Over 10 million yuan and around 4 months were spent on building the 1:1 life-size replica of Shaolin Temple in Yanshi, Yongkang. Some structures or props of the new Shaolin Temple were actually built larger for ease of filming or to impart a more numinous feel, such as the towering giant Buddha statue.
But why not shoot on the actual locale? Director Benny Chan explains, “There are many tourists going to Shaolin Temple, and they could not cordon off the area specifically for us. And we have quite a number of action scenes, which might endanger the surroundings. Moreover, some parts in today’s Shaolin Temple, having a more modernised look, are quite different from retro feel we are after.”
Director Benny Chan says that Andy Lau and Jackie Chan stand out the most in terms of their performances. He also casts his vote on Wu Jing for the martial arts scenes, “The action scenes are more evenly distributed, everyone gets similar amount of action scenes, but in reality, Wu Jing is better at fighting.”
Benny Chan also doesn’t deny the use of doubles in the film, “We don’t use doubles for drama scenes, but as there are bound to be injuries when carrying out action scenes, we always place safety above all else, and would use doubles for very dangerous stunts.”
Andy Lau nearly turned down Shaolin
Andy Lau indicates that when Benny Chan first approached him to play the role of the “young” warlord who seeks refuge at Shaolin Temple, he was worried, “We are filming Shaolin, and I felt that my martial arts abilities were not up to the scratch and would not be able to meet the requirements of Shaolin. But after going through the script, I realised that I would be playing a reformed warlord, and I won’t be too highly skilled. So, it was a load off my mind.
“Moreover, the script is not bad, it carries certain messages, such as the purpose of kungfu, for revenge, killing or what? Besides, I did not have the chance to work with brother Jackie Chan again since our first collaboration Island of Fire 20 years ago. So, this is another factor that drew me to this project.”
Andy Lau says that his disillusioned warlord initially is bent on vengeance, but after realising how meaningless vengeance is later, he gets ordained a monk. Andy Lau says that his scenes as a warlord have been completed and he has shaven his head for the role as a monk.
Andy Lau is especially chummy with the little monks who teach and practise Seven-Star Fist with him, as he is self-conscious about his skills to train with the grown-up monks. The little monks also adore Andy Lau very much and would gather around him whenever they are off camera. The little monks exposes, “Brother Andy prefers us to call him brother, not uncle, for it sounds old.”
Andy Lau is a little embarrassed, “When I first came to the set, there were not many other actors, so, I spent most time with them and we became very close to each other. They love dancing, especially the axe gang scene from Kungfu Hustle. They asked if I know dancing, and if I could choreograph a dance for them, and I acceded to their request.”
Jackie Chan gets more than what he bargains for
While Andy Lau says that Jackie Chan’s martial arts skills are too great, he dares not learn from him. Jackie Chan says, “In the film, my two seniors Corey Yuen and Yuen Tak are the martial arts directors, it’s not my turn to teach him. Andy Lau has been in the field for many years, why would he need to learn from me. Besides, he picks up anything he learns very quickly.”
Jackie Chan is making a special appearance as a Shaolin chef, one who looks rather scruffy and casual and is not aware of his own abilities in kungfu. But actually, he has inadvertently devised a superior skill through cooking, from making mantou and noodle, and is responsible for giving Andy Lau pointers.
Jackie Chan accepted the role due to his promise to producer Albert Yeung as well as his anticipation to play opposite Andy Lau again. Jackie Chan was invited for a major role initially, but due to schedule conflicts with his other project Chinese Zodiac, he could not spare too much time on this film, and picks a cameo role instead,” I was told at first that my role would be a cameo, requiring only a few days, now I have to shoot for 14 days, from daybreak to nightfall, it doesn’t seem like a cameo…”
To Jackie Chan, the biggest challenge is not cooking but having to espouse Buddhism to Andy Lau while cooking. He has to deliver many difficult and tongue-twisting Zen verses. Often Andy Lau would show him little notes to help him get through.
So, how’s the martial arts skill of Andy Lau who hasn’t done any martial arts films in a while? Wu Jing reveals that when they first met, they had a duel, and he lost, but he stresses, “It’s abbot Yu Hai’s instruction for me to lose on purpose, for he was threatening us with his gun.”
Yu Hai gets promoted to the abbot
Yu Hai, who played the Shaolin martial arts instructor Tan Zong in the original Shaolin Temple movie with Jet Li, is taking on the role of the abbot in Shaolin 30 years later, “I was playing a warrior monk in the previous Shaolin Temple film. This time around, in Shaolin, I’m playing the abbot.
“Apart from getting a promotion, I have more drama rather than action scenes compared to the earlier film. The abbot I’m playing is very benign, very patient and possesses great wisdom, it’s a very memorable character to me. Andy Lau is great, so amazing that I thought he has studied kungfu before.”
Wu Jing becomes more pensive
Having stayed for 7 days at Shaolin Temple for a retreat, Wu Jing says that he felt very sublime and happy for the seven days, and he has also become more tranquil. “It changed my perspectives on life, if there’s a chance, I’d love to go back.”
Except for Jackie Chan, who is keeping his hair as he has to shoot Chinese Zodiac, everyone else playing a monk sports a bald head. Jackie Chan, who is wearing a hat, smiles, “Just when my head was being shaved, a crew member halted it. In end the I could only shave a ring, now my hair is very ‘yeah’.”
Wu Jing, whose head has to be shaved every three days, jokes that he can save on shampoo, but he has to buy more hats to cover his head. Wu Jing’s character fails to take notice of Jackie Chan and hates Andy Lau to the core for his past atrocious deeds, causing sufferings to the masses, resulting in millions losing their lives, kin or homes. Wu Jing, who just did some scenes opposite Andy Lau, gives thumbs up to Andy Lau’s action scenes, “He moves like one who has had ‘night porridge’ (martial arts training).”
On Yu Shao Qun and Bai Bing’s romantic relationship, Wu Jing says it’s very conflicting, “Young people tend to fall in love, but rules forbid any monk to be in a relationship, it’s but part of growing up.”
Xing Yu’s homecoming
Shi Yan Neng (aka Xing Yu) practically grew up in Shaolin Temple, which is his 2nd home, “I started training in Shaolin Temple since I was 12 years old. Being the only actor in the showbiz who grew up in Shaolin, I have a sense of responsibility and mission in this film, and thus, I have been making numerous suggestions on it.”
Xing Yu is quite bowled over by the uncanny resemblance of the Shaolin set, observing that there are some parts that are even more intricate than the actual Shaolin Monastery, even the Buddha statue is very awe-inspiring.
Yu Shao Qun wants to be swarthy
There are two romantic plotlines in the film: between Andy Lau and Fan Bing Bing, and a more hazy relation between Yu Shao Qun and Bai Bing.
To better portray his character, Yu Shao Qun specially requests the makeup artists to give him a tanner complexion, so that he would look closer to his character as a warrior monk. Yu Shao Qun says that he is playing an adorable and cheeky monk who is the temple’s fruit of happiness, “I’m playing a monk with none too exceptional skills. Wu Jing plays my eldest senior, we just completed a post-war scene in which he sacrificed himself in a battle with Nicholas Tse and we’re are sending him off.”
Fan Bing Bing finds the film moving
Fan Bing Bing says, “Director Benny Chan’s Shaolin features a brand new story. It has just begun production not long ago. Andy Lau plays a warlord, I’m his wife and we have a daughter. This is about a warlord turning over a new leaf, showing the changes in humanity, it will move the audience greatly.”
Shaolin is expected to wrap up around end of April for a December release.
China is plunged into strife as feuding warlords try to expand their power by warring over neighboring lands. Fuelled by his success on the battlefield, “young” and arrogant warlord Hou Jie (Andy Lau) sneers at Shaolin masters when he beats Jing Neng (Wu Jing) in a duel. But the pride comes before a fall.
Soon, Hou Jie is betrayed by Cao Man (Nicholas Tse), who is the 2nd-in-command and his buddy, and walks right into a trap and gets waylaid by rival warlord Song Hu (Shi Xiong Hong). To make matter worse, his wife (Fan Bing Bing) deserts him, while his child is killed. The crestfallen and heartbroken Hou Jie seeks refuge at Shaolin.
Hou Jie is on the verge of giving up his life when he becomes acquainted with the cheery Shaolin cook Jackie Chan who helps him see through life. He also resolves his conflicts with fellow monks Jing Neng, Jing Hai (Yu Shao Qun) and Jing Kong (Xing Yu). After becoming enlightened, he takes the tonsure.
As the civil unrest spreads and the people suffer, Hou Jie and the Shaolin masters are forced to take a fiery stand against the treacherous warlord Cao Man and his collaborator Suo Xiang Tu (Xiong Xin Xin). Led by Hou Jie, they launch a daring operation. Netease, Sina, Sohu, China Film