Tony Leung: The charming Grandmaster
Written by: Han Wei Chou
Published in: channelnewsasia.com on January 25, 2013
SINGAPORE: “He is so charming!” a female guest whispered breathlessly, as Hong Kong actor Tony Leung breezed past her into an exhibition hall at the ArtScience Museum, to speak with reporters after a media conference for his new film “The Grandmaster”.
Even at 50, the charismatic Leung still turned heads during his promotional visit to Singapore on Wednesday.
But it was what he had to say about Wong Kar Wai’s martial arts epic “The Grandmaster” which piqued the interest of the gathered reporters.
Leung, who plays martial arts master Ip Man in the film, revealed that one of the biggest misconceptions people have about “The Grandmaster” is that it was a pain for him to shoot.
Even though Leung had to undergo over two years of martial arts training for the role, endure two painful fractures sustained during his training, and spend over four years shooting the film, Leung said he didn’t mind the hardship at all.
“Whatever you do, there is bound to be hardship,” said Leung.
“There is hardship. There is also joy, and a feeling of accomplishment. Hardship is just one aspect of work.”
“There is nothing painful about it. It is people’s interpretation of how I feel,” Leung continued.
As for the years he spent undergoing martial arts training, Leung believed it would have been impossible to play Ip Man successfully in “The Grandmaster” without the training.
“I am not trying to portray a martial artist’s look, but show his spirit. You have to understand it before you have the confidence to do this,” said Leung.
“When I first read the script, I just could not grasp why the characters have these ideas about marital arts.”
“You need to experience it through accumulated practice and discipline. You can only get a deep understanding of these ideas over time,” he added.
“Kung Fu is not so simple. It’s not a self-defence technique or about physical training. Spiritually, it is about training, cultivating your mind, and is a way of life.”
While he did not mind the injuries and the training he had to undergo for his role, Leung found actually having to hit his stunt partners during the film’s action scenes one of his biggest obstacles while shooting “The Grandmaster”.
“I never liked hitting people. I don’t like that feeling,” said Leung with a grimace.
“The action director will keep asking me to ‘Hit him (the stuntmen he fight in the film), treat him like a punching bag!’
“I said ‘I can’t do it, he’s a person too’. He’d say ‘Don’t care about that. Hit him.’
“Then I tell him ‘This is cruel, get somebody else to do it.” said Leung.
What would he do if he was actually attacked in a dark alley?
“If I really end up having to use my martial arts skills, I’d hit him once or twice and run away.”
“I don’t like violence.”
With “The Grandmaster” complete, Leung expressed that he hopes to take a break for now.
However, it might be some time before he can rest, as he’ll be busy with all the promotional activities for the film, which opens in Singapore on January 31.
“Besides Singapore, I have to go to Europe, the US, Korea, japan and other countries which I still don’t know about,” said the actor.
“The word ‘Holiday’ sounds pretty distant.”