I WAS DRAGGED BY TSUI HARK TO DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME
What were your reasons for joining Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame?
Sammo Hung: I was forced by Tsui Hark, initially, I was going to direct my own film, but Tsui Hark called me up, and hoped that I would work as the Detective Dee and the Mystery of Phantom Flame’s action director, I turned him down, but he called me again insisting that I took up the project, so I wasucoerced into joining this film. First published on wu-jing.org on third October twenty-ten
Was it on the account of your friendship or the script?
Sammo Hung: The script was one of the reasons, but most importantly, it was because I admire Tsui Hark greatly, he is my idol. When I work with him, I can learnumany things. I worship Tsui Hark immensely, I was very excited to be working with him, so I agreed.
How was work divided?
Sammo Hung: Actually, Tsui Hark designed a big part of the film, he designed the costumes, he props, after finishing, he would seek my views. If I was also happy with it, it would be great, but if I had better suggestions, he would make some minor modifications. I often discussed the action, the weapon fights with Tsui Hark, we would exchange our ideas.
Was the action for each character choreographed differently?
Sammo Hung: According to the personality of the character, as well as the actor’s traits. Deng Chao wields gigantic axe, he has his own means of fighting. Andy Lau would sometimes fight barehanded, or would sometimes use a square club, these two ways of fighting differ as well. Li Bing Bing carries a sword, how the sword is used, the differences in the character’s personality would be considered when choreographing the action, some is fiery-tempered, some is reticent and mild-mannered, all are different. wu-jing.org
Whose performance was better?
Sammo Hung: All three were not bad, for each character is unique. Li Bing Bing is an artful, mean and troublesome person, Deng Chao is brave and aggressive, Andy Lau exercises self-restraint for he’s an experienced exponent. Actually, we designed the action according to their three types of personalities. Being a veteran, Andy Lau exudes charm and self-restraint whether he is conducting an investigation or dealing with his enemies. Being a young lad, Deng Chao’s moves are more impetuous and dramatic, and more straightforward, while Li Bing Bing carries dual identities.
What do you think of each of them?
Sammo Hung: Andy Lau’s performance has always been good, he is very earnest in all his works. I worked with Deng Chao for the first time, he would strive to learn, but gives up too easily, for he finds it tough. Li Bing Bing is very fond of doing action scenes, but she has little chances to fight in her past works, she really works hard at it, puts all her heart and soul in it, she would go all out, even to the extent of risking her own safety, to us, this is tremendously remarkable.
I had some reservations about Li Bing Bing at first, like how much could she handle, and if she would be willing to do the action herself. So, I haducontingency plans, either she did it, or let the stunt double do it. The outcome was unexpected, this celebrityuwas willing to do everything, fearing neither pain nor fatigue, so it afforded much more room for my choreography, and she fought pretty well.
Which was your most unforgettable set?
Sammo Hung: It was really arduous shooting the scenes at the Phantom City, when you took a step in the water, we could take five steps on ground, truly very tiring, and I was constantly bitten by mosquitoes, lice, and whatnots.
Actually, each film has its own areas that would wear us out, but this is not a problem, as long as we are enjoying the process, the process of filmmaking, of work, it gives us a sense of satisfaction. Whatever work you do is bound to be taxing, don’t assume that sitting in the office enjoying the air-con would not be tiring, no, we also have to do that. But we would enjoy the process, not something you could feel at home, even if you spend money, you do it, you still couldn’t do it. Not to mention that people are paying you to work, very excited, especially, when you have so many people at your beck and call. http://www.wu-jing.org
Which scene left you with the deepest impression?
Sammo Hung: Phantom City, the set is very unique, for it was inside a cave that was filled with water, and this cavern is really cavernous, there were many stunts that couldn’t be done, everyone would have something to do with the water, some parts areushallow, some deep, and some might just fall down all of sudden, and the next moment, another would trip too, there were so many cell phones there, many things dropped into the water, we filmed for many nights, stayeduup late into the night, many fell sick, but only one iron man remaineduunaffected, that was Sammo Hung, he only fell ill after finishing all the scenes there, it’s already very commendable not to be sick when working there for days.
Which scene do you like most?
Sammo Hung: Actually, every scene is pretty good, shooting for so many days, shooting so many scenes, every scene, from my own angle, is very satisfactory. After watching them, I would smile, all the hard work has paid off, of course, I hope the audience would feel the same as I did. Myupay has remained the same for so long, it’s high time I received a rise, all other stars’ pays have risen, excepting me, my fee would go up too when this film becomes a big sellout. wu-jing.orgg
Any dangers during the shoot?
Sammo Hung: In one scene, the camera operator was suspended very high up, but the wire snapped halfway while filming, he plunged down, fortunately, he fell onto a tree below, breaking the fall somewhat, before hitting the ground. He proceeded to shooting in no time, but was limping, he broke three bones, as the X-ray showed. But he still wanted to shoot, I told him no, but he still wanted to work, he said he loved following me around on work, he said I would have finished filming if he took a few days’ rest, there won’t be any kicks anymore.
At the Phantom City, we took 16 hours just to complete one shot, why? Why didn’t I take just 16 minutes to do one shot? We want to wow the viewers vicariously with visceral visuals. We want to let the audience enjoy and feel each and every effect and visuals.
How’s working with Tsui Hark?
Sammo Hung: I try my best to understand the director, for this is a Tsui Hark production, I’m just helping him with the action, I have to fully comprehend what the director is after, so that what I do merges seamlessly with the whole film, rather than he did his job, I did mine independently, producing two different types of look and feel. I would try my best to cooperate with the director, if I have any ideas, I would tell the director, he could reject my proposal, or accept it. If the director has a great idea, I would think over it, and I wouldn’t use what the director would not agree with, this is not my film, this is a Tsui Hark film, so this is what you should do to ensure the visuals remain the consistent throughout.
Recommend the film in one sentence.
Sammo Hung: You’d regret it if you don’t watch Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, you must watch it. Have a nice day. Ifensi, Sina