Wendy Chan Interviews Tony Leung Chiu-Wai Stars in "In
The Mood For Love"
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. Tony Leung is the winner of the Best Actor award at the 2000 Cannes
International Film Festival. This movie marks Tony's fifth collaboration
with director Wong Kai-wai.
Q: Can you tell
us how you prepared for this role. I know that [director] Wong Kar-wai
doesn't seem to have a real script.
Leung: So, we
don't prepare! (Laughter) We have nothing to prepare. Because at the
very…beginning, the only thing I know is I'm doing a story about a love
affair with Maggie and my character…I am called Chow. My occupation is a
columnist for the newspaper, and that's all I know. And so, we can't prepare
anything. That's the Wong Kar-wai way of making movies.
What I can do is I
started to develop my character through the exterior first. We have to get
used to the costume, and the hair cream, and I think that really helps, the
body language and the movie. Because after you put on that tight suit, it
somehow restricted your body movement. And the hair cream, [it] really fed
me up! (Laughter) It's the same hair cream that they used in the '60s. It's
really, really greasy. And it takes about 3 days to take that stuff off. I
tried different kinds of washing detergents, even dishwashing
detergent…can't remove that greasy stuff!
So actually, we
developed everything on the set. We developed it through shootings; and the
character changed a lot.
Because at first, the
character seems to be a very decent guy, an ordinary working class [person]
in the '60s…So, I try to imagine how my father or my relatives look like
in the '60s. At that time, the economy is not doing very good, everybody is
working very hard for their living. So, it's just an ordinary people…And
in the middle of the movie, Kar-wai said "Why don't' you try to play a
bad guy?" You just do it for revenge. Actually a revenge movie, because
of the hatred of Maggie's husband, you are doing it for revenge. Although it
sounds stupid, at least I have something to get hold of for the character.
And it really helps for me to get around the character.
Q: When I see
your movie, I didn't see your revenge.
Leung: Yes, yes.
He cut all the obvious scenes. You know, this time I think he's trying to do
something more simple by telling the story in a more simple way, more subtle
than any of his previous ones. So why not? Revenge and you don't have to know
about them. When you see his movie, I think he leaves a lot of space for the
audience to imagine what's going on with this guy. What's his motivation of
what he's trying [to do] with this woman.
Q: How many times
have you seen the movie? Just once?
Leung: No, no I
saw it twice in Canada, Toronto, and Hong Kong. And then I saw it once in New
York. Five or six times.
Q: Do you like
the role you play?
Leung: Yes, yes,
Q: Is this your
most romantic role?
Q: Can you
compare another movie that you did with director Wong Kar-wai, "Happy
"Happy Together" seems to be much more simple, the character. And
the character seems to be much more straight forward. It's very different.
It's not as complicated as this one. So, we don't need to spend too much time
to think about how to develop that character. Because Wong Kar-wai is used to
shooting a lot…actually you can develop through shooting different scenes,
although a lot of those scenes will be cut out. But you still have time to
understand your character through shootings. At this time, it seems to be a
little different, because the character seems to be a lot more complicated
than the one in "Happy Together."
Q: Also can you
compare, this is obviously very different, or I am assuming it's a different
way of working from when you are in action films... Is working this way
without a real script more fun? More exhausting? Or frustrating? Or better or
worse in different ways?
Leung: For me,
it's good to work without a script. I think for an experience, as an actor
who's been working in this field for over 18 years, [otherwise] you might have
something very stereotyped.
So if you prepare too
much, you somehow restrict your performance in some ways. And working with no
script is very suitable for me, I think. I really enjoy that kind of working,
and you don't have much chance to work that way…And you can do it by
instinct... there's no boundary, you can do whatever you want, because nothing
is right, and nothing is wrong.
Q: I read that
during the filming you went away to make another film and then came back to
the character. I am wondering if that contributed something to the development
of the character?
Besides [doing] a lot of projects before I made "In the Mood for
Love," I didn't know "In the Mood for Love" would last that
long. It's good to take a break when you encounter a lot of difficulties in
the process of making that movie.
You cannot solve the
problems when you are making that movie, so, after taking a break, I don't
know, somehow I think like I'm glad to be back. And I'm ready. And seems like,
yes, this is the way…I don't know, the first day when I went back to work
with Kar-wai, I just felt like, "Wow, this is how it should be made, this
is really serious." And I was very aggressive at that day, I don't know
why. But Kar-wai said I looked really good that day and why? I said, "I
Do you think your footage [shot] after you came back, is better work?
Leung: I think
so. Maybe after the break, that helped.
Q: How many
films have you made with Wong Kar-wai?
Kar-wai, this is the fifth one.
Q: The final
scene, which was almost impromptu on the way it was shot…has a scene of
you whispering in the hole. What did you whisper in the hole?
didn't have any lines. And Kar-wai just let me do it by myself. I just told
my little secret inside that hole – a lot of my guilt for that woman, of
which, Maggie didn't know, too. Because it's not only the secrets between
us, it's the little secret of me. And I don't think I can carry that for the
rest of my life, and yes, that's what I tell in the hole – I cheated with
a woman, which is quite stupid to do.
Q: Looking back
10 years, in "Hard Boiled" [a John Woo movie] you are supposed to
be a…black-mailing, killer, evil guy, they shut down and rewrote the whole
thing. Did "Hard Boiled" start shooting your stuff…was there a
"Hard Boiled?" Yes, we had a script, a very complete one. And you
know [director] John Woo, he's always well-prepared. Yes, we did a lot of
Q: In general,
in your more commercial Hong Kong movies, do you get to do the kind of
preparation that you do…maybe preparation is the wrong word. In developing
the character, when you get the script, what's locked down? Is that
[when]…you go in there, shoot it, and [don't] have as much of the creative
input into the character? As with director Wong Kar-wai, where you get this
Leung: Ah, no,
we also have a lot of freedom in doing some other movies, like in the
"Mack of Knife." Although we have a real script, we still
improvised at the set. Sometimes, we changed something too; or the way of
how this character looks or speaks.
AC Team: You
make so many good Hong Kong movies, do you plan to make any American movies
or get into Hollywood, like Chow Yun-Fat?
I never planned to establish my career in the States. And I think it doesn't
really matter where you make the movies, no matter it's the States or
anywhere in the world. But the most important thing is the team, or the
project, or the person who you are going to work with, I think that's the
most important. I do have a lot of offers, but I haven't found an
interesting role yet. I think the most important thing is the people, not
which country, or where.
Q: Since you
have been working in the film industry for over 18 years, do you have any
[thoughts] that you will direct a film, instead of acting?
Leung: I plan
to produce my movie next year. Because I think that as an actor, everything
is far beyond my control. It's time for me to get control of something. If I
do have a new idea coming up, or suddenly or one day I see something that I
feel very interesting, why not just make it a movie in my own style? And of
course, I will be the actor. (Laughter) I will try to work out the script
with the script writer, and I'll decide the style of what kind of style I
want to put in this movie, and I can arrange everything. So, I think it
[will be] more fun.