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Hey Kids, so exciting.  I had the great fortune to have an exclusive chat with the legendary producer behind such landmark Hong Kong epics as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower and Lust, Caution.  Each is one of my favourite films.  Bill Kong phoned from Hong Kong to talk about his latest work, Blood: The Last Vampire, as well as upcoming projects with martial arts deity, Yuen Wo-ping and the first Zhang Yimou movie since the directorís Olympic triumph.

Dig it!

 

Blood: The Last Vampire

Producer Bill Kong

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  What attracted you to make a live action film of this Japanese anime classic?  Were you familiar with the original anime by Mamoru Oshii?

Bill Kong:  I think itís the original animation that attracted me.  I saw the original 48 minute animation back in the year 2002.  The premise of a vampire slayer that lived in Japan in the schoolgirl uniform and the air force base; all this background was so unique.  It was so well done.  When I saw it, I thought, ďWell, I can do the action better.Ē  Iíve done a lot of action movies.  It took me almost four years to secure the rights.  It took me a long time to secure the rights, it was complicated.

 

LMD:  Were there considerations you had to make with regard to the Japanese authors or Production IG about things you could and couldnít do with the character?

BK:  No, they didnít have many things like that in the contract.  On the other hand, because we liked the original material so much, we were very faithful to it.  So, it wasnít something that was imposed on us at all; it was something that we felt would be a mistake to change because the most attractive thing about the property was the characters, the backgrounds, all these things.  So, when the authors saw the final product, they were so pleased. 

 

LMD:  Then the authors have seen the film?

BK:  Well, the comment that Mamoru Oshii said was, ďWell, you must let me do the sequel.Ē {Laughs}

 

LMD:  How was Chris Nahon from France chosen as opposed to either a Chinese or Japanese director?

BK:  My co-producer, Abel Nahmias, whoís from France, is also very proactive on the film.  First of all, Chris is a good friend of Abel, and then secondly, Iím a good friend of Jet Li, and Jet recommended him to me.  They worked together on Kiss of the Dragon and they hit it off very well.

 

LMD:  I know you worked together on her film, Daisy, but how did you know that Ji-hyun Jeon {Gianna} was the right choice for Saya?

BK:  Saya must have certain qualities: She must be pretty, and the second thing is, she must speak English, and she must be able to do great action choreography.  Gianna has the first quality; sheís very beautiful, she has a great, great face.  Sheís the most popular actress in Asia.  Because I worked with her, I went to her one day and showed her the animation.  I said, ďGianna, are you willing to play this?  I think youíre very right for the role.Ē   But I told her, ďYou must sacrifice. You must really work hard on your English, and you must really work hard on your action choreography.Ē  And then after she saw the animation, the next day she called me and we met and she said, ďYeah, Iíll do it.Ē  So, for the next 12-15 months she trained.  She did dialogue coaching and learned English.  She was training eight hours a day to do action.  She put a great deal into the movie, as much as we did and she really came through. 

 

LMD:  Thereís so much consideration in the U.S. about ratings and trying to get the broadest audience.  Why did you choose to make Blood: The Last Vampire rated R and were you concerned about that decision?

BK:  Yes, we did discuss a lot about that.  We thought that it was more faithful to the original animation if we went a little more toward action, or a little more violent.  First of all, I donít think the film is suitable for very young children.  Everywhere in the world, we have a restricted rating.  I think certain violence was needed, but we toned down the blood; we turned the blood into black Ė itís not really red blood.  But certain things, we did push the envelope a little bit, because we thought if we make it too much either way, itís just not right for the film.  Itís not faithful.

 

LMD:  There are scenes in the film that remind me of some of your other triumphs like Crouching Tiger or House of Flying Daggers.  Is it important to you that a film is very aesthetically beautiful to look at?

BK:  When we shoot movies, we try to take advantage of the location where weíre shooting.  We have a certain budget and we always try to get the best within our budget.  So, yes, we spend more time in production, looking for the right occasion, the right landscape.  We do spend more time in finding these exotic locations to shoot.  In Asia, because we can still afford it while we can, itís still comparable compared to the States.  Our crew is not as expensive as an American crew or a British crew, so we try to maximize what we have with our money, so the look of the movie is very important.

 

LMD:  Youíve produced so many of my favourite films, Lust Caution, Curse of the Golden Flower, House of Flying Daggers, Hero, Crouching Tiger, what they all have in common, like Blood are very strong roles for their female leads.  Are you attracted to stories that feature a strong female lead?

BK:  Not particularly, no.  To be fair, I think that as a producer, I produce many films and some of those films I do not initiate myself.  Some of them are the choice of the director.  It just so happens that way, but I only try to look for an interesting story.  I donít have the control over whether itís for a female main character.  I donít specifically look for that.

 

LMD:  Is there a difference in approach or how hands-on you have to be as a producer when working on an action film or a drama?

BK:  Iím not a very hands-on producer.  In Asia, itís not like the States where you have to be hands-on, or micromanage a set.  I think itís difficult.  In Asia, we donít do that.  Not many producers do that.  Itís still very much a directorís business, so no; I would say we are not very much hands-on as producers.

 

LMD:  Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

BK:  I finished shooting a film with director, Tian Zhuangzhuang, which is called Warrior and the Wolf, with Maggie Q.  She is great in the movie.  Also, sheís faced opposite a Japanese actor called JŰ Odagiri.  I think itís going to be a very exciting movie.  Thereís another one coming after that by Yuen Wo-ping, the action choreographer of The Matrix and Crouching Tiger.  This time heís the director as well as the action choreographer and itís called True Legend.  And the last one, which weíve just started, is the new Zhang Yimou movie; he is the director of Curse of the Golden Flower, Hero and House of Flying Daggers.  We started his new film.  He took two and a half years off to do the Olympics; this is his first film {since then}.

 

LMD:  What would you like audiences to take away from Blood: The Last Vampire?

BK:  I hope people like Saya.  And Gianna and the rest of the cast and crew, I hope that people really like them.  I hope people do appreciate the action of the movie, because she and everybody else really put a lot behind the film and a lot of hard work has gone into it.  I just hope that people feel excited about the film.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva Vťlez

July 1st, 2009

 

 

 

 

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Photos

Film stills courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films

 

 

 

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