has been afraid to talk to people since he was eight when his dad left him. But yes, he is
still talking to Carina Lau about getting hitched --- by Kelvin
The suave Tony Leung Chiu Wai is a little under the weather today.
Shuffling into a suite at the Ritz Carlton, the 36 year old HongKong Actor flashes a wan
smile at the camera. He settles down in an armchair and fixes his mournful eyes on the
storm clouds gathering behind the window.
His assistant, a jovial roly poly girl, explains in rapid Cantonese that the man might
have the flu.
"I've been feeling very dizzy lately," says Leung, pulling his red nylon jacket
around his lean frame.
"My doctor says I have low blood pressure. It's probably because I exercise too
Best known for his silver-tongued role as Wei Xiaobao in the '80s HK TV serial, Duke of
Mount Deer, he has come a long way since.
"Today, he is one of HK's leading men on the big screen. He has a slew of mainstream
hits under his belt, as well as critically acclaimed gems like HK auteur Wong Kar Wai's
Days of Being Wild, Ashes of Time, Chungking Express and Happy Together. The last two won
him Best Actor prizes at the Hongkong Film Awards.
Recently, Leung worked on the great Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien's Flowers of
So, what is next for Leung, whose soulful eyes -- the mark of a bona fide character actor
-- are easily the most photographed ones in contemporary Chinese cinema?
"Definitely not Hollywood," he replies in soft American accented English.
"Asian actors get very restrictive roles there. I like to do drama. What Hollywood
wants is probably kongfu or action stuff."
He adds:"My home base is Asia. It's my culture and I know my culture very well."
To date, he ranks the eccentric and sunglasses-wearing Wong as the best director he has
ever worked with.
"He's a comfortable guy to be around," reveals Leung, flashing one of his rakish
"He never tells what the script is -- maybe there is no script. i just go to the set,
have a chat and then just act. I never know what the film will be like. And for an actor,
that's great because I don't have to worry. I just act."
Despite "getting sand in my underwear" on the desert set of 1994's Ashes of
Time, which was shot in Yuli, China and being "so homesick I was dreaming of my
mother every night" when Wong kept him in Argentina for more than half a year
shooting last year's Happy Together, Leung cannot wait to work with the director again.
Their next project together is likely to start next month and will also involve Maggie
"Wong Kar Wai still has not given me the script yet," muses Leung, tracing
circles on the top of the side table with a manicured finger.
"Then again, maybe there is no script." Unlike his peers, the roguish actor, who
has a penchant for playing intense loner types (a reticent cop in Chungking express, a
lone swordsman in Ashes of Time, a moody cameo role in 1991's Days of Being Wild), makes
only two to three movies each year. It may be had for his personal finances, he admits,
but that is how he works.
"I cannot divide myself into two or three parts," he explains. "I am one
person. How do I go about making two movies at the same time? How can I be two characters
at the same time? I find that impossible. It's exhausting."
his reluctance to spread himself too thin can be traced to what he calls his "lonely,
"I like to be by myself," he reveals, looking down at his lap. "I hve been
used to loneliness ever since I was a kid. After my father left me when I was eight, I
became afraid to talk to other people."
"In school, When other children talked about their parents, I would get very
embarrassed. I didn't want to mention my father, so I seldom talked to others."
His reticence found its way into his craft.
"Movies allow me to express my emotions without me getting embarrassed. I can cry or
smash things on the set, but no one knows that's just acting or that's how I am really
feeling," explains Leung, who in 1982 joined a year long acting class organized by
Hongkong's TVB television station.
"Like in Chungking express, my character does not have any friends. After work, he
goes home and talks to his mirror. That's me actually. That's real."
Before stepping into the heady world of movies, Leung worked in a glass showroom in a HK
"I was a salesman," he recalls with a barely-audible laugh. "I was selling
home appliances like air-conditioners. Can you believe that?"
Was he any good at persuading the man in the street?
"I was terrible I could not sell anything. And I remember I was so unhappy with my
job at that time."
With his ruffled hair and a devilishly handsome smile that breaks out oh-so-infrequently,
Leung's shy-boy persona can sell almost anything today -- from cop thrillers to art movies
-- when magnified on the big screen.
His charms also attracted his girlfriend of 10 years, Hongkong actress Carina Lau, whom,
he has been ever saying to the press, he will marry "next year".
So is he going to prop the big question or not?
"Yes, but not now," he replies, his eyes glazing over a question which must have
been asked of him about a thousand times already.
"Both of us don't have the time. We are happy just hanging out together. We'll get