INTERVIEW: YUEN WO PING ON HOUSE OF FURY

Yuen Wo Ping on House of Fury

Martial arts choreographer Yuen Wo Ping is, without a shadow of doubt, a certified maestro of the genre, having done many blockbusters of compelling martial arts sequences in the East and West. From Drunken Master, Fist of Legend, Master of Taichi, The Matrix trilogy, Kill Bill to Kung Fu Hustle, not only are they critically acclaimed but also a big success at the box office. Come March 24, House of Fury 《精武家庭》, in which Yuen Wo Ping again took charge of the action scenes, will be released nationwide. Yesterday, over the phone interview, Yuen Wo Ping did not mask his delights for this new feature directed by Stephen Fung.

While Yuen Wo Ping has worked as the martial arts director for many high-profile movies, he is still very generous with his praises for House of Fury. Perhaps, Stephen Fung gave Yuen Wo Ping more room for expression, he feels more satisfactory with House of Fury than Kung Fu Hustle. “The action in House of Fury relies very little on special effects, and is thus of higher level of realism than Kung Fu Hustle, and amply shows the incredible appeal of traditional martial arts.” says Yuen Wo Ping. “House of Fury depicts a traditional Chinese family in which everyone practises martial arts. The movie shows human touches and culture amidst kungfu, bringing more life to the fight scenes. It’s my breakthrough in martial arts choreography in the recent years.”

 

Having ventured into Hollywood, he considers himself as an international people, he does not mind working in different countries as long as he could realise his visions and produce better quality works.

Most Masters are very humble; they don’t desire any kind of physical or mental worship. They just want to make you a Master too. They just want to make you realize that you yourself are a child of God, that you yourself are great. They want to make you as great as you should be. Because no Master ever thinks that He or She is better than anyone else. They know that everyone is equal – equal in every sense of the word, here and in Heaven.

But it’s human nature that if someone teaches others something so blissful and rare as Heaven on Earth, of course they mostly worship that person. We can do this if we still feel we need to worship a Master, but the best form of worship is to become a master yourself. By this I mean a master of your own life, a master of your own wisdom, a master of your own destiny and a master of your own sincerity, being true to yourself in every way. We can only do this when we know ourselves completely for who we really are. Then we can be truthful, and can live our lives in a masterful way.

Supreme Master Ching Hai

The Lure of House of Fury – Authentic Fights

Apart from its cast, the biggest box office draw of House of Fury, which is written, directed and played by Stephen Fung, is undeniably Yuen Wo Ping’s participation in the martial arts choreography. Yuen Wo Ping reveals that he agreed to do the work for not only was the nature of martial arts scenes in the script a brand new challenge to him, but the ethos of Chinese martial arts was also keenly explored in House of Fury. .

Gillian ChungNowadays, whether he would accept a film offer depends on whether the work could give him new inspirations, and House of Fury, which he regards as a new-wave action movie, is one such film. Yuen Wo Ping believes that the fights in House of Fury are more realistic and gripping than Kung Fu Hustle, and the cast-members offered their best to perform their own stunts, as per his request. Yuen Wo Ping also thinks that Gillian Chung, who once did 20 takes without a break, has the makings of being Hong Kong’s new generation action star, after Michelle Yeoh, “Actually, Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle is very westernised, it employs lots of computer generated images. I do not object to the use of special effects, for, when used felicitously, it could totally enhance movie experience. However, only real fights can bring out the essence of Chinese martial arts. The martial arts sequences in House of Fury are non-ornamental and pragmatic, and this is a great test on the capability of the martial arts choreographer.”

Yuen Wo Ping says that he seeks to bring out his own signature and views when choreographing martial arts scenes. While House of Fury has a contemporary setting, the audience can still see many elements of time-honoured Chinese culture, and so he believes that it will be different from his previous works in Hong Kong and in the West in regard to choreography. Also, Yuen Wo Ping experimented to put together over 20 minutes worth of martial arts sequences, a rarity these days.

Because of the demanding action sequences, training was obligatory for the mostly non-martial artists cast and Jackie Chan himself also gave them some coaching, and nearly every cast-member had their fair share of bruises and injuries. On the first day of the shoot, Anthony Wong’s head was smashed by a jar. When suspended on wires, Gillian Chung slipped and sprained her legs. A more serious case was when her throat as wounded by a stuntman…

The Essence of Martial Arts – Keeping Focused on the Bare Essentials

As a world-class martial arts director, Yuen Wo Ping has also directed many films, and will be helming Disney’s big-budget Snow White and the Seven Shaolin Warriors in the near future. Yet, he draws a clear distinction between the two jobs, “As a martial arts director, one must not be to finicky down to minutest detail and neglect the essentials. Martial arts choreographer is but one of the production crew, what one choreographs and how one goes about the choreography should be approached according to script requirement rather than according to one’s liking or mood. It could add an extra zest to a movie when the choreography goes hand in hand with the production, but would be redundant otherwise.” Yuen Wo Ping always firmly maintains this principle while trying to bring out the differences in each movie.

Yuen Wo Ping teaching the ropes

On the especially exaggerated scenes in productions where people could fly or burrow underground, Yuen Wo Ping ascribes them to being penny wise and pound foolish, “The most important aspect of Chinese martial arts is the chivalrous spirit, we cannot simply stage a martial arts scene because it’s in vogue, for no matter how eye-catching it is, it simply won’t click with the audience.”

Chinese Martial Arts Transcends Continental Boundaries

Yuen Wo Ping and Dion Lam are perfect examples of how martial arts and script could merge seamlessly together. For example, in Spider-Man 2 which had Dion Lam doing the choreography, there aren’t many action scenes, yet the movie is still a big hit. Yuen Wo Ping believes that Chinese kungfu is not bound by boundaries, and when designing action sequences for Hollywood movies, it’s not necessary to do Chinese martial arts style, it has to be created in accordance to the script, except that being a production crew with expertise in kungfu, he can be more innovative in approach.

He says that the Hollywood actors and actresses are more serious in their works, and would do their own stunts. Keanu Reeves went through a few months of gruelling training prior to filming The Matrix. But they don’t usually go to such an extent in Hong Kong. If an actor cannot do something, the stunt-double would finish it for them. As such, the fights in Hollywood are choreographed based on the ability and limitations of each actor, and thus have more distinctive quality. But in Hong Kong, the action scenes are not restricted by the actor cannot do, so you could let your imagination run out of the box.

Film Info
Title: House of Fury

Executive Producers: Jackie Chan, Albert Yeung, Willie Chan

Producers: Willie Chan, Solon So
Director/Story: Stephen Fung
Martial Arts Choreographer: Yuen Wo Ping
Budget: HK$30 million
Genre: Action/Comedy
Cast: Anthony Wong, Gillian Chung, Stephen Fung, Daniel Wu, Charlene Choi, Michael Fitzgerald Wong, Josie Ho, Jacob Strickland, Philip Ng, Wu Ma.
Official Site: HouseofFury.jce.com.hk

FAN SIU WONG INTERVIEW

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