Man on fire

Call Andy Lau a veteran actor and the 52-year-old will have you know that he finds it easier now to do action films.

Do not call evergreen Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau “old”. During a group interview with the well-preserved 52-year-old star in Singapore recently, a magazine reporter dared to say he was “getting old” – twice, no less – leading him to immediately sit up.

Jokingly, he looked to the security personnel present and exclaimed in Mandarin: “Who is this reporter? Get her out of here. I am not old – just mature.”

He then laughed and told the reporter to go ahead with her question, as a clear gesture that there were no hard feelings. Still, it was obvious that age was nonetheless a rather sensitive issue for him.

Earlier, at the press conference for his latest movie Firestorm, Lau was asked if he finds it “tougher” to do action films these days. He was quick to reply: “No, who says it’s tougher? I’m very relaxed, doing action movies.”

The actor also told reporters that he undertook most of the stunt work himself, including the fight scenes and jumping off an 11-storey building. He said breezily: “In fact, I would say that it’s easier to do action movies now. Back in the day, when doing wirework, we had only one wire holding us. But these days, we have four wires holding us up. Don’t you think that makes things a lot easier?”

In Firestorm, he required a stunt double for only a few sequences. “I can still do many of the action sequences myself. I’m still young, you know,” he said with a chuckle.

His Peter Pan outlook is very different from that of fellow Hong Kong star Jackie Chan, 58, who openly declared himself “too old and tired” to be doing major action work. Last December, Chan had said that year’s blockbuster CZ12 would be his final major action flick, and that he would henceforth leave most of the death-defying stunts to others.

But Lau is not so eager to give up. He said: “I’m honest when I say that if I think I can still do these action movies, I will go ahead and do them for as long as I can, by myself.”

Famously known as a workaholic, he still has a lot of passion for what he does, even after three decades in the business. As he put it: “Acting and making films, to me, is a very enjoyable process. Some people like playing basketball, others like enjoying a cigar. But for me, it’s acting. I consider it my hobby.”

Offscreen and behind the scenes, Lau, it seems, is just as busy. Little wonder then that he has gained a reputation for being one of the Chinese language film industry’s best mentors. As the owner of film production company Focus Films, he has pumped money into many films – not just the commercial blockbusters, but also smaller, indie works. Recent examples include indie flicks A Simple Life (2011) and Gallants (2010), critically acclaimed films which he financed as executive producer and which also went on to bag several awards.

Lau gave a simple explanation for bankrolling such films: “I think we should bring Chinese films to the forefront, into the international spotlight. Of course, I am only one man, but I want to do whatever I can in my own capacity to help.”

For Firestorm, which cost US$20mil (RM64mil) to make, he is also credited as producer. His mentoring skills are apparent, too, as he let on that he gave plenty of advice to first-time director Alan Yuen. Yuen is primarily known as a screenwriter for action films such as Shaolin (2011), New Police Story (2004) and the recent The White Storm (2013), which is now showing in cinemas.

Said Lau: “He’s a new director, so we really sat down together for days to go over his script and see which bits we need to improve on or what scenes would be harder to shoot. This kind of preparation work is tedious, but necessary.”

Asked who is the real boss between the two of them, he deadpanned: “Outside of the set, he listens to me. On the set, I listen to him. I still have to give him some face on set.”

Flashing his charm and charisma throughout the interview, he was, as usual, a lot less chatty when questions veered towards his personal life.

The fiercely private star, who is married to former Malaysian beauty queen Carol Chu, 47, and has a 11/2-year-old daughter, would not say more beyond the fact that he is the type who “rushes home” as soon as work is over.

“But I was like that even before having a daughter. I’ve always been a homely guy. Why should I loiter around after work?” he said.

He dodged all other questions on his family life by changing the subject.

At one point, he said in jest: “Actually, I can share with you a lot of stories about this topic, but I’m not at liberty to share them now. Maybe, when I really turn old, I will write a memoir and I’ll share all my stories then.”

Going by how defiant he is about ageing, fans are going to have to wait quite a while before that happens. – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

Firestorm is playing in cinemas nationwide.

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Man on fire


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