Location filming for “The Grand Master” began in January 2010 in Shenyang, China in below freezing temperatures.Wong Kar-wai is now shooting some parts of the film in Northern China with Zhang Ziyi and the Zhao Benshan. It will take 2 weeks for shooting this part, so they should be finished around 23-24 January. Wong Kar-wai then plans to return to Southern China to continue shooting with the other actors, like Tony Leung, Chang Chen and Song Hye-kyo.
According to this report, the script has changed once again. Zhang Ziyi is now playing a student of Zhao Benshan, with Zhao Benshan’s disciplines also participating in this film. The movie will become less solemn and more like a comedy. Zhao Benshan will play another martial arts master, most likely a Chinese boxer. The shooting site will move from the Guangdong province (southern part of China, near to Hong Kong) to another city in the north-eastern China. Wong Kar-wai wants to add winter and snowing scenes to the movie.
Wong Kar-Wai, Zhao Benshan, Zhang Ziyi, and Yuen Woo-Ping met in North-east Shenyang (Zhao’s base) to ring in the new year and prepare for the upcoming filming of “The Grand Master”.
As the martial arts choreographer for Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grand Master”, what do you think of Ip Man trend?
Yuen Woo Ping: It might bring back the kungfu film wave, when there are so many Ip Man related films. Actually, the first was Wong Kar Wai, he talked about it for years, but only started shooting now. They have already finished filming Ip Man 2, yet he hadn’t even started. I have to hand it to him, such patience, taking such a long time to do the preparation. I don’t dawdle, dawdling grinds people to death.
Tony Leung is lucky to have met a good director, normally, they aren’t given so much time to train. Their collaboration is bound to be fruitful.
Is it bad for so many to jump on the bandwagon shooting the same theme?
Yuen Woo Ping: There are advantages as well as disadvantages, depending on how they are arranged. The audience might grow apathetic, like in the past, more than 100 Wong Fei Hung films were produced, but it was released at the interval of a few months, with no more than three being released each year. But if they released everything at one go, you’d be in for a big headache.
Each era is bound to have certain paragons, in the past, it was Wong Fei Hung, now it is Ip Man. If you only shoot a similar subject after some time, the audience would feel fresh, when what you shoot has certain standards, it’s fine, but I fear they might not be able to keep up.
Wong Kar-wai went to Shenyang to pick some students of Zhao Benshen to star in “The Grand Master”. Zhao Benshan will star in the film and is rumoured to play a Chinese boxer from North China.
Frankie Chan (Ashes Of Time) is rumoured to be the composer.
According to China’s portal site, Sina.com on December 21st, Song Hye Kyo (Full House) has decided to appear in director Wong Kar-wai’s The Grand Master and is currently undergoing intense training. Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, and other top stars from Greater China are also appearing. This will be Song Hye Kyo’s first challenge in an action role since her debut. It has been known that Song Hye Kyo went to China at the beginning of this month to undergo martial arts training. Sina.com revealed photos of her practice form where she is sporting casual attire.
Wong had continuously expressed his interest in working with Song, officially stating so at the Pusan International Film Festival in 2004. He also invited her to the premiere of his film “My Blueberry Nights” held in New York of August 2008.
A rep for Song Hye-kyo confirmed, ” Due to confidentiality stipulations, further details cannot be revealed, but it is correct that Song Hye Kyo she is currently preparing for a new project in China.”
Song Hye-kyo’s management company, Eden9 stated, “Since first receiving director Wong’s proposal, she decided to take part in the movie. As of yet, we are not at the stage to reveal which role she will take. Currently, she is learning Cantonese and practicing martial arts.”
Director Wong Kar-wai stated, “Though she won’t have many action scenes, we want her body to be familiarized with natural movements.” Also, she will work with a native tutor to study Chinese.
For her first advancement in China with the movie, “The Grand Master”, ‘Hallyu Queen’ Song Hye Kyo (28) is living life like a high school senior as she takes the most excellent measure in preparing for this project.
Ahead of next month’s full-scale filming for the movie, these days she remains on location in China, coming and going between her lodging quarters and the martial arts practice room. In between this, she receives two hours of private Chinese lessons everyday. As she is in an area without internet access, she speaks with both her mom and lover Hyun Bin by telephone to send each other their best regards and love.
A close associate of Song Hye Kyo conveyed how she has been getting along. “This is her first Chinese advancement work, so she has great enthusiasm for this movie.” She added, “As of late, she pretty much just goes to and from her lodging quarters and the martial arts practice room and cannot even cast her eyes to any other place. She is no different than a high school senior preparing for exams.”
In secret headquarters in Kaiping, Zhang Ziyi has been busily training herself for “The Grand Master”. Supervised by coaches, she took part in running exercises, rope skipping and Wing Chun practice. Zhang Ziyi agreed to play Yip Man’s (Tony Leung) wife after asking Wong Kar-wai to increase the size of the role.
Already eight years in the making, Wong Kar Wai’s ‘The Grand Master’ will officially start filming in November 2009. As Tony Leung had broke his arm training for the movie, filming was delayed for two months while he recovered. Earlier on, Tony began training anew and has fully immersed himself into martial arts again. Even the Wing Chun masters who have been training Tony have praised his understanding and skill in Wing Chun. Tony is preparing to film ‘The Grand Master’ in his best form.
Does Light Exercises While Recovering
Tony’s been training at the martial arts school under the guidance of Master Yip Siu Hung and his disciples. While he had to stop training during his recovery period, Tony was still able to do light exercises. He says that kung fu training is something you can never get enough of anyway. Tony expressed that the past two months have been like an extended holiday. His doctor had strongly advised him to wait at least three months before doing any vigorous activity. After resting for a few weeks, he began exercising again to keep his body in shape. Everyday he’ll run for one or two hours. He also arranged for one-handed fitness sessions at the gym to keep his arms and legs in shape. In order to keep his arm immobile while running, he had to bandage it tightly to prevent any movement. Whenever he saw people on the streets, they would kindly ask him how his recovery was going and reminded him to be more careful.
Best Actor to Play Yip Man
Master Leung has been very satisfied with Tony’s performance. He especially admired Tony’s ‘never give up’ attitude. He has high hopes for Tony in the role of Yip Man. He believes Tony’s spirit, appearance and comprehension is very similar to Master Yip Man and is the ideal candidate to play him.
Tony Leung, who is back to Wing Chun training, still feels some pain when exerting his arm as it takes 3 months before his fractured arm would fully recover (he’s rested for two months). Producer Ng See Yuen says “The Grand Master” by Wong Kar Wai, which is about Yip Man’s life after his migration to Hong Kong and his relations with other sects, has to begin filming in November – come what may. But who knows it’d be pushed back yet again. Ng See Yuen is forbidding Wong Kar-wai, who’s facing tremendous pressure, from altering the script on the set, “The script must be finalised first, can’t let him keep changing the script as he shoots the film.”
Directed by Wong Kar-wai and starring Tony Leung, “The Grand Master” has met with countless obstacles from the start. Seven years ago, Tony Leung started learning Wing Chun from Master Yip Man’s son, Yip Chun, to prepare for the movie. However, Wong Kar-wai kept delaying the film.
Last year Raymond Wong took over with his version of Ip Man, starring Donnie Yen. Not only did producer Wong’s version do well at the box office, it also garnered many awards.
Undeterred by it, Wong Kar-wai stated that he will shoot his version in August/September. To prepare for the role, Tony has been training relentlessly. During a practice fighting session, he was kicked in the left arm, which broke on impact.
Bulking up with martial arts and training at the gym
To prepare for the movie, Tony has begun training since October 2008. Besides practicing Wing Chun, he has also been working out at the gym to build up his body. As filming was scheduled to start in August/September, he has steadily increased his training sessions. Starting early morning he will train with different Wing Chun masters to practice his fighting. With such an intense schedule, something finally went wrong.
Practiced fighting with five Wing Chun masters
Tony began training as usual with five Wing Chun masters. Tony appeared very strong in his attack, going towards one master at full force. The master was surprised by him and naturally reacted in self defense, using his own force to counter attack and kicked Tony’s left arm. Tony’s legs then buckled and he painfully held onto his left arm with his right arm. Since his arm had no strength, he went to the hospital for a check up. After x-rays were taken, it showed that one of the bones in his left arm was broken. The doctor suggested that Tony’s arm be put in a cast, but Tony refused saying that muscle atrophy will set in and all the work he spent building the muscles in his arm will be wasted.
Hasn’t notified wife Carina
As broken bones take about 5 to 6 weeks to heal, the doctor has told him not to move his arm at all costs. Not only can he not practice Wing Chun, he’s not even allowed to go jogging. But Tony is very anxious to get back to training as he’s afraid that if he doesn’t practice, his martial arts skills will decline. The only thing he can practice now is his leg work. Tony said that he was prepared for injuries when he signed on for a martial arts film. He knows that the actual filming process will be even tougher. Getting injured now at least gives him preparation for what’s to come.
Has he notified wife Carina, who’s currently filming in Hengdian? He replies, “It was too sudden. I went to the hospital right away and didn’t have a chance to notify her.”
Chang Chen said in an interview that he will not be playing Bruce Lee in “The Grand Master”. In fact he personally recommended to WKW that Jay Chou should be cast in the role.
“I do not feel like Bruce Lee, I think that Jay is more suitable, I once recommended him to Wong Kar-wai.”
About rumors that Zhang Ziyi will play Ip Man’s wife: “I do not know! But if it’s true, I’m looking forward to cooperating with her.”
He also said that he’s looking forward to working with Tony Leung again.
Excellent article from The Auteurs regarding Wong Kar-wai’s relationship to the Cannes Film Festival: