Filming inauguration for City Under Siege was held on a soundstage in Yuen Long, Hong Kong on June 24.
Director Benny Chan says that he had long wanted to do a Chinese type of superhero movie, one that combines that unique characteristics of Chinese Kungfu with special visual effects.
To help achieve this, Benny Chan specially flew in a team of 10 Hollywood professional makeup artists to to create a surreal effect by coming up with various images of a group of circus performers as they undergo various stages of mutations as they, by chance, trigger the release of some kind of toxic biochemical fumes left by the Japanese during the World War II, transforming from (wo)men to beasts/beast-like beings, when they embark on a treasure hunting trip in some mountainous regions in Malaysia.
In Aaron Kwok’s case, having inhaled the least fumes, he won’t morph into a beast. However, he is still subject to genetic changes and he’d turn really fat, become disfigured – his face starting to rot, fester, etc., before finally returning to his original form.
Benny Chan explains that the change in outer appearance is actually a reflection of the change in the character’s mind set. He wishes to express this theme: “No matter how a (wo)man transforms, what is reflected in the end is still their true nature. One should not blame Heaven all the time for one’s misfortunes, for no one’s life is always a bed of roses, there are bound to be trials and tribulations, all kinds of imperfections and regrets, we should just try our best to do our parts, to be ourselves. Isn’t that how Spiderman is?”
It is estimated that City Under Siege will have over 1000 shots of CGIs, and would require at least one year in post-production. Benny Chan indicates that the amount of special effects required has been increased along the way, exceeding half the film’s budget. As the film involves some sets and outfits of alternate reality, William Cheung Suk Ping, the art producer, has to oversee the sets being built from scratch.
Apart from science-fiction elements and action, the film will have two main romantic plotlines. Benny Chan says that he wants to do a humanity-infused action film, such as from requesting the actors to show the stories within their hearts when fighting, to their ups and downs.
Aaron Kwok plays a dagger-throwing clown at a circus. While he is a descendant of the famous Flying Dagger Lee, he lacks the aptitude. Benny Chan says that it’s not easy portray one who turns from a talentless, insignificant person who’s often full of worries and depressions to one who undergoes some miraculous change. Aaron Kwok feels that this character’s personality and emotional turmoil are quite a challenge, and it’s also his first taste of sci-fi film, and his first taste of the pains of makeup that comes with it.
For this image, Aaron Kwok has to spend 4 hrs each day on makeup. And due to weather and allergy to the glue used, he was once rushed to the hospital for treatment when rashes developed on his face. He says that the makeup can help him get into his character more easily.
As a reporter who’s following up on the case of mutation and falls for Aaron Kwok, Shu Qi is being asked if her role is any different from those reporters she meets all the time. She replies bitingly that she’s playing a current affairs reporter, not a showbiz reporter. James Ho will play her assistant.
Ngai Sing hasn’t been doing many Hong Kong films in the past ten years since developing his career in Hollywood. This time around, in City Under Siege, he plays a performer who grows up in the circus. Ngai Sing’s nature changed drastically after mutation, and due to polar views, he and his buddy Aaron Kwok turn against each other.
Ngai Sing says that there are hardly any films that blend science-fiction with kungfu, and due to the amount of latitude the director is granting him pertaining to his character, City Under Siege gives him to highest level of satisfaction in his 25 years of filming.
To Wu Jing, action scenes won’t faze him. He feels that for a film using Chinese martial arts as the basis while being aided by technology, a concept that blends the Eastern and Western ideologies, the toughest part lies in choreographing the moves of the fights between a normal human and a superhuman, as well as the choice of sets and locations. Wu Jing feels that he would give his feedback on the action, but he would first and foremost do his utmost in fulfilling his duty as an actor.
Wu Jing introduces his character as a professional, some special sort of agent that is after the mutants; and his personality resembles Eastern Heretic Huang Yaoshi, he is somewhat obdurate, is an unbending, bigheaded bigot, a male chauvinist, and because of issues associated with his personality, he and his gentle, perfect would-be wife…
At this time, his would-be “wife” Zhang Jing Chu smiled as she quickly interrupts, “Stop spilling the beans already!”
“In the end… to find out, go watch the film in theatres,” rejoins Ngai Sing.
Wu Jing also mentions that he and Ngai Sing just finished a fight scene together. After going through the moves once, they quickly got used to each other’s rhythm, and coordinated flawlessly with each other. Ngai Sing describes that sparks were literally flying between them.
Playing a mutant hunter specialist, this non-martial arts star Zhang Jing Chu would have numerous fight scenes. While she’s willing to learn fighting, due to time constraints, doesn’t have much chance to do more takes. So, the director especially designed various cute and fun “minuscule weapons” for her, “I have always longed to be a swordswoman, now my dream is finally fulfilled. The director told me that, you’re so lovely in real life, how can you always be playing a melancholic woman with kids?”
Zhang Jing Chu says, doing action was quite tough for her initially, but thanks to guidance from Wu Jing, who choreographs and teaches her on the spot, she has learned many things. Wu Jing reciprocates by praising that Zhang Jing Chu is a very diligent actress who is able to endure hardships, and remarks that her moves are adorable but weird.
Zhang Bao Wen, a Sichuan Wushu Team member who’s slowly gaining recognition having appeared in films like Dragon Squad, Iron Lion and Qi’s Army, will be simulating the featherlike movements of cats and foxes, exhibiting nimbleness and lightness in the way she moves and leaps.
The Jiangsu-born Tie Nan is trained in wushu and Sanda. He runs a Sanda training centre and has been in a few films and numerous TV series. Most recently, he played the main villain He Le – the kidnapper – in Wushu: The Young Generation. Tie Nan’s moves will incorporate Tai Chi, with emphasis on displaying power. The two’s participation indubitably add more vibrancy to the martial arts sequences in the film.
The veteran action star Yuen Wah, who absented himself to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Seven Little Fortunes on the same day, is playing Aaron Kwok’s guardian, sharing a very close relationship with him, somewhat akin to that of father and son. After Aaron Kwok’s father was framed, Yuen Wah took up the onus of protecting Aaron Kwok in secret, and would get to flaunt his martial arts prowess.
Other members of the cast include Ben Wong Chi Yin, Richie Ren, Terence Yin, Gary Chiu, Brian Li.
City Under Siege is due for release in Summer/Q4 2010. Sina, Yangcheng Evening News