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Woo babies, I don’t think your Ever-Luvvin Pachyderm has been so excited before a Temple visit (- though certainly we’ve been excited at the end of some of them…). Then again, we’ve never had the pleasure of having one of our true Asian idols stop by. There have been few people on the planet as funny as Stephen Chow, and Our adoration of his unique brand of ha-ha knows no bounds. From All for the Winner to Kung Fu Hustle, we’ve been enrapt at his clever, outrageous humour. His ingenuity is endless and we couldn’t wait to chat with him and his teeth-achingly cute leading lady, Xu Jiao, about their new film, CJ7. 

Read on to find out his answers to my questions about directing, childhood traumas, Dragonball, Journey to the West, and why fans might have to get ready for the end of Stephen Chow’s onscreen career… 

Dig it!

 

 

Stephen Chow and Xu Jiao

 

Mighty Ganesha: CJ7 seems to be autobiographical. What moments in the story can you tell us actually came from your real life and what were you trying to tell us with this story? 

Stephen Chow: There is an incident where I was beaten because I wanted a toy and my parents couldn't afford it, so I was beat because I threw a tantrum. And that left a really big impression on me because I realize now as an adult that my parents worked really hard, but weren't able to afford a toy for me, but when I was a kid I didn't realize how difficult it was for my parents. That was something that I worked into the film.

 

Q: Did you have an imaginary friend growing up?

SC: When I was a kid I had a lot of Japanese comic books and I had a toy that was like a little robot. And then when I got older I was influenced by Bruce Lee.

 

Q: Where there any fantasy characters that may have inspired the creation of CJ7?

SC: E.T. left a big impression on me. Being in the audience and seeing how the audience reacted to E.T. and cried and laughed with him - that left a big impression. A movie that everyone can watch, that the whole family can watch.

 

Q: What was it about E.T. that you found especially interesting or inspirational?

SC: It's just overall the movie, and how it evoked so many emotions in the audience. And I thought about wanting to make a film like that, where you can watch and appreciate and have all these happiness and sadness throughout one film.

 

Q: [For Xu Jiao} What was it like playing a boy?

Xu Jiao: Going to the casting call, I was really worried because there were so many kids going to the casting call. I was really worried and kind of surprised that I got selected. I was very nervous. And I was worried about having to cut my hair.

 

Q: You were great, Xu.

XJ: Thank you.

Q: Stephen, what was the process of choosing Xu Jiao?

SC: At the casting call she was asked to pretend that she was a big shot on Wall Street. Basically, I came up with a lot of things for them to do during the casting call and asked them to do things that normally a kid wouldn't do. She had the most thorough and in-depth interpretation of what I wanted, so she got the job.

 

Q: You've worked with kids before as the host of the TV show, 430 Space Shuttle; what's the secret to working well with kids?

SC: You have to pick a really smart and talented child star. {laughs} She has to be very smart and not a stupid one.{laughs} The whole production was three months, so it was really a quick turnaround and I couldn't spend a lot of time on her, trying to train her. So, I felt it was really important to select someone that had a lot of that raw talent. And she clearly had to carry the film, so it was really important to find somebody who had that calibre of talent.

 

Q: CJ7 has a lot of special effects how was that for you as a director, and how do you see Chinese special effects these days?

SC: We spent about a year in post-production working on the special effects, and I was really nervous going into it. There's really not a lot of special effects in movies that come out of China, so for me, this was also new territory to go into and I felt like I did my best.  Of course for American audiences special effects are nothing new, but for me and for a lot of the films coming out of Asia, it's definitely new territory. For me, I'm definitely determined to create more films with special effects that add a really high standard.

 

MG: In this film and your previous, I noticed that you aren’t so much “the star”. You’ve been writing, producing and directing and in CJ7 and Kung Fu Hustle you’re more behind the scenes instead of starring. Are you preparing moviegoers for your moving permanently behind the camera? Do you still want to star in your own films or are you interested elsewhere?

SC: I'm really interested in things behind the scenes, like directing and producing, so I want to focus more on that, and that's really drawn my interest towards that.

 

MG: But will you stop starring in films eventually? 

SC: I do want to eventually just direct. For CJ7, I didn't want to act in that role, but I couldn't find anyone to be in it.

 

Q: Was that for budget or because you're funny?

SC: The role was actually not written as a comedic role, but I couldn't find anybody, so my boss was like, "You should just do it yourself." For me, it's kind of dangerous territory because it's not a comedic role.

 

Q: Dicky's cruel to his new pet at first. What influenced you to include that in the film and was it tough directing children to be cruel?

SC: He was fine towards it… {looks surprised} Why did you think Dicky was cruel? 

 

Q: There’s the scene where Dicky drowns him in the toilet…

SC: Ooohhhh….me? {Looks accused, then turns to Xu Jiao in stern voice} Why you do this? {laughs}

Because when he first got CJ7, he thought the thing was supposed to help him in school and help him with friends and help him. So, it didn't turn out the way he imagined to be, like having a super dog, so that's why initially he was cruel. But eventually he learned to like the role.

 

MG: Xu Jiao, what was the reaction been like in your hometown, Ningpo?

XJ: Well, I’m not there anymore. I’m actually in Hángzhōu, but I believe that the audience was happy.

 

Q: And how have your friends reacted to your starring in this movie? Also can you tell us how old you are now?

XJ: I'm 11, and my friends, when they see that I'm in a film, they're happy to be friends with me. {Chow laughs}

 

Q: Stephen, will you be working with Xu for many years?

SC: I wish I’ll live long enough to continue to work with her.

 

Q: Xu, what was the best thing working with Stephen?

XJ: Hmmm… I like to eat together with him because he takes me out to different kinds of restaurants and have different kinds of food, and he's the happiest when he's eating. {Chow laughs}

 

Q: Xu, what’s your favourite food?

XJ: Hmm… as long as it’s tasty…

 

Q: What restaurant will you take her to here in New York?

SC: We’re going to go have steak later. Prime Rib! {Holds his fingers three inches apart to show how thick the prime rib is}

 

MG: I’d like to ask about future projects. I understand you are working on the Dragonball live action movie and also Journey to the West. What else is happening for you in the future?

SC: For Dragonball, I'm mainly the producer and I'm also helping to develop the script and kind of overall making sure the script and the story is going in the right direction.  And for Journey to the West, I'm not sure yet how involved or what kind of involvement I'm going to have with it, but whichever one comes to fruition first is what I'm going to focus on.

 

Q: You’re also rumoured to be doing the Green Hornet.

SC: I know the story, but I haven't heard any developments in terms of production offers.

 

Q: What about Kung Fu Hustle 2?

SC: I'm working on something similar, but it's not going to be a sequel, because I want to have more manoeuvre room and creativity. So, I don’t want it to be a sequel.

 

Q: So you're giving up all your own Kung Fu?

SC: Yeah, I'm going to continue to do Kung Fu movies. 

 

Q: What about being in them?

SC: Yeah, I want to be able to do them sooner, too, because I'm getting older and I might not be able to perform the older I get.

 

Q: Do you continue to practice?

SC: Less and less.

 

Q: Do you have any children of your own?

SC: No. {Looks at Xu} Now, I do. {Laughs}

 

Q: How new is the plot of CJ7 to Chinese audiences and what has been the reception since it’s opened there?

SC: There's not a lot of movies like this that’s appealing to children and to families to take their children to, so I wanted to be able to create that kind of movie. And it's really well received; the current box office in China actually surpassed Kung Fu Hustle's box office record, so I'm really pleased that they like the film.

 

Q: You’ve had such a successful career over two decades, what advice would you have for young people entering the industry?

SC: I don't really have any advice, but I do hope that a newer generation of directors and actors will join the industry.

 

Q: Your work has been compared to everything from Warner Brothers cartoons to Charlie Chaplin, Quentin Tarantino and many others. What other directors and works are you a fan of?

SC: It's interesting that you mention Charlie Chaplin, because he's definitely a huge influence on me. Ever since I was a little kid, I would watch Chaplin. There was one scene where Charlie Chaplin cooked his own shoe, was eating his own shoe, and that just left a lasting impression on me. It's comedic, but it's also really bittersweet, kind of.  So, I touched on that a little bit too in CJ7; that's kind of like my style.

Living in Hong Kong is like a mixture of east and west, so I watch a lot of Hollywood stuff, but I also watch a lot of traditional Chinese martial arts and Kung Fu films.

 

Q: Was there more of a backstory about where CJ7 comes from or any information about its world?

SC: There's a sequel I like for that.

 

Q: Are you a fan of Dragonball Z?

SC: Big fan.

 

Q: Have you always liked fantasy films?

SC: Yeah, you have to have that.

 

Q: Did you ever want to direct a straight-up action movie?

 SC: Yes, I definitely want to do more Kung Fu and very action packed movies.

 

 

~ Mighty Ganesha

Feb. 26th 2008

 

PS: Click Here for Our Review of CJ7, a very different film than we're used to from Chow, but We stand by it

 

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