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PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2004 7:42 pm    Post subject: StudioLA's Wendy Chan interviews: Maggie Cheung ITFML

AC Team's Wendy Chan was invited to interview the stars of "In the Mood for Love," at a round table discussion at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles.

A Wong Kar-wai film, "In the Mood for Love," a USA Films release, marks the fifth film that both Maggic Cheung and Tony Leung, two of Hong Kong's most famed and admired movie stars have appeared in. Maggie has worked with Wong Kar-wai four times.

AC Team: I want to ask you about your dresses in the film. They are very pretty.

Maggie Cheung: We can start with that! (Laughter) Well, they were not exactly easy to wear, because we're in very comfortable clothes these days, and it took me some time to get used to the dresses, to actually feel natural in them, because they really gave me a lot of limitations on my movement.

Because I remember at the beginning of the shoot, Kar-wai would say, "You've been this lazy thing on the bed, you just stretch yourself and reach out and get something," and I tried to do that and you reach out and all the poppers come off and the whole dress would come open, and I said, "You know, I don't think I can do that."

And he goes, "No, I don't think that's a good idea." But from that, I think that's how the character was built in the end, because of the limitations of her movement, that she became very reserved and restrained on how she held herself as a person.

AC Team: Did you pick them yourself?

Cheung: No, we had a real good art director who found the fabrics and got them custom made for me. And each one of them had to be fitted about five to six times to get it really perfect.

Q: How do you think the audience in general, particularly the Asian audience, will react to the topic of infidelity, which isn't often talked about in public?

Cheung: Well, I think that there have been lots of films made on this subject, on affairs or simply love. But this one is a little different in the way that it was told. It's the same subject that we've known…from millions of other films, but this one somehow leaves a lot of space for the audience to interpret what really happens to these two people. The film only suggests, this is the situation, so what really happens is up to the audience. And I think it becomes less offensive, because you are not made to believe in something.

Q: Tony told us that this was a sort of revenge movie. How about you?

Cheung: I think this woman is more the victim than his character in the film, and I think also my character is probably somebody who has been through some kind of pain or rejection in her life that she built a wall. And looking how she looks, it's something that she needs to hide the fragile side of her. She looks very proper and beautiful and straight to other people.

But I think his character had the motivation for revenge, but for me it's more direct. It's like I needed this person to share this with me after I found out about my husband and his wife that my world was shattered, and I really didn't know how to react to it. And he was the only person there who could share this with me, and somehow along the way we built something on our own.

Q: How is preparing a role for a Wong Kar-wai film different than preparing any role for other directors?

Cheung: Well, basically there is no preparation. (Laughter) I mean I did try to prepare once I found out it was a film on an affair. I tried to think about it and imagine it and asked many questions like, "What should I do? What is my character?"

And Kar-wai would give me answers that are not true, which I would find out very soon after he tells me, okay, this is what you do. I'll say, "Oh okay, I'll go home and be happy for two days because I have something to work on," but three days later it's like, "That's not what you told me the other day. This is something else." And I'll be constantly… for the first few months of the shoot, being very disappointed and frustrated and angry at him. "What's going on?" You know? I need to have some structure to work on.

But finally in the end I just gave up on that and didn't try anything else. I just went with the flow and realized this is the way it's going to be. We are going to work on the script and the characters and the mood for the film along the way with what we shot. We looked at the dailies from the day before, and then talked about what was good and what was bad from that day, and it was built from there. So it was a very unusual way, but in the end it worked out.

Q: In "Flip Back to Actress" or "Center Stage," where we actually see you appearing to be discussing your character on screen, was that material actually shot like documentary material?

Cheung: I think it should have been even more documentary. I think Stanley even had the idea using a video [camcorder] to shoot the documentary part. At that point using video for film was quite unusual, now it's nothing, everybody's shooting with a video [camcorder]. And we actually saw each other not so long ago and we talked about it, and he still regrets not using a video [camcorder] and having a more spontaneous feeling to those scenes. Now I think the only thing I would complain about the film is the documentary part is too much of a set-up, it's not natural enough.

Q: You've filled every conceivable genre of film in Hong Kong and the difference in working in "Police Story" to working with Stanley, it's a whole different thing, can you do a little compare and contrast?

Cheung: Well, the contrast is big, but then for me, I don't know how I managed, but somehow I just went with it and appreciated the fact that I was working on different things and this is like a whole new experience and I've learned from different people. But sure, it's very different on Jackie Chan's set, you have 200 people working and constantly on big walkie talkies or big speakers, to the very intimate sets of Stanley's or Kar-wai's or Clara Lo or Ann Hui. I mean for me I prefer to work on intimate sets because I feel everybody knows each other and there's some kind of friendship growing from the time that we are spending together and understanding to the film whereas to a big crew. It's always harder to feel at home when you're with a big crew.

Q: Can you compare and contrast with working with Wong Kar-wai versus other directors that you have worked with?

Cheung: Well I don't think any two different people can be compared, because for me as you see on my list I've worked with so many different kinds of directors, that I never try to compare two people. I think they are individuals, and because of their upbringing and background they become the way they are and it also affects what they want to say in a movie, I think that's the interesting part, to see the differences in them.

Q: In terms of constructing your character, I read that when you can on the set, you asked him a lot of questions. What do you think that you need? What do you most like to have from a director?

Cheung: Well, I need to know what her background is as a person to imagine who she is and how I can go from there. And from information about the character, I can actually work on it a little more and have more input and imagination for the part.

And I always thought I could help more, it can be helpful, because I think reading a script, a different actor reading a script would have a different imagination, and I'm sure the director has his own direction for that character to what the actor thinks. But I think what works the best is always when two people's mind can work together to build something, it's never just the actor or the director saying, "You should do that," because it's his idea in the beginning but he goes to me to deliver it, so it needs to be worked together.

Q: Do you feel that in the process of working on a Wong Kar-wai film, your contribution, your character building grows as it goes on?

Cheung: Well, along the way, I thought I didn't have any contributions, because I didn't have any input because I didn't know who she was, but then in the end it's not true, because I don't think she could have come out the way she is if I wasn't acting her. I think I also inspire him to write the character. If a different actress was playing the part, it would have been something else.

Q: How do you prepared for playing a sexy snake?

Cheung: I think it's all just some imagination. I mean for me, sometimes I can just picture things that I can't explain, and I think a snake just sort of wriggles along the way.

Q: You seemed to have stopped making action type movies at this point. Was that a decision or is it just because not as much is being produced?

Cheung: Well, it's a decision obviously, because in the end what I choose to do is always a decision and action films are still around. But I think I'm not very good at them and there's always Michelle [Yeoh]. (Laughter) Let Michelle do it, I'll do something else. She's good at that. And my interest is not so much into the physical side. I like to work internally with my feelings and emotions more. That is more exciting for me.

Q: What are you working on next? Is there anything in the States?

Cheung: Well, supposedly it was a Hu Shao Shing project for the end of the year, but the latest I've heard is that he puts the project on hold.

Q: Are you going to make any pictures with your husband in the near future?

Cheung: Well, there are no plans, and it won't be the next film that he is going to make because he has just finished writing the script. I mean, it's not something I feel that we need to do to build our relationship or whatever, we are very happy just being husband and wife for now. But then because he's a director and I'm an actress I don't block out the possibility of ever working with him again, but it's not like something that we have to do.

Q: Have you received offers to act in other films from other French directors? Are you open to the possibility?

Cheung: Not yet, but I'm open to anything.

Q: You've been working with so many directors. Who is your favorite one?

Cheung: Kar-wai. I think we've come a long way. I was in his first film. he's like part of my family for me. When you're on the set and you feel really comfortable with the presence of the people, I think that's really important for me, because I'm kind of shy with strangers. And it takes me a while to build up a relationship with somebody, and with him it's been 12, 13 years, so I'm very comfortable working with him.

Q: Do you think there are any challenges that Asian actors and actresses face in trying to make it in Hollywood, whether they are Asian Americans or Hong Kong actors trying to come to the United States and be popular?

Cheung: Well, yes and no, depending on who. But I think so far, I mean it might improve, but so far it still seems to be quite limited on what Hollywood has to offer for Asian actors. Either it's an action film, so you have no problem with Jackie Chan, Jet Li, they already have their space in the industry. But for other actors, it can limit what they play, because somehow I think American films still need to explain why there's a foreign face in the movie, why you are not white, it still needs some explanations for the part.

Q: How about Steven Spielberg's project?

Cheung: Well, I don't think that is happening yet, and I'm not sure if it's going to happen. He has two other projects to do before he thinks about it, so it's not on my list of things to do for now.

Q: Thank you very much.

Cheung: Thank you.
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