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Hey Kids, We’re bubblin’ over with thrilldom at this particular visitor to the Temple. As you know, we have all luv for the stars of Hong Kong Cinema. One of the brightest, the lovely Miss Maggie Q, whose story and stardom have captivated both sides of the Pacific, graced us with her utter fabulosity. Tighten up, boys and girls, as Miss Q and LMD chat about her newest action epic, the excellent Three Kingdoms. We’ll also dish about transgendered Chinese warriors, escaping Hong Kong paparazzi, and her “Action Boys,” namely the Kung Fu gods, Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. Who knew a girl that pretty could be so real? Miss Maggie’s charm, wit and refreshing candour left us in much awe.

 Dig it!


Three Kingdoms

Maggie Q


The Lady Miz Diva: Hi Maggie, it’s great to meet you. Besides appearing in our humble Temple, our talk will be read on MonkeyPeaches.com

Maggie Q:  Everyone quotes off of that one. The people that I know are like, “I read on MonkeyPeaches….” For years, I’ve been hearing that name.


LMD: Well, MonkeyPeaches has been following the production of The Three Kingdoms since 2005 and your career since 2002.

MQ: Amazing! Was I even, like, followable at that time? {Laughs hysterically}


LMD: Three Kingdoms is a very physical rough and tumble role for you. And also, if I’m not mistaken, in the original novel the film is based on, your character, Cao Ying, was a boy. When did the sex change happen?

MQ:  Right? I was basically in L.A. to do my thing and I get a call from my manager, who says, “I think Daniel Lee is interested in you being in Three Kingdoms.” I’d done a film with Daniel, I’d done a cameo on one of his films years earlier, and I knew him well and I loved him, and I heard that he was developing this film, but I knew there was no female roles in it. When I heard that, I said “What do you mean?” And he said, “I dunno, but apparently that’s the rumour and he’s gonna call you,” And he did he called me, I was in L.A. and he was like, “Look Maggie, I know you’ve heard all this kinda stuff, but I’m actually very serious.” “About what, though? I don’t understand.” “I wanna change history for you” And I went, “HELLO! I’M IN!” What do you mean? I mean, you can’t say that to a woman! Who ever gets that? So, I said, “I’m all ears, what’s going on?” And he said, “Originally, this character in history is a grandson and I just thought it would be so unexpected and so exciting for it to be you, and to sort of change it up and to have people, first of all, see you in a light that they’ve never seen you in - an unbelievable challenge. I wanna be doubted. I want people to think I’m making the wrong choice. I want people to think you’re the wrong person. And then I want this film to come out and people go, ‘Oh my God, how did that happen?’ And if I can do that for you, Maggie, in this lifetime, I mean, let’s do it!” I said, Jesus!


LMD: No pressure.

MQ: No pressure. And I was really afraid of his enthusiasm, because I honestly didn’t believe that I could pull this film off. I really didn’t. I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t play musical instruments. I didn’t know how to fight like this, and I had no time to learn. NO time to learn! {Live Free or} Die Hard went over two months schedule and I had no time. I had literally less than two weeks when I got to China to really get all this down, It was so ridiculous.


LMD: So two weeks to train?

MQ: Two weeks to train - less than two weeks! The language and also the musical instrument and all that.


LMD: That’s insane.

MQ: It’s so unfair! This ain’t funny. I challenge a person to come to me and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t think your performance was all that great.’ {Gets feisty}Oh, really? Oh, really? How about you have two weeks to prepare for something and tell me it’s not great. I mean, I challenge the person to come to me and say anything about this performance, because I’ve never been this stressed out on a film in my life, ever. I’ve never felt that kind of pressure. I’ve never woke up and went to sleep in tears because I just didn’t know if I could pull it off and I was so stressed. I mean, it’s the physicality part, the mental part; I’m not even a musician – not even close. They brought this expert in from Beijing, this pipa player, this girl, who was, y’know; she’d been playing it since she was two years old, or whatever it was, and so elegant and so beautiful. She was telling me, “Look Maggie, it’s not about plucking strings and it’s not about holding an instrument. It’s about knowing music and feeling music and understanding what you’re doing and your body and your face and everything is an expression of what you’re expressing through music.” And not being a musician, I was like “Oh, God in heaven…” Every challenge that I could have was there.

Oh, my God, I worked so hard. I went from fighting half the day, into language, into pipa and this was every day. I didn’t have time to rest or do anything. And then when I got back to my room at night, I was still going over my language, because I didn’t speak Mandarin and there was these long monologues and I was like, “Kill me.” The movie’s so difficult.


LMD: I wondered how that works with you as an English-speaker. In what language do you get your scripts?

MQ: The initial script that I get is in English. And then what I did when I was on Die Hard was I started my language classes in LA, to learn the pinyin, so that I could least read Chinese phonetically, and be able to have accent marks and know where my toneage is going or not. Just because you have to be able to read - you have to! Cos you can’t just memorise monologues that you don’t know - in a language you don’t speak! - Especially where tone is so important. So, I was back in my room at night and going through my language till I passed out. Completely stressed out. I didn’t even think I would get through that film, I really didn’t. If it wasn’t for Daniel Lee, I don’t know where I would be.


LMD: Well, you’ve worked with nearly everybody in this film before. Did that bring you any sort of comfort level?

MQ:  No.


LMD: Okaaay…

MQ: Isn’t that funny? Really, it was such new territory for me that it was like I kinda felt like I took the weight of the world on my shoulders and I did that to myself. And neither Sammo, nor Andy, nor Daniel could pull me out of this position I put myself in. I sort of went, “If I had the balls enough to say, ‘You know what? I can do this.’ You gotta do it. Otherwise, you’re screwed and you’ve just proven yourself to every single person who didn’t wanna believe in you, that yeah, you’re not good enough, you can’t do it.”


LMD: Sammo’s directing the fight choreography on Three Kingdoms. You’ve worked with him before…

MQ: I know Sammo, I’ve worked with him. I’ve worked with Jackie a lot more, though.


LMD: Okay, I’m going to have a geek-out moment now.

MQ: {Laughs} I love it! I love it!


LMD:  What were Sammo’s expectations on this film?

MQ: High, very high. Always high! You know, cos he’s Sammo. And I’ve had people who are martial arts fans come up to me and say, “You’re so lucky, you’ve worked with Jackie and Sammo.” I’m like, “Um, I don’t know that ‘lucky’ is the word?” And I mean that with much love and admiration and respect. You have to work hard. And the thing about men in the Asian film industry, but especially the Chinese film industry and mainly Hong Kong, which is where I work, is that men in action, whether it be Jackie or Sammo or Yuen Woo-Ping, or any of these people, they don’t start off with respect for you. I mean, they don’t walk into a room and give you respect and just go, “Oh, you’re Maggie, so I’m gonna give you some respect and then we’ll move on from there.” You walk into a room and they don’t care who you are, where you came from, what you think you know, because they know that you don’t know what they know. And so for that project, its like ‘You either throw down or I don’t even wanna see you.’ And that’s the way it is! It really is that way. There they don’t spoil you, they don’t baby talk you, they don’t carry you. It is a matter of earning their respect. If you don’t earn it, I don’t know how good your relationship with them can be. I mean, they have to know that you’re sacrificing and working as hard as they have to get where they are. If they don’t see that, forget it, especially if you’re a woman, forget it!


LMD: Did you come through the film unscathed?

MQ: Yes and no, I really didn’t get injured. This is the movie I thought of any movie I was gonna get injured on, it would be this one. I mean safety in Asia is not like it is in America. Not even close. And I don’t care what anybody thinks about me saying that, that is the truth. I’ve experienced it, I live it, I work it – I know what I’m talking about.

No, you can get different quality - you can great quality there, you can get great quality in America – but you’re definitely working with different standards of safety. I mean, in America you have the unions who are strict about everything that has to happen and whatnot and we don’t have that in Asia.  So, they’re kinda pulling things off that won’t happen in other countries.

So, I was very afraid, to be honest. I’ve never been afraid to go into a film and fight and do what I was doing. But this involved horses and weapons that weighed more than I did and using those weapons on horses. And these are animals and they have their own mind and they have their own ability to gauge a situation and so all the elements were not in our hands. We couldn’t control everything and I knew that, so that’s what really scared me.


LMD: It’s interesting to hear you talk about the way women are perceived by these action guys. One of the things I admire about Asian action films is that it seems like there are more opportunities to see females in a tough assertive, physical role.

MQ: Really? I know what you mean, I know what you mean.


LMD: Well, there’s you in this film and your earlier roles …

MQ: I think Michelle Yeoh sort of lead the way with that…


LMD: Also Maggie Cheung, and Anita Mui …

MQ: That’s true, that’s true.


LMD: It seems like there’s more of that in Hong Kong films than here in the States, more of a freedom for that from the audience.

MQ: Isn’t that strange? I think the audience in Asia enjoys seeing a strong woman, but I don’t know if society-wise that’s completely pushed and supported? I mean, I’m not totally sure where that comes from. But there are chances for female heroines.

It’s really funny cos we were doing the press conference in China, Sammo blew up, he got so angry at the media. I did too, there were some incidents there where I just got so pissed. And Sammo came into the back room and he was angry and I said, “What’s wrong?” And he said “Oh, these journalists, agghhhh!” He was so angry, and I said “What did they say?” And he said, they were angry with Daniel Lee, one journalist in particular said, “How can you use a female in this role?” “How can you let a female fight a man?” “Women don’t fight men” “Women don’t have a chance against a man!” And Sammo… Daniel just sat there and was sort of preparing his answer and Sammo stood up. Mind you, if I was a journalist, I don’t know that I would wanna piss Sammo off, but whatever. Okay. Idiot. {Laughs}You know what I mean?

And so Sammo jumps up and he’s like, “Who the hell do you think you are? You’re telling us who we should put in movies and who we shouldn’t and who women should fight or not!” And the guy said, “There are no female fighting heroines.” And he said, “What? What about Mulan? What are you talking about? There’s so many instances.”

So, I’m so confused on whether it’s accepted or not, because I get a mixed sort of thing of people going, “So cool that a woman was in a role strong enough as this.” And I get other women going, “I don’t buy a women can do that.” But you’re watching it, and if its believable, then how can you not buy it? I don’t understand what you’re saying.


LMD: And in Chinese history there are many stories of female generals.

MQ: Well, that’s what I mean. It really doesn’t make any sense for people to just totally reject that. And what’s funny that if you’re totally rejecting it, clearly there’s something about you that’s not right.


LMD: Well that’s so interesting that you bring up the dichotomy in Asian society of what people accept in women on the screen versus in real life. I’d wondered if that ability to play the stronger female role was something that made you choose to act in Asia instead of starting your acting career here in the States?

MQ:  Well, the plan wasn’t even to go into film. I mean, I didn’t even wanna be an actress and it sort of happened by default. Which, obviously, in retrospect I’m very, very lucky that the path sort of found me and we sort of found each other. But, you know why I’m grateful, though? The answer to that for me is that if I didn’t start in Asia, I don’t know that I would have the work ethic that I do.

I will say that for sure, because I’ve been through so much crap in the entertainment industry, I’ve been treated so badly, I’ve been stepped on … And its fine, I’m not resentful at all. It’s like, ‘Great, thank you,’ because now I got to Hollywood people go, “You work so hard, we’re so impressed by you.” And I go “Really?” Because I worked the same way in Asia and I never got a word of that kind of appreciation. Whether they felt it or not, they didn’t voice it. Because I think it’s less about expression there and more about, ‘If I say she’s doing well, she may relax, and I don’t want her to do that.’ And I think that was the thing with me and the action boys. The action boys were always sort of like, ‘Don’t tell her anything. Make her work hard and keep working hard.’ What they didn’t realise about me is that I would’ve kept working hard. I’m my worst critic. I wouldn’t have believed them if they said I was great in the very beginning; I would’ve been like, “No, I’m not,” and kept going, which I still feel about myself and my work. But in America they’re so much more vocal about it. They think positive reinforcement works - and it does! So, I’ve been through both. I’ve been through hell to get where I am and I’m really grateful for it, because if I didn’t, I don’t know that I would be as strong as I am now.


LMD: Where’s home for you?

MQ: Now, L.A.


LMD: That’s so much back and forth!

MQ: Yeah, yeah I’m traveling all the time.


LMD: But you lived in Hong Kong, didn’t you?

MQ: For 8 years, yeah.


LMD: One of the things I’m very fascinated by with the Hong Kong stars is that it seems like they go through some kind of training in order to learn how to handle the press and the fans, which is not so present here. What is that about?

MQ:  They really package everyone over there. You open a box and there’s a gift inside and that gift is pretty and it’s little and it’s pleasant and it’s got all these great little… And there is a danger in that, because when people plan an image, they plan and present something – sort of like what happened to Britney Spears – it’s unfair because once the public sees a glimpse of who they actually are, which is not a bad person, just a person coming of age, just a person who is in their early 20’s, y'know, doing what most people do in their early 20’s.

It becomes such a shock to people and it becomes so awful that they completely reject them and it becomes this big problem. Whereas I feel like if you are just yourself from the beginning and you kind of let management sit back a little and let planners sit back a little and go, ‘Hey why don’t I just sort of be who I am and just see if people like that or not and care about my work more than who they believe that I am?’ because it really is all about the work at the end of the day.

But in Asia because you’re packaging something so carefully, it’s more about, ‘I like the way this person looks.’ You know what I mean? Or, ‘I like the way their CD cover looks,’ or how they dress, and it’s less about talent. And the more you start packaging things, the less focus you have on talent, which is not the point in our industry, y’know? And you have the packaged people and you have the people who are not packaged that difference is clear. The difference is so clear!


LMD: The paparazzi in Asia seem even more intense than those in America maybe because there are fewer stars to cover …

MQ:  Ooohhh, my God…


LMD: How do you stay sane?

MQ: You don’t! I had to leave. I mean, I felt like two years before I actually left Hong Kong and came to L.A., Thank God these opportunities presented themselves and I was able to move. But it was about two years before I got the call and got Mission {Impossible 3} and kind of came over to L.A., I was kind of losing my mind in Hong Kong, I really was. I just felt like my work and my life were not separate – ever. Because the city’s so small and you work in this crazy industry and then you go home and you go to the grocery store and you’re still working, cos everybody’s judging you and everyone’s looking at you and they never leave you alone and it’s sort of like, ‘Oh my God, when do I get to…’

And now that I’m in L.A., I live on a hill and I have my dogs and I work and I go home and I cook and I have weekends and it’s unbelievable! When I did Mission I went, ‘Oh My God, you mean you can do a movie and have a life?’ I’d no idea that that existed. We don’t have weekends in Hong Kong, we don’t have days off, we don’t have union hours where it’s like, ‘Oh, over 12 hours, we gotta go home!’ No, it doesn’t happen there. We can work for 20 hours, we can work for 24 hours and we won’t stop until we’re done. So that’s kinda where I came from and so, yeah it did, it drove me crazy. I felt like in order to have a certain level of quality, you have to know who you are and spend the time getting to know who you are. You can’t just be a celebrity all the time. What is that?


LMD: People like Jackie Chan, who is the star everywhere he goes. He can just churn it out.

MQ:  Jackie is amazing. But he sacrificed a lot to be who he is; he sacrificed his family and his relationship with his son. All the things that ground me and make me feel sane and great, doing my laundry and having my dog and doing all that kind of stuff. He doesn’t do any of those things and I see that it casts a sad shadow sometimes over his personality, cos I know him, y'know. And I know that you want those things in your life sometimes, y’know, you really, really do.


LMD: What’s next for you? What’s coming up?

MQ:  Well, I just finished New York, I Love You, which I did before the tour. So I finished that then I did the whole Three Kingdoms tour. And I’m actually doing my next movie, which I’m very excited about – which I can’t tell you the name of it yet – but it’s going to be a tiny little indie, arty sort of  film, coming of age…


LMD: Is it made in America?

MQ: Yeah, it’s an American film. It’s this young first time director, writer/director, who wrote the script, and he’s been trying to make this movie for 6 years and we sort of found each other. And it’s not a big action movie, which I know people would die to do and I’m very grateful for them, but I need to sort of move away from certain things and do other things and I can always go back to action, but now my interest is to support these new filmmakers. I’m so excited.


LMD: After Three Kingdoms, is the plan to take a break from Asian film or do you plan to go back?

MQ: Definitely! I mean I went back because Daniel Lee, I feel is such a special director – number one - and a special man, and a total artist from ground up. And this was his passion, it took him 10, 12 years to be able to conceptually put this together and write the script and do all of it. So, there was a big passion there and something to answer to where somebody had a vision and was so in love with it that they made me fall is love with it. And it’s sort of gonna take that to go back to Asia and do another film. I need somebody who’s confident and knows what they what they want and has a ready script – which never happens in Asia! So I need that confidence and maybe because I lack it, I don’t know, but I definitely need somebody, a director who is as foot-forward and passionate as Daniel.


LMD: Maggie, it was lovely to speak with you!

MQ: It was lovely to speak with you, too. Thank you so much!


~ The Lady Miz Diva/Mighty Ganesha

April 25th, 2008


Click here to read our Exclusive Interview with Three Kingdoms director Daniel Lee.




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