FROM EARLY DAYS TO MORE RECENT WORKS, INCLUDING FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE
I have just finished filming Wilson Yip’s A Chinese Ghost Story, I’m doing 4 projects right now, two are movies, Tsui Hark’s Flying Swords of Dragon Gate and Soi Cheang’s The Monkey King, and both 3D movies, so shooting them are more difficult. Because the demands are higher, when we shoot action films in the past, each shot could be shorter, but for Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, they are after longer cuts, and because this is in 3D, the audience will see a sense of depth, this 3D feel is very palpable, if the cuts are too short, it would confound the eyes, cause vertigo, so, we have to do longer takes. The martial arts choreographer tells us that when we fight, we must consider the depth of field too, like the sword, if we put it closer to the camera, the audience would feel as if the sword is right in front of them.
Fan Siu Wong: That would only happen when the audience are tired of watching me fight, or one day, when I couldn’t even get up, couldn’t move, I believe these are the only two reasons. Otherwise, I will keep going in this direction.Was it because you are especially fond of this genre?
Fan Siu Wong: Yes, I love movies very much, love action films very much, and what you said earlier on was right, it’s very tough, very tiring shooting action scene. Like the 3D Flying Swords of Dragon Gate mentioned earlier on, each take requires more than ten moves, as it’s especially demanding, we could do at most four scenes each day, each take needs to be done 20, 30 times, especially in Tianmu, in the midst of the strong wind and blowing sand, and it’s very cold, very arduous. But I’m partial to my profession.
Was your predilection for filmmaking due to your father’s influence?
Fan Siu Wong: Definitely, I was influenced by my father, at the age of 2, 3, I did my first film, at that time, my father was shooting a film, and they needed a kid, and the director saw me, and thought I was cute, my eyes were very big, so I played my father’s nephew, he carried me in the film, at that time, I didn’t know nothing, was simply having ice-cream during the shoot. It was fun.
When did you start taking special interests in wushu? Were you forced by your father?
Fan Siu Wong: Many were under the impressions that that it was my father who forced me to train in wushu, in kungfu. Actually, he merely gave me some guidance, cultivating my interests in wushu, and the habits in training, since young, I was very playful, so he taught me the basics, kicking. Perhaps, I was influenced by him, often seeing him shooting action films, flying about, I thought it was so awesome, I wanted to be like him too. When I was in school, I always had that gallantry ideology, so I would stand up for justice, like when the girls were bullied or something, I would stand up for them?
So, you exerted hegemony over your peers in school?
Fan Siu Wong: It was alright. Timmy Hung, and Hung Tin Keung, they were my juniors, but they heard of my name too, we didn’t know each other at first, later they followed me.
So, did you ever hurt your schoolmates?
Fan Siu Wong: No, I never bullied anyone.
Which schools of kungfu were you trained in, should martial arts be classified under different sects?
Fan Siu Wong: Many have asked me, let’s not talk about sects, instead, ask me about my masters, I can name a whole bunch. When young, my first mentor was my father Fan Mui Sang. Then, I followed Korean president’s bodyguard, and he’s a black belt, a judan Tae Kwan Do master, Hwang Jang Lee, if you’ve watched those old school HK kungfu films, you would see him often, as the villain, his kicks are really awesome, he moves his legs as if they were hands.
Later, I studied wushu too, and wushu is divided into various branches too, at that time I was in Xuzhou, learning the basics in wushu. And then, I trained under many teachers in the park, and at that time, my father knew of a very good Eagle Claw master, so I studied under him too. Later, I even learned Peking Opera, somersaults, and gymnastics. And when I did ATV’s Young Master of Shaolin, playing Hung Hei Kwun, I had to read the script, and train myself, so I learned Hung Gar, if you know not your trade well, you would be mocked at, so I learned Hung Gar before filming. Like in Ip Man – The Legend is Born, I’m playing Ip Man’s senior, I have to know how to do Wing Chun, so I must learn it too.
Many people who want to be a kungfu star are envious of those with foundation in martial arts. Among the various roles you have played, many would first think of monk Xu Zhu in TVB’s Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils 1997. Ever thought that this character would leave such a lasting impression on the Mainland audience?
Fan Siu Wong: I’ve never thought of it. For TV, it’s Xu Zhu, for movie, it’s Ricky. But I’ve never thought of it when doing Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils. This was my second TV series just after joining TVB, I was very unhappy, and was on the verge of giving up, I couldn’t quite immerse myself in the role, the director Lu Lun Chang, the director of the new 《新一剪梅》 Plum Blossom Heroes TV series, there was a scene at the cliff, she told me, you shouldn’t let any other factors affect your performance, the audience wouldn’t know the reasons behind it, and would only think of how badly you acted, and this would eventually affect yourself, your career, come what may, you must do your best.
What was the cause of your moodiness?
Fan Siu Wong: Perhaps it was due to the script.
Amendments? Perhaps you felt it wasn’t what you wanted?
Fan Siu Wong: Yep
Subsequently, there were some roles, like the eunuch, that stood out much in your films but they were also incongruent with your usual self. Did you mind when these roles were forgotten very quickly?
Fan Siu Wong: No, it’s still quite alright. Like the eunuch in On His Majesty’s Secret Service, I suppose many would remember it.
It’s so unlike you, compared to your other works.
Fan Siu Wong: Whatever work you do you, you wouldn’t know if this character would stand out, or if everyone would remember or like it. As an actor, we just have to put our best foot forward, and whether the production sells well or not, it’s not something we could control.
Are you fussy on what do you?
Fan Siu Wong: There are bound to be changes at different times, from when I joined TVB, to leaving, to doing films, TV, the viewpoints change too, like On His Majesty’s Secret Service, or Future X-Cops, or Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, I might not have accepted these roles before, such weird makeup, why play a eunuch, I wouldn’t have done something like this in the past.
You were worried they would affect your image?
Fan Siu Wong: Yes, my viewpoints in the past were different, perhaps, I was influenced by my father, for previously, he was the one who decided what works I should take, he was very picky. It wasn’t until 2008, when I gained independence, and started developing my own thinking, such as feeling that my selection criteria weren’t quite right, so I started accepting a broader range of roles, like The Moss.
Would your father question you on why you would do something like that?
Fan Siu Wong: No.
Which is your most unforgettable role?
Fan Siu Wong: Among the more recent works, it’s The Moss. It’s about the various people in the slum, the underground grassroots in Hong Kong, I played a beggar, a vagrant, a scavenger, he’s somewhat of a schizophrenia, he often thinks that he’s mum is still alive, he’s very filial. Some people even make use of him to be an assassin, he sends all the money he earned to his mother, but she’s already gone. And there is a girl I’m protecting, it’s like Beauty and The Beast.
Having tried so many news roles, ever thought of becoming a drama actor? Like Jet Li, he’s a fantastic kungfu star, but recently, for whatever reasons, he said that he didn’t want to do this kind of films any more. Recently, he did Ocean Heaven, and his performance was very gripping.
Fan Siu Wong: If the director is willing to let me try, I would do it too, but I would definitely not give up doing martial arts movies. Actually, for example, The Moss, I have more drama scenes, and while I have some action too, I fight like a beast, just charge wildly and deliver whatever blows, no specific styles. In those period films I did, I would have to remember the moves first before fighting, but now, the director says, how could you behave like a knight, you are a beast, show the most primal feel, for often, I would unconsciously get into certain horse-riding stances.
You’ve worked with many action stars, including the big international stars like Jet Li, Donnie Yen.
Fan Siu Wong: And my idol, he’s not an action star, but he’s in The Monkey King, playing the Jade Emperor. He’s Chow Yun Fatt. I have a photo of him carrying me when I was young, my father was in the same film he was doing, they were shooting winter scenes in summer, having to wear thick cotton clothes in hot weather, was very tough.
Do you feel nervous working with Chow Yun Fat?
Fan Siu Wong: No, especially happy. I would always smile at him, and think of many scenes.
What role are you playing in The Monkey King?
Fan Siu Wong: Giant God, he guards the Southern Heavenly Gate, guards the Four Heavenly Kings. He has many fights, including fighting against Sun Wu Kong, played by Donnie Yen.
When’s the release date?
Fan Siu Wong: Still in production, just begun shooting, and the 3D post-production would take a very long time.
Anything fresh in this film, apart from 3D.
Fan Siu Wong: I’m most happy that to see 3D being implemented in our own Chinese films, and in a Chinese fantasy film, I believe such things should be in 3D.
Have you watched the older version of Journey to the West? If we incorporated this technology in there, how realistic the effects would be, like flying, I guess The Monkey King would be very exciting.
Fan Siu Wong: Things are different in each era, the 3D version and Liuxiao Lingtong’s version, I feel that there is no need to turn it into 3D, leave it as it is, in it’s original state, it’s is a classic as it is. QQ