Director Du Xiao Shares His Visions and Goals
When China’s multiple awarding director Du Xiao read the script of A Legend of Shaolin Kungfu, he approached it with reminiscence. As everyone is aware, Jet Li’s version of Shaolin Temple is known throughout the world for its authentic portrayal of martial arts scenes, their elegance and practicality.
The kungfu culture developed rapidly following that, and films like Swordsman and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon brought about a different school of martial arts choreography, tending towards surrealism, etherealness and gracefulness.
And now, in every film and TV series, especially costumed period productions, all we have are flying all over everywhere, perpetrating a myriads of myths and legends concerning martial arts. So, wuxia productions are no longer about martial arts, but fairy tales. These shows do not reflect real-life martial arts, they are too artificial. And they ruin the audience’s appetite and interest in this genre.
Du Xiao feels that it’s time for a change, a return to traditional martial arts, one that is cultivated through body, spirit and mind, stroke by stroke. Only through such painstaking training would one understand the limits of the physical body and mind.
So when he was scouting for talent, he took the same approach as the original Shaolin Temple – basically, they would only hire actors who are not only capable of fighting, but also fighting very capably. And, out of the Six Shaolin Disciples in the Legend of Shaolin Kungfu, four are national wushu champions. Du Xiao hopes that with such a cast, coupled with their seriousness, their crew, Legend of Shaolin Kungfu would achieve similar results as Shaolin Temple.
Tony Ching Siu Tung is more noted for his choreography of surrealistic and atmospheric action scenes, and is very professional in cinematography and choosing of location. Having watched the sample scenes, Du Xiao says that the martial arts and mental state of being are blended very outstandingly, believing that Tony Ching Siu Tung’s experience and talent were fully tapped in Legend of Shaolin Kungfu. This production seeks to restore Shaolin Kungfu to its true nature.
Sui Hui Ning on Her First Action Role
In Legend of Shaolin Kungfu, 孙卉凝 Sun Hui Ning, a graduate of Central Drama Academy, plays swordswoman Xi Yue, who seeks to assassinate the tyrannical king who was behind the massacre of her entire family of 31 members, only to discover that her father is still alive.
This is the first time Sun Huining does a such a kungfu series as Legend of Shaolin Kungfu. She finds it very exciting and novel. She was rather hesitant and apprehensive initially when doing fight scenes, especially with wireworks. It hurts to be suspended by wires for hours, and she suffered from abrasion. But now she’s already used to it and doesn’t feel any more pain or discomfort. Instead, she’s getting hooked. (No pun intended.) When the weather is hot, the higher she is lifted up in the air, the cooler it feels with breeze blowing on her.
At first Sun Hui Ning was worried about working with Ching Siu Tung, as she heard that he had a short fuse, and she doesn’t have any martial arts background. To her surprise, he’s actually a very affable person, he would console her, telling her not to rush, to take her time, that if she couldn’t do it now, she would be able to do it later.
Sun Hui Ning would get up at 4.30 am to do make up and set off at 6.30 am. Usually, Tony Ching Siu Tung would arrange for the others to fight first so as to allow her sufficient time to familiarise herself with the moves or wait till the afternoon before filming her action scenes. She would use her spare time to practise martial arts. As there is no shortage of professional martial artists on the set, it gives her plenty of opportunities to seek guidance from them. And they have been very helpful to her. Eventually, after a month, Sun Hui Ning begins to get the feel.
It’s easy to get injured when filming martial arts scenes, and neither is Sui Hui Ning spared of wounds and bruises. Her most trying part was 8 days of filming at Peacock Stage, when she led an abnormal life. She shot drama scenes in the daytime from 8am onwards and when night fell, she had to do action scenes, working from 6pm till 5 to 6 am in the next morning. There was hardly anytime to rest. With merely 2 hours remaining, she dared not sleep soundly, for the fear that her makeup and hair might be dishivelled, or she might oversleep.
Her effort has paid off, being praised by Ching Siu Tung as the most gorgeous female action star. Director Du Xiao observes, “It’s not easy to act as the character Xi Yue, it can become over-melodramatic if she’s not careful enough. Sun Hui Ning has got a good grasp of the role, of one that hides her warmth and passions behind the facade of aloofness and icy-coldness of one laden with vengeance.”
Sui Hui Ning is a devout Buddhist in real life and is a full-time vegetarian, a way of life that is healthier, cruelty-free and eco-friendly. She often studies the scriptures. Publicist Liu Ying says, “Upon seeing her above-worldly countenance, it is as if I’m gazing upon the pure and untainted lotus.”
Sun Hui Ning has gained a lot of exposure ever since Legend of Shaolin Temple begins airing in Fujian and Henan and has to grant interviews with the media almost daily. She doesn’t like such a high-profile lifestyle. Instead, she prefers reading sutras, learning about the meaning of life, for it helps one to be more tranquil, to be less agitated.