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Kung Fu Hustle - Stephen Chow interview



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. How do you top this?
A.
What’s next? I really want to know, I hope somebody will tell me if they have any ideas. I’m working on something.

Q. Is Hollywood interested in getting you over? And would you be interested in Hollywood?
A.
I didn’t hear about that. I think that I would be interested in working with some other talent from all over the world. With someone who has a real passion for movies.

Q. Tsui Hark thinks you could make a successful transition, because you speak good English?
A.
You think so? Actually, right now my plan is just to focus on directing for my next project. Not to act, direct and write the script and produce – all that work at the same time is really tough.

Q. You become divine in this film – are there no limits to your creativity?
A.
There is a limit. There were some scenes that I couldn’t get into the picture; I was unable to do them because I have a lot of limits. Originally in the script there was a scene with a kung fu master fighting with a shark underwater. We found it was very difficult to do, so we gave up on that idea.

Q. There have been a lot of comparisons to Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Chow Yun-Fat – how does that make you feel?
A.
It’s an honour to be compared to them. But I think I’m quite different from them because I’m more of a director. For me, I’m more like a filmmaker because I create the idea and produce my own film.

Q. Were you inspired by their films?
A.
Yes, Bruce Lee, especially.

Q. And given the comic nature of Kung Fu Hustle, were you also inspired by comedy stars?
A.
One of my favourite comedians of all time is Charlie Chaplin.

Q. Can we also assumed that you're a fan of Hollywood musicals?
A.
I haven’t seen Top Hat [poster in the film].

Q. But there seems to be a lot of visual references to other films throughout Kung Fu Hustle?
A.
I have seen Casino, Good Fellas and Once Upon a Time In America, but I didn’t think of those movies when I made Kung Fu Hustle.
It may have affected me subconsciously. If you ask me about influences I would say the Shaw Brothers’ movies in the 60s influenced Kung Fu Hustle more than any others.

Q. Were you ever concerned about the violence going too far – and finding the right balance between the violence and the humour?
A.
Yes, the balance is hard to find. In this story, because it’s a story about the battle between good and bad, first of all I have to build up a bunch of gangsters to be really scary and horrifying.
It’s hard for me to avoid all of that, because when you talk about a bad guy there has to be some description of how cruel they are. But actually I already tried my best to eliminate the violence, keep it to a minimum.
But still, how they kill people and carry out their crimes, if I don’t have this in the beginning of the film then the whole structure of the story fails.

Q. Is the UK cut the same cut as in Asia?
A
. I think the Asian version has more blood. But I don’t think they’ve cut it too much, there are no specific scenes that they took away. They just took away the blood.

Q. Was the character of the landlady inspired by someone you know?
A.
Yes. There was a landlady I met a long time ago, because I stayed somewhere similar to the Pigsty when I was a kid. There was a landlady like that there.
It’s always this image with a landlady and landlord, with rollers in their hair. They’re not as violent as in the movie but they are tough, because they’re like the king of that place, everyone needs to pay rent.

Q. So the inspiration came from when you were much younger then?
A.
It was when I was a child. Basically, the landlord and the landlady are based on a real situation but, of course, with the hidden masters, I made that up.

Q. You managed to bring some kung fu stars out of retirement for this, didn't you?
A.
Yuen Wah was always in my mind because he has never left the movie industry in Hong Kong. He has been acting in TV comedy for a long time. I saw him on TV every day, so he was straightforward to cast. When I thought about the landlord, Yuen Wah was the first person to come to mind.
The landlady did take a long long time to find, someone who is old and fat and can do all these stunts, it was very difficult.

Q. Which is more important to you as a director, comedy or action?
A.
Comedy. But actually, in my own opinion, if I had to pick one out of these two elements, it would be comedy. Yet the structure of the story is the most important thing in all of my movies.

Q. Have you ever received any injuries while performing any of the stunts?
A.
Not yet.

Q. But what lengths do you go to keep fit?
A
. I train regularly, because the kung fu training for me is not only for the performance but also it is the way that I relax. It’s a release.

Q. Is Stephen Chow, the director, hard on Stephen Chow, the actor?
A.
Yes, but that’s why I train. I’m extremely busy and running around requires a lot of energy.

Q. And what does Stephen Chow, the actor, think of his director?
A.
He’s a good director in my opinion [laughs].

Q. Is originality difficult within the kung fu genre?
A.
It is, that’s why it took me three years to make the film. To make a kung fu film is quite easy. To make a good kung fu film that's totally different from any other is something really difficult.

Q. Did you aim for that?
A.
Of course.

Q. How does it feel to be a hero to young fans?
A.
I never thought of that. Do you think I am a hero?

Q. An admirable hero, a good guy as well as a good fighter?
A.
Yeah, it’s good. I’m happy to take on that responsibility.

Q. Do you find yourself mobbed in Hong Kong now that your fame has grown?
A.
No, I’m not a big star like Jackie Chan. I’m more like a film producer, a filmmaker, and I think that’s how they look at me there. I’m absolutely free all the time, nobody chases after me. I don’t have those problems.
I’m not an idol or a star. Actually, I make a movie once every three years, so people don’t really remember who I am.

Q. There are a number of very romantic moments in the film – are you a romantic at heart?
A.
I believe that I am, yes.

Q. And where did you find leading lady?
A
. Actually it wasn’t so difficult. I didn’t have much time because I was so busy casting other roles. I didn’t really have that much time for the casting of the girl, everything was a rush, but I met her in a hotel and I thought she was very professional. And I think I was right to cast her, I think she’s good in the film.

Q. And how are your back muscles coming along? I hear you wanted to achieve the same look as Bruce Lee?
A.
I still need to work some more. I designed a machine mainly for my back muscles, I placed it in my hotel room and could train myself every morning and every night because I like to take off my clothes.
The choreographer, Mr Yu, I asked about taking off my clothes [shirt] and in the beginning he said ‘no’. I trained even harder and then asked him again and he said 'yes'.

Q. Where did you find the energy to continue training after a day's filmng?
A.
I don’t know [laughs]. But that’s true, every time I complete a movie and I look back, I ask myself how I did it. Sometimes I don’t understand how I could do so much work at the same time. But I get it done. That’s why I wish I could only focus on one or the other in the future, either acting or directing.

Q. Will you be taking some time off in the future?
A.
Oh yes, of course. I have a short break. But it’s never ending work. Right after you finish shooting, you face another issue like the post production, and a lot of CGI is waiting for me to approve. It takes one whole year for all these animations and special effects.

Q. What was it like working with Mr Yuen?
A.
First of all, I come up with some ideas and I talk to him about the ideas. Normally he will agree with me. Actually he is great, and although he looks like a very traditional Chinese grand master, he is someone with an open mind. He is so flexible, no matter how crazy an idea is, he tries to work with it and figure out how we can make it happen. That’s the process.
All the time I talk to him about my ideas.

Q. Did he veto the underwater shark fight?
A.
Actually the CGI people told me ‘no’. He would have done it.

Q. Why are Asian films so popular now in the foreign market?
A.
It’s because they’re good. Good ideas are always popular around the whole world.

Q. There does seem to be a lot of Matrix references in this film? Was that deliberate?
A.
The idea of my character becoming ‘The One’..... that’s not a Matrix joke. I think that idea of ‘the One’ is originally from that old Hong Kong kung fu folklore, a long time ago.
It makes sense to us, with the story of a man from nowhere becoming a Superhero; the One, is commonly used in kung fu novels or comic books in the old days. I think The Matrix took that idea. So, for me, it’s our traditional story structure.

Q. You must be very satisfied with the success of the film?
A
. No matter how difficult it was, when you realise that the audiences are enjoying your film that makes it worthwhile.

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