… you must do it according to what I say. But now, since I’m working for him, I’ll let him have it his way.”
Sammo Hung is also pretty positive about Andy Lau and Li Bing Bing, “No matter how difficult the action is, they would try to perfect everything. Andy Lau is more experienced, and know how and when to conserve his energy, and can get into his character easily; but Li Bing Bing would go all out all the time, using all her brute force initially, wearing herself out in no time. I wouldn’t say she doesn’t have the knack, what if she strikes me, hahaha! I feel that she needs more time to practise, now, she can meet many of our demands.” Sina, Baidu, Sohu