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Friday October 4, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Friday October 4, 2013 MYT 8:13:59 AM
by oh ing yeen
Hands on: Tsui Hark often shows his actors how he wants things done.
Director Tsui Hark returns to helm another Detective
Dee film. This time around, he has something new up
A scene of Detective Dee riding a horse underwater would seem rather strange if not for the fact that it is a film by director Tsui Hark, who is known for pushing the boundaries in his films.
“I have watched many documentaries of horses crossing rivers and I thought to myself: if horses could do that, why not go underwater as well? Then I envisioned a scene of riding a horse underwater,” he said in an interview. The director was speaking to members of the media in Hong Kong to promote Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon.
The prequel to the Detective Dee franchise is a buffet of mystery, action, comedy and some romance thrown in for good measure.
Born in Vietnam in 1950 to Chinese immigrant parents, Tsui’s debut film in 1979 The Butterfly Murders combines wuxia, fantasy and mystery; a hint of what the filmmaker would bring to the movie industry.
While Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon might have been Tsui’s first underwater 3D film, it is not his first movie involving an underwater scene (the thriller Missing, starring Malaysian actress Lee Sin Jie, revolves around a diving mishap).
A certified diver, he said it was necessary to have an underwater scene as the movie is about a “sea dragon”.
On choosing rising star Mark Chao in the titular role, the director reasoned: “I have seen Mark in his previous movies and noticed that he has a certain quality and aura about him.”
Tsui was rumoured to be a demanding director who would not allow his cast to eat or sleep to stay in character.
Carina Lau, who reprises her role as Empress Wu Zetian in the film, defended the director, saying that she found him a nicer person during their collaboration, unlike what was reported.
“He is very understanding and there was no pressure working with him,” the veteran actress said.
She does have one gripe though – her elaborate hairdo.
“Since the first movie, my hairdo has been getting heavier and higher, and my eyebrows, too, are getting higher. The wigs have also caused me to lose hair!
“It took eight hours to do my makeup and styling, and if the director did not approve, we had to redo it,” she recalled.
Tsui explained that eyebrows were one of the important beauty features during the Tang Dynasty, hence the need to get it right.
“Because of an extensive cultural exchange during the Tang Dynasty, the styles are more elaborate and bold this time around (compared to the first Detective Dee movie).”
The 47-year-old Lau says there’s a similarity between the character she plays and herself – they both do not bow to fate.
“Wu is a fair person, she doles out punishment and rewards when it is due.
“Lao Ye (which means master in Chinese, a term of endearment) was the one who showed me how to portray the Empress,” she said.
It was revealed that Tsui would personally demonstrate how he wanted the actors to be in the film.
“It’s a way to further inspire them to get into character,” he said of his hands-on method.
Unlike the previous film, which was filmed in both Cantonese and Mandarin, Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon was shot solely in Mandarin.
“We want to see the market’s reaction towards such a movie. Different dialects would give a different feel to the movie, so why not just focus on a Mandarin version?” Tsui said.
Lau added: “As an actor, I think it is more natural to speak in Mandarin when acting in a Chinese historical film. It is rather weird to be speaking in a dialect (Cantonese).”
The first movie Detective Dee And The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame, which starred Andy Lau in the lead role, was the biggest winner at the 30th Hong Kong Film Awards in 2011 where it won six awards, including Best Director, Best Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Sound Design, Best Visual Effects and Best Costume And Makeup Design.
Did the filmmaker feel pressured to top that feat?
“Winning awards are encouraging but that was not on our mind when making the movie; the biggest reward is the audience’s reaction towards the movie and their support,” Tsui said.
“Of course it would be great to win awards, but every year, there are many contenders, including friends, in this industry.
“I would be happy to see them win as it would be an encouragement to them.”
Since he dabbled with fire in the first movie and water in the second, what is on the cards for the next instalment?
Which element will Tsui pick – wood, metal or earth?
“What can represent wood? Setting the movie in a forest? I will consider that, good suggestion! Or maybe I may combine all elements?” he laughed, but remained tight-lipped about his upcoming plans.
Having made the popular Once Upon A Time In China film series, what are his hopes for the Detective Dee franchise?
“I do not dare think too much about it, we do not know what will happen tomorrow. The only thing is to enjoy the present,” he said.
Instead of sticking to a tried-and-tested formula, Tsui said he would want to show something different if he were to prepare for the next film.
“We do not want the audience to be bored watching the same thing again and again. We must have certain expectations of ourselves,” the director concluded.
Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon is currently playing in cinemas nationwide.
Tags / Keywords:
Entertainment, Tsui Hark, Carina Lau, Young Detective Dee, Prequel, Hong Kong
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