Legendary Assassin, a HK$31m film directed by Nicky Li and Wu Jing, with a cast including Wu Jing, Celina Jade, Kou Zhan Wen, Alex Fong Lik Sun, Aoyama Noriko, Jiang Bao Cheng, Sammy Leung, Lam Suet, Shui Hung Hui, Mark Cheng, Ronald Cheng, etc. was introduced at Golden Rooster & Hundred Flowers Film Festival in Dalian, Liaoning on September 11 afternoon.
Legendary Assassin, which began filming in March, went on a hiatus by mid-May and resumed towards end of July, has just wrapped up filming and is now in post-production.
Dreams of Directing
Wu Jing has long wished to be a director since he first stepped into the entertainment industry in 1995, while this wish is only fulfilled 13 years later, Wu Jing does not mind the wait, “I did not become famous overnight. Rather, it’s by taking a step at a time, leaving behind one footprint for each step, gradually growing up, gradually accumulating all the experiences. I’m still young, even though I have been in the field for 13 years.”
On the other hand, he feels that this dream is only half-fulfilled, as he’s co-directing with Nicky Li. He says that in their previous collaborations, both of them had expressed the desire to be a director, and hence, Legendary Assassin. He says that when the time is ripe, he would want to direct a film by himself. Still, he would primarily remain an actor.
In their previous works, they had separate drama and martial arts camera units. Both Wu Jing and Nicky Li’s fortes are martial arts, how do they divide the workload? Wu Jing replies, “My main responsibility is in front of the camera while Nicky Li takes charge of monitoring the camera.”
Being a director for the first time, Wu Jing was rather nervous initially, however, his manager Paco Wong gave him reassurance and encouragement on the first day production commenced, telling him to go all out, and need not worry about box-office or exceeding the budget.
As to the success of the movie, Wu Jing says that he has already taken the first step, and to him, it’s already an achievement; as to whether the film will do well at the box-office, his response is, “We shall see about it.”
Martial Arts Prowess
As producer Ng See Yuen introduces, the film’s title Legendary Assassin suggests a martial arts film filled with a murderous air. It’s the media’s primary concern on how Wu Jing handles the action scenes on his directorial debut, “In Legendary Assassin, we employ whatever arsenal of moves we can use, as long as we can defeat the opponents, it’s a very good move. As to what makes the martial arts scenes special, we approach each scene very differently, using different moves against different opponents. What stands out is power.”
Wu Jing will get to challenge all disciplines of martial arts experts, all in full-contact sparring, no less, as the trailer amply shows. Among all the scenes, Wu Jing considers his fight with the towering Sichuan wrestler Jiang Bao Cheng as the most memorable.
“Standing 2.08m tall and weighing 150kg, it’s very difficult to control my strength when fighting against someone as big as him, how much force should I apply against him? Too heavy, he might get injured; too little force, he won’t feel anything and there won’t be any impact. Moreover, I had to accommodate him as he’s not experienced in filmmaking, taking care not to wound him, those ten days of filming were really taxing.” recounts Wu Jing.
Wu Jing adds that both he and Celina Jade have had their fair share of injuries. While he doesn’t mind getting hurt himself, he feels bad about the female lead sustaining injuries.
Approaching the Drama
Wu Jing says that Legendary Assassin is a film that portrays man’s integrity and sense of responsibility, it’s a wonderful combination of sentimentality and action, and as such, drama scenes play an equally important role in the film.
Drama scenes in this film were Wu Jing’s main worries as a director-cum-actor, and thanks to Ng See Yuen for passing him the secrets of the trade, Wu Jing was able to approach the drama scenes with aplomb. However, he would not let the cat out of the bag.
Upon being pressed by the reporters, Wu Jing enquires, “Can you keep secrets?”
A reporter answers, “Yes, as long as all reporters present can guard secrets, so do I.”
Wu Jing rebuts, “Well, So do I! Secrets are secrets, if everyone were to know, on what do I depend for my livelihood?”
“I can only tell you this – sentiments, he told me to focus on the wushu sentiments,” continues Wu Jing.
Ng See Yuen also advised him before production began that the essence of the film lies in drama scenes, especially the relations with Celina Jade, their affections for each other.
Ng See Yuen has also given Wu Jing tips on the martial arts scenes: There must be a plausible reason behind each fight, so that it won’t feel contrived. Moreover, martial arts choreography ought to reflect varying levels of progression, when there’s a great disparity between two person’s prowess, you should be able to knock out the other with just one move.
It was Paco Wong who recommended Celina Jade to play the female protagonist, Wu Jing explains, “We met over a meal, and the moment director Nicky Li and I saw her, both of us unanimously nodded our heads, and decided, it’s her. Perhaps, it’s fate.”
Celina Jade is unstinting in her praise for Wu Jing’s performance in drama and martial arts, saying how amazed she was at Wu Jing’s ability to control his emotions, easily shedding tears at will when required and then snapping out of sorrow effortless.
Singing his own praise, Wu Jing says, “This is my fourth collaboration with Nicky Li. Both of us are very romantic people. The sweetest moment in when you’re in love but are not certain of the opposite party’s feelings, when both are guessing and trying to figure out how the other feels; both Nicky Li and I possess that kind of romantic feelings.”
Wu Jing has had a very cursory, conspicuously inconspicuous cameo in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, “Since young, it’s always been my dream to fight my senior Jet Li, he’s my idol, I don’t want to miss any opportunity to work with him.”
While Wu Jing appears for barely a minute, it’s an eye-opener for him to witness a Hollywood production in person. However, he has also formed his own views, “Perhaps we are but poor kids who are used to destitution, we’d only spend around US$3m to make a film. On seeing them spending US$175m lavishly on a production, our hearts would ache.”
Citing an example, Wu Jing says for a minor outdoor scene in Huailai, they employed 86 mini-cranes. If they’d spent the money on action, how many more capable stuntmen could they hire?
Still, he says that he has benefited greatly working on the set, having learnt much from Jet Li.
Wu Jing elaborates, “Jet Li is very kind, and he takes very good care of me. My English isn’t very good, and his command of English is good, and he translated what they said for me. When he saw any part of my makeup was not done properly, he’d get someone to re-apply for me. Now, I have even more respect for him.
“Being a director is but an taste of experience, my ultimate goal is still being a good actor. Jet Li told me to look for capable hands to shoot my films, so, directing is just part of a process, I look forward to working with capable directors.
“I hope that One Foundation would succeed, extending help to more people. Brother Jet, I’d work hard in this area too.”
While promoting Mummy 3 in China earlier this month, Jet Li, during an interview, has this to say about Wu Jing, “When the production was hiring Wu Jing, they sought my opinion. Of course, I favoured the idea. While we were 10 years apart in school, we are good friends. Our scenes opposite each other proceeded charmingly. We both learned the same very professional stuff, it was a wonderful collaboration.”
Making a guest appearance in Mummy 3, is Wu Jing planning to develop his career in Hollywood? Wu Jing answers that it’d nice to have such a chance, but he hopes more to spread the Chinese wushu culture to the West, “If Hollywood is the Mecca of filmmaking, than, I’d definitely wish to be affirmed, to break into Hollywood. However, I believe that Hong Kong makes the best kungfu films around the world, there are certain aspects of Chinese cultures that others may not understand as well.”
Wu Jing adds that his manager Paco Wong told him something that left a lasting impression on him, “He said that you should unite all capable people around working towards a common dream rather than you alone leading other people towards realising your own dreams.
“We are a team, we do not want to break into Hollywood individually, we should present Chinese martial arts as a complete package to the entire world. Now that we’re losing out in kungfu animations, we should not lose our grounds further with live action films. It’d a loss of face if we had to rely on foreigners to shoot Chinese kungfu films.”
As Wu Jing’s manager and boss, Paco Wong is forking out HK$30m for Legendary Assassin, which is considered quite a big sum by HK standards, “This film is very costly, when you watch the film, you’d notice money pasted all over the silver screen. Employing a veteran director is very costly, and I can’t scrimp on the production cost per se, so might as well nurture new directors, new actors.”
Currently, Paco Wong has three movie plans for Wu Jing and he hopes to make an actual SPL sequel in 2009 or 2010. In addition, he’s also producing an idol action movie to be directed by Kou Zhan Wen. Nicky Li is in preparation for his next project.
Next up, Wu Jing would be collaborating with director Jeff Lau on a new action film. Further details are not available at this time.
Legendary Assassin is tentatively scheduled for release on November 20. Sina