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PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2003 8:15 pm    Post subject: Tony/Maggie's 2000 Toronto press conference for ITMFL - Pt 1

The entire transcript may be too long for one message so I'm splitting it into parts.

Reporter and moderator questions are paraphrase. They're not exact quotes. Unless the reporter has the mike, any comments by the reporters are not amplified and can't be heard.

Quotes by Maggie and Tony are transcribed to the best I can detect what they're saying and sometimes without the repeated words. Though Maggie was animated and outgoing, often joking, Tony was extremely soft-spoken (sometimes his comments were barely audible even with a mike in front of him) and reserved. Maggie is wearing a black crewneck shirt with printed decal on front and short, black leather jacket. Tony is wearing a red crewneck sweater over a white dress shirt.

2000 Toronto Film Festival Press Conference (9/7 - 9/14/00)

Question: Speaking for WKW (who's not present), could you describe the development of the project and when you became involved with it.
Tony: "I think it was almost a year ago when he comes up with an idea that he wants to make a movie about an affair so that's how he start." [He smiles.]
Maggie: "And I think at some point he adapted the idea from a Japanese short story that is about 2 neighbors and it's very much about the 2 people going up and down the staircase and seeing each other in the staircase. And that gave him the idea to have the neighbors and with the staircase and all the rest was just improvised after that.

Question: Improvised by him or improvised on the set?
Maggie: "On the him." [She laughs.] "Both."

Question: Can you tell us the manner of working?
Tony: "Working with Kar-wai? I think it's a very different film working for other directors because he never has a script...complete script...and he just came up with an idea and he used to develop the stories and characters on the set."
Maggie: "And the project, yes, it was from start to end was 15 months but we didn't shoot the whole 15 months. It was on and off because we had a lot of technical problems because of what I just said to find a set with 2 houses next door to each other with a staircase was very hard. And it had to look like from the '60s And in Hong Kong, it's almost impossible to find a set like that. So that took a long time. And then the locations, he wanted to shoot in Macau and at that time, Macau was having some political problems and we couldn't go there. And then Thai food and people getting sick. Y'know one thing leading to another that the process took very long."

Question: Why did he want to shoot in Macau?
Tony: "I think it's because...
Maggie: "I don't remember anymore." [Chuckles.]
Tony: "It's hard to find any outdoor scene now in the '60s...yeah, very similar..."
Maggie: "In Hong Kong."
Tony: "in Hong Kong...and so, so..."
Maggie: "And Macau has a really beautiful hotel that he wants to shoot there."
Tony: "Yes, yes
Tony: "And that's the reason why we have to go to Thailand too for the outdoor scenes because the buildings much more similar to the '60s in Hong Kong."

Question: Any talk of building it in the studio?
Maggie: "I don't think he likes to shoot in the studios unless it's a real period because it has a very different ambience you know in terms of sound, in terms of the whole feeling of the place. I don't think that it was even considered studio shooting."
Tony: "Yeah. No, no, no." [Maggie and Tony shake heads.]

Question: Are you over with your jet lag or are you still sleepy?
Tony: "Still sleepy." [Maggie and Tony laugh.]

Question: Was the scene actually in Singapore?
Tony: "Actually, we shot that in Thailand
Maggie: "Actually it was Hong Kong and Thailand, not Macau."
Tony: "Not Macau."
Maggie: "We gave up on Macau in the end. We couldn't go."
Question: What about the scene in the hotel where you touch the pillows?
Maggie: "That was in Thailand also."

Question: How did you get into the mood of Hong Kong in the '60s?
Maggie: "I think, um, we were first frustrated that the film just went on and on and on. But I think one good thing that came out of it was that because it took so long to make we had time to really get into it, especially for myself. How I looked in the film: the hair, the makeup, the dresses. I had a hard time to deal with it at the beginning. But after 9 months, you know I got used to it and everything became very natural be like that. And I think it was the time that really helped know, the process of the 15 months."
Tony: "I think because of the scene of the neighbors it recalls me of the times of my childhood because I was born in the '60s. And it really gets me in the mood after that scene. I can still remember when I was a kid. The neighbors were very close to each other and we know each other very well. We used to go to the neighbors to play there every day and we never closed our doors. And that makes me get into the mood."

Question: Tell us how the wardrobe was developed and how it contributed to the characters.
Maggie: "I think William, the art director of the film, he has always wanted to make a film with qi pao, the Chinese dress..."
Tony: "Cheongsam, cheongsam."
Maggie: "..cheongsam because of the memories of his mother. That's what she only wore in the '60s, which is the same for my mother, too because I still have old photos. And I think it was his idea and his dream to concentrate on just Chinese dresses for the whole film. And in terms of the fabric, you know he did a very good job in making them. But I think and also because of the film is so much about in the house, in the office and downstairs. There were like just 3 or 4 sets and it's only 2 of us. Different dresses helped the film to let us see the time pass, the time passing in the film like it will sort of identify something like this is another day or it's another week. And that's why there were so many of them. Otherwise it's very confusing for the audience. You're always indoors and it's always nighttime. What's going on? Is this scene directly from the last or has time gone past? So I think that was also done for that reason."
Question: What about your suits, Tony?
Tony: "It's really tight and not easy." [Maggie laughs, Tony smiles.]
Tony: "But it helps me to get into the character. I think it restrict my body language...maybe kind of the body language of the people in the '60s. And it really [can't figure out word he's saying] ups to the hair gel. It takes about 3 days to get it off...[Maggie and Tony laugh] even with wat...even with dishwashing detergent. I tried with that and it can't get it off."
Maggie: "Well, mine took 3 days to set up." [Maggie laughs while Tony is still smiling.]
Tony: "After I, after I don't fed [?] up with that, I know I get into the character already." [Tony smiling.]

Question: The outfits were restricting but they put you in a complimentary way.
Maggie: "But I think that's pretty much how the people were at the time. And that's why I said after a while from not liking how I looked in the film or having to wear the dresses because they restricted me so much and yet it was...that helped me to move the way a woman did in the '60s. Otherwise I'll be just exactly how I am. And you know, that's not very believable. [Maggie and Tony laugh.]

Question: This is for Maggie. How did you like working for WKW? And was it difficult to get used to his working style again?
Maggie: "Uhh, yes because it's been awhile. And I always knew that he worked without a script and he always built the whole story around the characters and that also with the mind of who is playing the characters. So everything is built from zero. And from one scene it would inspire him to the next, and the next, and the next. And it took me a long time to really, uh, forgive him for being like that you know, if you will. Um, because at first, I really found that...why do you have to make films like that? Why can't you get it all prepared and then we start shooting? Instead of having 30, 40 people on the set every day waiting for you to be inspired. But then after awhile, I realized there's nothing I could do about it. That's his style. And to love him as a director or as a friend, you just have to just accept that's the way he is. And in the end, I think that's the magic in his films. You know, that's where it all comes from because that's him. His character. And it creates the kind of sexiness or the spontaneous feeling in his films because of his ways. [Tony briefly looks like he is fighting off his sleepiness with the hard blinking of his eyes.]
Question: Tony, did you share this frustration?
Tony: "I, I, I, actually, I don't have that kind of frustration because I've been working with Kar-wai for, for quite a long time and I get used to his way of making movies so actually it's quite easy for me. So I don't have to think too much because I don't know anything about the stories or... I just have to .... live in the character and just be myself."
Maggie: "I think Tony had a better attitude towards that cause he knew right from the very beginning what's going to happen. He's worked on his last film and the film before. For me, it's been almost 10 years since Days of Being Wild and Ashes of Time doesn't count because I was just there for just 2 days. And that's why it took me really much longer to adapt to that way again and I used to ask a lot of quesitons like..."
Tony: "Every day." [Tony chuckles.]
Maggie: "..every day. What's going on? You know, what is my character? Can you tell me more? I just need to work on this, give me some space. And I'll speak to Tony about it because there was no one else to share this frustration with me. And he would just say: 'Chill out, you know. Relax. Just do as you're told and stop asking questions.' How come you don't care? But he says it's not about caring. It's just nothing you can do. There's no point in asking cause he'll give you an answer which will not be the answer in the end. He'll just say it to shut me up or something. So in the end, I stopped asking questions and I found it actually quite easy to work that way when you just do it with an instinct on the set at that moment and just let it flow and not be prepared."

Question: In Days of Being Wild, you have the same name as in ITMFL. Did you ask WKW about that?
Maggie: "I think it came from me asking questions every day 'who was my character' that he, in the end, says 'Oh, you're Si Lu-Zhen. You're the girl from DOBW. Okay." [Maggie laughs.]
Maggie: "And actually it was just a joke at the beginning. But it did become a kind of base for me to work on. Cause once he told me that - oh, okay, at least this was something I could grab onto and build. And it really helped and we both believed that it's possible that this girl when she's 10 years older, she could have been this woman. She could have grown into this woman."
Tony: "You can be anything in Wong Kar-wai movie. Anyone."
Maggie: "You can be anything, but why not the same girl?" [Tony and Maggie laugh.]

Question: The Japanese short story, do you know who wrote it?
Tony: "We don't know. We just received 2 ... 2 sheets of paper." [Tony chuckles.[
Maggie: "It's just...yeah, it's that short. But it's's really short but it's very intense and it's a very good story."
Tony: "Very sad story."
Maggie: "Very sad. It's very chilling. Just a few pages. Very simple about these 2 people walking up and down these stairs and having eye contact and that's all."
Tony: "And they kill each other. They committed suicide."
Maggie: "And they committed suicide. It's a very, very simple story. But maybe we can get the information from Kar-wai of..."
Tony: "We have no idea who wrote it."

Question: Anything consistent or a through line that you can hold onto? Or is it completely wild?
Tony: "I don't think there's really anything to grab on so that's why she asked a lot of questions on the set. The only thing we had was sad story. Sad story and uh..."
Maggie: "Yes, we know it's forbidden love. Uh, we know that it's about regret as usual. Uh. What else? Wasn't much..." [Looks at Tony for help.]
Tony: "Actually, we did play two roles in the movie."
Maggie: "Right, and also at the beginning, the idea was that we would play the husband and wife, too, as well."
Tony together with Maggie: "And wife too."
Maggie: "We were supposed to do that. But in the end, because he liked our parts the way that it was going that he didn't want to distract the audience by confusing even more now that are they husband or are they then themselves so he gave up the idea. But that was one of the ideas."

Question: He could have had other actors play the spouses but he chose not to show them. Why?
Tony: "I think he wants us to understand more about the other characters. I don't know why."
Maggie: "And I think also he wanted to magnify these two people...uh like the audience will only see them and what is going through them. And if there were other characters, and suddenly the story will drift off to the other two. He wanted these two characters to be all you see in the film and this is all it's about."

Question: Without a script, was the movie shot in chronological order? For Maggie Cheung, how does it compare working with Western directors in Irma Vep, Chinese Box to Wong Kar-wai?
Maggie: "Um, first question. I think, um, because he inspires one scene to the next. Like today we'll do a scene. What comes out of it will inspire him to write the next scene so in a way in his head, it's in some kind of order. But it doesn't mean it's in order because by the time he edits it everything is torn apart and replaced again. And the whole story is retold in a different way. So, it's yes and no. And in terms of my experiences, I mean, working with Kar-wai is just natural to me because I've worked with him since his first film and at that time he was very young and I was very young. And it's just kind of like a part of what I've been through in terms of my career. It's more like what I have to do when adapt to work with Western filmmakers, which is... I don't think there's a huge difference because it's just the same thing in terms of making a film technically and what goes on the set. But every time you have to adapt more to the director himself and actors and doesn't matter if he's Western or Asian. It's the same thing. I think everybody are individuals and have their own characters. And each time is a new story. And it doesn't make a difference for me."
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2003 8:16 pm    Post subject:

Question: Was the Cambodia historical footage a political signature?
Tony: "I don't think...I think he just wanted to... it's just representative a period of time."
Maggie: "And also to expand the world because the whole film is so much a microscope looking at these two piece of dust in the world. You know these two people can mean a lot when it's microfied [sic] or they can be nobody. It's just another two nobody and it's only the story. But when it goes to the end of the film, he wants to like draw back the whole thing and tell us the world is big. And there are other things going on. And what is happening to them is just something very personal and small. You know, it's like zoom in and zoom out."

Question: In 1966, a lot of neighbors have left. Was there a political intention?
Maggie: "I don't think so. No, it's just about the society, the world itself. You know, what's going on in the world. But I don't think he wanted to pinpoint on anything political or to sudden [?] subject. But it so happened that was the time. And if it wasn't this, it would have been another piece of news. It's like, you know, a few years has gone by and this is what's going on."

Question: In the final coda, was there any idea to include you in the final section?
Maggie: "Any idea?"
Maggie: "Uh, I did shoot a scene with Tony there. We haven't seen each other for a few years and we bumped into each other there. And...but the scene was cut out." [Maggie chuckles.]
Tony: "Yeah, that was a great scene."
Maggie: "It was a nice scene. It was very touching." [Maggie and Tony chuckle.]
Tony playfully: "The best scene." [Tony looks at Maggie and smiles.]
Maggie: "The best one I was in... DAMN!" [Tony and Maggie chuckle.]
Tony: "But it's not in the movie."
Maggie: "But no, uh, it's just about crossing paths again. You know, fate has it that we cross paths again and we just said 'hi.' And there was one great line that he asks me right at the end of the film, 'Did you call me one time,' and I said, 'I don't remember anymore,' and then the film ends. It was kind of very beautiful. But I don't know why he cut it out. I have to ask him."
Tony: "It was very sad. I wanted to cry. When I, when I, when I speak that line, I really want to cry. It's very touching." [Tony has his left hand on his heart.]
Maggie: "Me too. It's like, 'I don't remember anymore.' It's like..." [pounds right fist onto her left open hand]
[Tony had left hand on heart and lets out a big sigh.]
Maggie: "You know, it's just a way, another way of this woman of letting it pass and kind of telling the audience that it's over. You know, I got over it. And that's very sad."

Question: WKW is said to put the deleted scenes on a website. [Tony and Maggie laugh.]
Maggie: "Well,'s bound to be longer than the real film itself." [Maggie chuckles.]

Question: Is it exhausting or harder to work with a director with no script?
[Long silence by Tony and Maggie. Maggie looks at Tony who is shrugging.]
Maggie: "Well, it can be frustrating if, especially, you've done a scene that you think, you know, was a good scene. But then, I think, in the end, because of the way that we work I really feel I'm part of the building of the story because we're all together in this to build the film. And I think what's more important is the result of the film. I mean, it can be an ego thing for myself that you know, I wish that was in it because I did so well. But at the same time, if it's not best for the film, what's the point? You know, and I can always do it another time.
Tony: "I won't feel frustrated because I never expect anything from him. So no matter what he cuts out, I don't care."
Maggie: "I think it's really if the film is good in the end."
Tony: "Yeah. So..."
Maggie: "It doesn't matter really."

Question: Could you describe working with each other? I could think of a dream cast for a Chinese language film or even an English language film, I would pick you two. Do you have plans to work in the future? Please say yes. [Caucasian reporter]
Maggie: "You go." [Maggie laughs and points to Tony. Tony smiles.]
Tony: "Actually, uuuh, Maggie is very professional and uh, I feel very nice working with her and very comfortable and..."
Maggie: "And another reason is because we've known each other for a real, really long, long time. Cause, um, we worked on this TV soap 15 years ago..."
Tony: "Yes."
Maggie: "...when we were very, very young. And it was actually..."
Tony: "Not very, very. It's just, just..." [Maggie smiles.]
Maggie: "I was at least!" [Maggie and Tony laugh.]
Maggie: "And it took like 4, 5 months to make so at that point in our lives that we spent 4, 5 months really intense...intensively together. And but then having this reunion now, it's like meeting a new Tony because after 15 years, we've grown up to be...not different people but you know, we're older and wiser, etc., etc., etc. [Tony nods.] But it's great working with Tony because I think he's a very sensitive guy. And to have your partner being sensitive is very important for me especially in a film like this. And especially a lot of it has to do with improvising, you know you don't want to have this macho, solid, great looking guy but he's like [grunts] just there, you know, stands on your foot [Tony smiles] or you know hit etc. And yeah, I think it's about understanding each other. And also because we're so different as people. Our characters really different. He's very laidback and whatever."
Tony: "And quiet." [Tony smiling.]
Maggie: "And quiet and I'm like [chatters]. Let's go. Yeah, yeah, yeah, boom, boom, boom. And I think he can relax me a little because of the way he is. And maybe I can give him some energy in the way I am. I don't know, it somehow just works."
Tony: "You push me too far." [Maggie laughs while Tony smiles.]
Tony: "Sometimes." [Tony laughs. Maggie playfully punches him in the arm. They both laugh still.]
Maggie: "But I can't help it. That's the way I am. And we actually, we'll be working with [can't figure the name] next in November, if that's going to happen. At least that's the plan for now. On something very different this time. Something modern and we're bad people this time. And he's my ex." [Maggie and Tony chuckle.]
Maggie: "So maybe we need to do another one in the future that they got together first. You know, it's like suddenly they never got together and he's now my ex." [Maggie chuckles.]
Moderator: "We miss something in between."

Question: I don't know if you want to give examples of when Maggie pushes you too far.
Tony: "No, it's because she's so aggressive on the set. Sometimes..."
Maggie: "I'm not!"
Tony: "You're, you're very aggressive."
Maggie: "Am I?"
Tony: "Yes, if not, you won't ask that much questions."
Maggie: "But I need to know."
Tony: "Sometimes you need to be carefree."
Maggie: "Yes, now I know with Kar-wai. But with Kar-wai, I know you need to be like that. Now I know. But then at some point because I haven't worked on a film without a script for a long time. And it's just hard and I want to do well. And I always feel that if I knew what I was doing I can input a bit more and help... maybe help, you know, and add things and be more creative with the director. But that's why I was like being pushy. But on other sets, I'm less because I have a script. In my mind, I know exactly what's going to go on so I don't ask any questions anyway."
Tony: "Sometimes, I think too many information will restrict your creativity."
Maggie: "Yeah, yeah."
Tony: "I think that's, that's why Kar-wai takes this kind of way of making movies."
Maggie: "Mmm, I can appreciate that now after this one." [Tony nods head.]

Question: Can you give examples of moments when one surprised each other in performances since you were improvising?
[Both ponder with long silence.]
Maggie: "I think there are surprises all the time. I can't pinpoint to a very interesting one." [Maggie and Tony chuckle.]

Question: Do you have problems getting in and out of characters, especially you, Tony?
Tony: "You mean throughout the movie?"
Tony: "I've no problem to getting in the character, but I have problem getting out. It takes so long time and, and, and if you have to keep, keep the continuity of the character so you can't get out. And you know, you don't know when we'll shoot again because we're shooting on and off and so you have to, you know, keep the mood throughout the whole shooting so..."
Maggie: "I was depressed for 2 or 3 weeks after the whole thing because also this is a very special situation because one week after the shoot we were literally in Cannes doing the premiere - you know, going up the red carpet. So all of that was really a lot for me. I wasn't out of the character yet. And I just got back to Paris. I had 3 days at home and then I was packing for Cannes. And before I knew it, I was answering questions, doing the premiere and accepting the reactions of the film. Meanwhile, I hadn't even had it, you know, gone inside me to figure out what the story is, what kind of film I just made. And all of that was like boom, boom, boom. And right after Cannes, I think I had the anti-climax. It's like, wow. And I had the feeling now I have no more obligations. I don't have to get up 5 in the morning anymore for a 3 hour hairdo. It's like I didn't think I would miss it. And I didn't miss it, but it's kind of made me depressed for a little while to think: Now what am I going to do with my life, you know? And I started to plan other things and that gradually made me forget the film and I just kind of went on. But I had this kind of anti-climax feeling. [Maggie nods.]
Maggie looks at Tony: "You didn't?"
[Tony doesn't really answer.]
Reporter: "He's so repressed [?]." [Tony smiles.]
Maggie laughs: "Maybe."

Question: Was the dancing scene improvised?
Maggie: "I think we arrived on set that day and he told us we were dancing."
Tony: "Yes."
Maggie: "We didn't know beforehand."
Tony: "No."
Maggie: "And he brought a teacher on set who taught us right away how to do it."
Tony: "Mmm-hmmm."
Maggie: "And we shot. That scene was fun actually. The only FUN scene in the film that you see these two people laughing." [Tony smiles and nods in agreement.]
Question: What kind of dancing was it?
Maggie: "It was like the Twist. Yeah."
Tony: "Twist."
Maggie: "How did you hear that?"
Maggie: "I think one day Kar-wai is going to put together a 'Making of' for the film and he will put these scenes in. That's what he had in mind anyway, if it happens or not."
Maggie responding to a reporter's inaudible comment: "Yeah, me too."

Question: Tell us about the music.
Maggie: "I think from what Kar-wai told me that he's very influenced by um... He has very strong memories of the radio from the '60s when he first went back, went to Hong Kong cause he's from Shanghai. And he would listen to the radio. And at that time, there were a lot of Latin music on the radio and the Mandarin pop at that moment. There weren't any Cantonese songs so I think all that is from his childhood memories of the things that he heard. And, and...yeah. Because it's hard for us to really answer for him. He's the one who chose the music.

Question: Tony, I don't know if you have an answer yourself since you're well known as a musician.
Tony: "Actually, I'm not a musician. I'm just a freelance singer. Part-time singer." [Tony chuckles.]
Tony: "I found the music very...very strong and very impressive."

Question: Because of the improvisational nature of the film, do you feel like collaborators with parts of you in the film?
Maggie: "Definitely. Yeah." [Maggie and Tony nod.]
Maggie: "Well, purely because I don't think the film would have been the same if it wasn't us. Kar-wai would still have made the same film but the characters would have been different because the characters in the end were inspired by us. Although, I wouldn't say I'm exactly this woman or she, I'm like her. But there are elements about her that from his observations of me, it became that. So definitely I do feel, you know, there's my blood and soul in the film."
Tony: "I agree." [Maggie chuckles, Tony smiles.]
Maggie: "You're so lazy!" [Maggie and Tony laugh.]
Maggie: "Do your work!" [Maggie and Tony still laughing.]

Question: Speak about the suppression and expressionless of WKW's characters.
Tony: "Very suppressive."
Question: No one is ever happy from what I remember.
[Long silence from Maggie and Tony.]
Maggie: "If this is an exam I'm gonna get a 100 points, I got an answer for this. Tony, I want you to answer." [Maggie laughs.]
Tony: "I have no idea why his characters are so suppressive. I don't know why. Maybe because..."
Question: Is it a reflection of the director?
Tony: "Maybe."
Tony: "Maybe it's's kind of the characteristics of the Eastern people...of the Chinese, more suppressive, more restrained."
Question: Less expressive in terms of love, feelings and emotions.
Tony: "Yeah. Not that straightforward."
Question: Reflection of the traditional Chinese.
Tony: "Think so."

Question: Does the director resemble the characters?
Tony: "I do not know to say."
Maggie: "I don't know." [Maggie and Tony speaking over each other, not exactly sure of the comments.]
Question: Is he like them? Is he controlled?
Maggie: "Uuhh, he doesn't give the impression, but I think he is."
Tony: "He's very cool."
Maggie: "He controls his emotions quite well. And, and also adding to your question, I think that's what he finds his sensuality. I, I think, you know, that's where the sensualness comes from for him in his movies. It's because he finds it more sensual that you don't express them to - [in raunchy voice] 'C'mon, baby, let's do it!' You know, it's just another way."
Question: There's a lot of erotic tension.
Maggie: "Yeah, I think he likes tensions."

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