Wu Jing Interview
Grady Hendrix, April 25, 2005
People who bemoan the death of Hong Kong action films haven’t seen Sha Po Lang Directed by Wilson Yip and starring Sammo Hung, Donnie Yen, Simon Yam and Wu Jing it’s a pitch black cop drama that unfolds over Father’s Day night and it contains the best action seen in a Hong Kong movie in years. It’s deadly serious and lightning fast.
Sammo Hung plays the main bad guy and his right-hand man is played by Wu Jing. Who? Wu Jing is a Mainland Chinese martial artist who comes from the same team (and coach) as Jet Li, and who started out in Yuen Wo-ping’s Tai Chi 2. He’s appeared in Tsui Hark’s Legend of Zu (the bald guy), and several other movies but he’s never had a chance to shine the way he does in Sha Po Lang. He took the time to give us a quick interview about his work on the film.
Can you tell me a little about your background?
I started practicing wu shu around 1980 on the Beijing National Wushu team. It was the same team Jet Li was on, and I trained under his coach, Mr. Wu. I won several championships – about six – and traveled to America a few times for competitions and to teach. I did some coaching in New York, LA, San Francisco. Five of my brothers (teammates) and I went to Ohio for a competition, but I thought it wasn’t fair. The people we were competing against were sincere, but they practice wu shu part-time. We were professionals. I felt really embarrassed about that.
How did you get into film?
Cheung Sing-yim is the director of Jet Li’s first movie, SHAOLIN TEMPLE, and he saw me training. He was looking to make a film, TAI CHI 2, with Yuen Wo-ping and they wanted to use me. But I had to wait until I left the wu shu team, since it’s against regulations to be on the team and to make a film.
Yuen Wo-ping is a very important person in my life. He is my teacher and he brought me into the movie world. He directed my first movie. The first, second, third and the fifth productions (film and television) I made were all arranged by Yueng Wo-ping.
What kind of character do you play in SHA PO LANG?
The first Chinese character in the title of the movie is “wolf” and that’s my character. A wolf is fast and cunning. I look at the rest of the cast and I see them as food. The wolf is a cruel, cruel animal: they take anything they can grab, without reason.
How was working with Sammo Hung?
Interesting. He’s a real gentleman. I treated him as an uncle. Throughout the shoot I learned from him.
Donnie Yen choreographed SHA PO LANG, and he is also one of Yuen Wo-ping’s students. Had the two of you worked before?
We had met socially before, but never spent much time together. We worked together quite a bit before shooting began, but for our big fight scene we improvised the choreography.
The fight between the two of us takes place in a long, narrow alley at night. We didn’t even talk to each other about it. We just showed up that night and started shooting around nine o’clock. The shoot finished at seven o’clock the next morning. We were exhausted but we didn’t want to give up. We’re both really demanding people, and we tried again and again to make it faster and more exciting.
In the scene, Donnie has a metal baton that he uses. The prop was made of wood and he broke it on my wrist in the exact same place…four times! I hurt his hand a few times in the same place, as well.
We’re both good martial artists, and sometimes that makes things easier, because we both know how to fight onscreen.
But sometimes it makes things more difficult because we stand across from each other and we get very competitive.
And, sometimes, it just makes things more painful.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a movie that’s going to be shooting at the end of this year. It’s an action movie, of course, and I’m hoping to do something entirely new with martial arts choreography.