In this interview, maestro martial arts choreographer Yuen Wo Ping gives a blow by blow account of the choreography behind Forbidden Kingdom.
It has always been my practice to choreograph the action based on the script as well as the personality of the character, this is very important. Jackie Chan plays Drunken Immortal in the movie, he’s more outgoing and lively, as well as suave, he loves drinking, it’s like he’s roaming the mundane world casually.
Initially, he’s a carefree, laidback person who is reluctant to fight, but to save Jason, he has no choice. So, these are the characteristics that are being reflected on his action scenes, coupled with some comedic touches that are his fortes.
I know that the audience is greatly anticipating the major showdown between Jet Li and Jackie Chan, so do I. I also hoped that they would have more fights but in the script, they only have one duel. So, what I have to do is to make this scene flawless.
I choreograph this scene according to the two Js’ martial arts styles, what moves to deliver, and how to counter, all these are based on martial arts theories, the audience may not understand the theories, but they should be able to appreciate the gracefulness and gloriousness of the action. I am quite happy with the result, but if the audience doesn’t get a kick out of this, we’re only half successful.
It’s the director who gives me the inspirations for the ideas behind incorporating these classic moves from Hong Kong martial arts movies – Crane Fist, Praying Mantis Boxing, Snake Style, Tiger Form, Eagle Claw, etc.
He is a super martial arts fan, he’d always shows me what moves he wants through his own action, he says that he saw all these movements from Hong Kong martial arts movies. So, I might as well have all those moves incorporated into this scene, while not altering the signature styles of the two Js. This will bring back fond memories of the classics. Moreover, these moves are so familiar to them. And remembrance is not such a bad idea, it gives the audience a chance to savour the classic moments again.
In order to distinguish between Monkey King and Silent Monk, apart from Jet Li’s acting, the action for Monkey King is more mischievous, more delightful, while Silent Monk is calmer, more introverted, the scene when he first makes an entrance is very cool, and it’s closer to the Jet Li that the audience is so familiar with.
As Jade Warlord played by Ngai Sing is a deity, we are using some special effects here. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to blend special effects with live action here. It’s my nature to be after more authentic martial arts sequences, so the CGIs are for creating something beyond the human physical limits, and must be within reason.
As for the finale, I don’t have any objections to the two Js not fighting side by side. For it would be a bit lowbrow and crass if it requires both the two martial arts masters Jet Li and Jackie Chan to team up against a single antagonist. Unless the script puts them together in the ultimate battle of good vs. evil, I believe that it’s better to let them display their capabilities separately.
As far as the martial arts scenes are concerned, everyone is focusing all their attention on the battle of two Js, but I feel that every action scene is just as exhilarating, such as the White Hair Demoness using her hair as a weapon. Originally, only the whip was her weapon, while her subordinates’ weapons come in exotic shapes and sizes. In order to highlight her nefariousness, I thought the whip was somewhat monotonous, so we introduce her long hair as a weapon too, the effect would be stronger.
Based on the build of Liu Yi Fei’s Golden Swallow, I give her twin butterfly knives and darts, to highlight her agility and lightness. The Jade Warlord uses a giant crescent blade in order to lend a sense of authority and weight to his character. A martial arts director must not only understand the action but also the artistic direction, the music, and other form of arts, the complexity of their job is sometimes greater than that of the director. The Beijing News