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Hey all, I had the pleasure of chatting with The Beast.  Action star of the Golden Age of Kung Fu, Bruce Siu-lung Leung, reenergised his career with his memorable appearance as the villain in 2004ís Kung Fu Hustle.  At the New York Asian Film Festival, for his new film, Gallants, he spoke to me about playing a bad guy for the first time, Kung Fu goddess Angela Mao, shows me his scars from single-handedly beating up 13 thugs with knives and sows the seeds for a Little Sammo and Little Bruce Saturday morning cartoon.

Dig it!

 

 Bruce Siu-lung Leung

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  Mr. Leung, is it really your first time visiting New York City? I understand you went sightseeing yesterday.  What did you think?

Bruce Leung:  Itís very hot.  My first thought is itís very hot and itís very expensive! More than Hong Kong.

 

LMD:  How do you feel about the great reception youíve received from fans at the New York Asian Film Festival?

BL:  The audience is the same worldwide as long as the movie is good.

 

LMD:  At age 62, what do you credit your amazing fitness to?  Do you train every day?

BL:  Yes.

 

LMD:  Was your father a member of the Cantonese opera?  Was there a most important lesson from him that you still keep today with regard to filmmaking?

BL:  Yes, he was, but my uncle taught me more.  The most important thing is the spirit, that everything is learned is important.  People back then had the sense then that when you start something, you have to finish it, that youíre not going to give up in the middle.  Today, people tend to start something and then give up toward the end.  So even at my age, Iím like a youngster but I will continue to go on.

There are a lot of teenagers in Hong Kong that commit suicide.  Itís very sad.  I would always tell the youth that whatever hardships you have, you can overcome it.  If you have the courage to go to such a high rooftop to jump, why donít you have the courage to go and solve the problem that you have?  I find it very weird.

 

LMD:  You were working heavily when kung-fu films first had their huge international explosion in the 1970ís, then you stopped making films and came back in time for the latest renaissance at the start of the 21st Century.  What are the major changes you notice in creating martial arts films?  Is there a particular era of filmmaking that you enjoyed the most?

BL:  Your questions are very hard.  The technology when I started was very different from now, so back then you had to use real kung fu for the movies.  Now, the better technology has helped those who donít know real kung fu.  Itís kind of upsetting to us because thatís how the world and society is changing.  But since thatís how the world is changing, we just let it go and Iím more relaxed now.

 

LMD:  What was it that made you return to films after such a long absence?

BL:  Another hard question!  At the time, I wasnít filming any movies because of political reasons, but my lifeís work has always been in acting, so I wanted to come back out because of that and at the same time because of Stephen Chowís persistence, wanting me to film the movie, thatís why I came back out.

 

LMD:  Speaking of Stephen Chow, how do you feel Kung Fu Hustle {2004} changed things for you?

BL:  It has changed my outlook on life.  Before filming Kung Fu Hustle, all my characters were usually action heroes and when Stephen Chow gave me the role of The Beast, I was afraid to walk out of the costume fitting room for about a month!  A lot of fans asked why would I look that way, I didnít know how to respond.  I realised later on that youíre an actor, so no matter what you do you have to choose different characters.  This is one excuse I use to kind of soothe myself.  Now, Iím more used to it.

 

LMD:  There is a humanity you bring to your characters whether youíre playing a bad guy or a comedic role or an action hero.  What do you owe that to?

BL:  The movies represent peopleís inner feelings and thoughts and also what society is thinking at that moment.  In Asia, the stories in films are a little bit smaller compared to the US.  Thatís why Asian films use a lot of action to bring the audience in.  There really are a lot of good storylines out there itís just that the producers who put money into the movies arenít daring enough.  The film company, Focus Films, which is owned by Andy Lau {Infernal Affairs, Running on Empty}, he really had the guts to put the money into this movie, to film a movie like Gallants because itís very different from all the movies you see.  Itís not categorised as an action film and you canít categorise it as a drama or comedy, so they took a big step with this one to put money into it.

 

LMD:  Youíve been an actor, director and fight choreographer.  Which role is means the most to you?

BL:  All those roles are the same, because Iíve been in the industry since I was 15 years old and the years Iíve been in the industry is probably much more than your age.

 

LMD:  Do you have any memories about my favourite martial arts star, Angela Mao?  You worked together in the 1970ís in The Invincible Eight, Lady Kung Fu {Hapkido}, Deep Thrust & Broken Oath?

BL:  She was one of the main actresses from Taiwan and sheís a very open person.  She was very tomboyish.  Filming with her, weíd just treat her as a regular guy and when she punches somebody itís hard, also.  When we were fighting against each other, weíd use actual strength.

 

LMD:  Another Hong Kong star here at the festival is Sammo Hung.  Can you talk about him a little bit?  You look like you are having a great time together in Kung-Fu Chefs {2009}, which is also playing here. 

BL:  Thatís because it was the first time I worked with Sammo after 30 years.  Originally, I wasnít cast to be in the movie, but they needed somebody to fight against Sammo and the only person who had the guts enough to fight with Sammo was me.  Nobody else had the guts enough.  Thereís a joke between Sammo and me; that the action choreographers were scared of us and they kind of sat on the side not daring to go near us because they were scared of our martial arts.  When they were scared to go up to us, we pretended we didnít see them.  So we were filming the movie and all I had to remember was that it had to be 20 moves, so I counted the 20 moves and once they were over I told Sammo to watch out because I might accidentally hit you somewhere.  After I said that, Sammo had no expression, but when we were fighting I would actually count the moves out loud, ď1, 2, 3, 4,Ē and at the end I actually kicked his hand, but he didnít say anything.

 

LMD:  Was it the same for you two as it had been 30 years ago?

BL:  Itís very different because weíre much older now and because the focal point is different when weíre fighting.  The reactions are not as quick for us.  And because Sammo is still considered Big Brother Big, you have to still respect him in that way around everybody else, so you have to control yourself where you canít hit him all the way.  Iím not scared of him because we both came out -- we both joined the industry -- on the same day.  And when we were little, every time we would fight I would always win, so heís scared of me! {Laughs!}

 

LMD:  Are the two of your trying to show off that fighters are getting better as time goes on?

BL:  Itís my intention to do that.  Itís my intention to show the youngsters, but itís hard because the youngsters donít have as much patience or ability to practise for the extended period of time that you need to practise and learn.  I have about 1,000 students, but not one of them is at the standard where Iím actually applauding them and saying, ďYouíre good.Ē

 

LMD:  It seems like in the US, we donít seem to appreciate Hong Kong stars until they are older.  Can you think of an action star who is coming up that we should look out for?

BL:  If you really want to go and look for one, itís hard to find someone, but that person can show up probably when youíre not looking for them.  Nobody has that kind of hardship attitude where theyíll do the hard work thatís needed from them.  Every day would be ten hours minimum of practising. 

 

LMD:  Is the story about your being attacked and beating thirteen armed men true?

BL:  Itís true, yeah.  At that time, when I was young, I used to practise my kung fu on gangsters, 1 or 2 people.  Then to get revenge, they brought 13 people to come against me. {Rolls his sleeves up and shows many markings up and down both arms}  Those are the scars.  They came with knives.

 

LMD:  Whatís next for you?

BL:  Iím going to Shanghai to film with Chow Yun-fat.  When I collaborated with him years ago we were both actors.  We were playing cops. 

 

LMD:  What should people take away from Gallants?

BL:  On the outside it looks like a martial arts film, but on the inside it has a message about love.  There are two students who have stayed with their master for 30 years and there is a real love between them all and the caring relationship they have for each other keeps the fire burning inside for all of them.  Society has changed a lot and one of the main reasons the director wanted to film this movie was because he wanted to bring back that kind of love relationship.  Right now everyone is thinking about money and politics and things like that, but theyíve kind of lost the aspect of actual love.  The sprit that burns within is not only within youngsters, itís within everyone, and if you put your mind to something, then you should go and do it even if itís win or lose.  The one thing I would like the audience to remember is the caring aspect thatís in this movie.

 

LMD:  Will you please give a message to our readers?

BL:  I hope that everyone will remember love and that if the world were to exist without love, then the world would be colourless.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

July 8th, 2010

 

 

 

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