“The Grandmaster” will be in French theaters on April 17th.
Portraying Ip Man in ‘The Grandmaster’ Tony Leung jokingly moaned, “I have been training under a Wing Chun master for the past 3 years, yet the scenes I have can’t beat Zhang Ziyi.” Although director Wong Kar-wai had set out to make a biopic about Ip Man, ‘The Grandmaster’ grew into a sprawling account of Chinese martial arts. In the opening scene, Tony Leung fought off 10 of his adversaries in a rainy scene, showcasing Wong Kar-wai’s signature martial arts aesthetics. In another scene, Leung and Zhang Ziyi were dueling at the Golden House; the awe-inspiring exchange proved the hard work both actors had put in throughout their training.
In ‘The Grandmaster’, Tony Leung hardly has many spoken lines, which prompted wife, Carina Lau to nickname him as “The Silent Ghost” after watching his performance. Director Wong Kar-wai explained, “Initially I gave Tony many lines, but I deleted them in the end because Ip Man is a man of few words. Without saying a word, he is able to command the room.” On the contrary, Zhang Ziyi had some of the best lines in the film. At the same time, her internal struggle between her admiration for Leung’s Ip Man and her impulse for exacting revenge for her father proved to be a well-received performance.
Under Wong Kar-wai’s heavy-handed editing, Chang Chen, Song Hye-kyo, and Julian Cheung Chi-lam have little screen time in ‘The Grandmaster’, despite extended filming. Taiwanese actor Chang Chen, trained for three years under a Baji master for his role; however, he ended up appearing in only three scenes in the film. Chang said, “I know Wong Kar-wai’s style, so I have expected this.” South Korean actress Song Hye-kyo, who has been noticeably absent from the film’s promotional events, plays Ip Man’s wife has one line in the entire film, “Is it that cold in Foshan?”, while Julian Cheung only appears for a few seconds.
‘The Grandmaster’ marks Tony Leung’s seventh collaboration with Wong Kar-wai. Since 1990, Leung has appeared in Wong Kar-wai’s movies such as ‘Days of Being Wild’, ‘Ashes of Time’, ‘Chungking Express’, ‘Happy Together’, ‘In the Mood for Love’ and ‘2046′. Will there be an eighth time? Leung declined to comment, likely due to the laborious filming conditions of ‘The Grandmaster’ and physical exertion for his role.
‘The Grandmaster’ was the top film in mainland Chinese box offices, earning 162 million RMB in its opening weekend.
Two days after being released in Hong Kong, Wong Kar-wai’s ‘The Grandmaster’ accumulated HK$2.82 million at the box office (excluding late shows). With stronger and stronger momentum it pulls away from the same week release, Wong Jing’s‘ Young And Dangerous: Reloaded’; the latter grossing only HK$860,000 over two days.
Wong Kar-wai initially cut ‘The Grandmaster’ into a 4 hour version. Due to running time restrictions he cut it down to the current release of 130 minutes; many scenes were “missing”. A newly-released production special showed glimpses of some of the deleted scenes. Tony Leung personally explained Ip Man and talked about his kung fu training.
In Tony Leung’s eyes Ip Man was mild mannered and elegant, he did not resemble a kung fu person; he rose and fell and in the end he was able to calmly be himself. Wong Kar-wai hoped that Leung’s Ip Man performance would be a mix of Ip Man and Bruce Lee. He tried to combine them for the effect. Leung said that Ip Man enjoyed kung fu as much as Bruce Lee but normally he was so mild mannered that no one knew he could fight. He said that Bruce Lee was his childhood idol. When he was 7 or 8 he was already a kung fu fan. Because his family was poor and felt that he would get into fights after learning kung fu, he was not permitted to learn.
When he explored the character, he thought that the character’s appearance could be expressed through technique. Yet if he did not understand the inside of the character he had no way to express its aura, which was not something that could be achieved over night; this his long term training was necessary. “The first the fracture was only a hairline, the second time it was already cracked like shark teeth!” Because he did not want to hinder the progress, Leung originally wanted surgery but the doctor did not suggest it. He could only tell Wong Kar-wai to wait 4 months for him; thus Wong Kar-wai could only head to the Northeast of China and shoot the Zhang Ziyi train station duel first, but he ran into the coldest winter in history. Zhang Ziyi had to shoot in 30 degrees below zero.
Wong Kar-wai revealed that Tony Leung was reluctant. After recovering for about three weeks he headed to the Northeast to look for him and said that he could work on dramatic scenes. In the film Ip Man said that if life had four seasons, his before age 40 was all spring. Turning 50 this year Leung said, “Now is still spring for me. Because I have been very lucky to run into very excellent film people to work with. Making this film has changed my view on life. In the future I will choose to be optimistic because the character of Ip Man is different from my characters in recent years. My recent characters are all depressed, but this time he is very positive and optimistic. Now I like to happy and joyous, I feel the world has hope. Thus after ‘The Silent War’ I wanted to make some happy and warm movies.”
In the production special the removed scenes included Tony Leung and Song Hye-Kyo’s sweet romantic couple scene, Ip Man sweetly smiling with his wife in his arms. When the Japanese military arrived, they got into a struggle and she slapped him. In the released version of the film, Chang Chen’s exciting duel with Leung at the end of the film was removed. His appearance with a razor to fight Leung was also unveiled.
Leung in one scene washed his wife’s (played by Song Hye-kyo)’s feet. He said, “I was forced to, Wong Kar-wai asked me to choose between bathing my wife or washing her feet. I could only choose washing her feet.”
The production special even uncovered that Ip Man once visited Master Gong Er in the Northeast. Leung in the drifting snow passed through the plum blossom courtyard, where they encountered each other again. Leung said he did not mind so many scenes and dialogue being cut because ‘The Grandmaster’ was Wong Kar-wai’s film. The director shot so much that cutting was necessary. Chang Chen agreed with Leung and said that he did not mind.
The featurette also revealed Julian Cheung Chi-lam as two characters, not only as a Chinese Opera actor but also Zhang Ziyi’s fiance. In this scene he only made an appearance in a flash.
Although the film received good response, Leung never thought about winning Best Actor with this film again because that was not his goal for making the film.
Director Wong Kar Wai, and actors Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, and Max Zhang Jun attended the Hong Kong Kong premiere of ‘The Grandmaster’. Critics compared ‘The Grandmaster’ of resembling Wong Kar-wai’s earlier film ‘In The Mood For Love’. Wong Kar-wai explained that he already had the idea for the film as early as 1989. “The preparation took years because I had to visit seven or eight provinces for martial art masters.” Zhang Ziyi did not conduct any interviews. Song Hye-kyo was in South Korea but sent a video.
Tony Leung did not believe that Song Hye-kyo was upset that her role was reduced to just six minutes screen time. “Wong Kar-wai wouldn’t be at odds with anyone, I too had my scenes cut.” He described after three years in production the final half a month exhausted him thoroughly, as hard as the last 10 minutes of a marathon. As for Donnie Yen stating that he would watch ‘The Grandmaster’, Leung said, “I am not afraid of comparison, I have my own interpretation of the role.”
Ticket sales have been decent as many booked in advance, obviously Wong Kar-wai fans have been waiting for the film for a long time. Tony Leung’s martial art scenes have always been the focus. In the film he fought ferociously, completely relying on editing methods to assist and adjust. As for memorable scenes, they seemed to be Wong Kar-wai’s salute to his own classic films ‘In The Mood For Love’ and Fallen Angels’.
The film is about the life of Wing Chun master Ip Man, but the story actually could not leave Wong Kar-wai’s trademark “romance” out of the equation by depicting Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi’s ambiguous relationship in particular detail. Their duel, spinning in the air and exchanging looks nose to nose was the most memorable; then through their letter exchanges and clothes buttoning to express their feelings, which were already full of poetic artistry.
The martial art fight scenes were the main focus of the movie for which Tony Leung studied Wing Chun. In the first half of the film, his six fight scenes were very convincing without any use of a stunt double. Of course he also relied on camera work and editing methods to assist and adjust, making the film even more intense and brilliant.
Zhang Ziyi and Max Zhang Jun’s fight at the train station looked the part and fought excitingly. Chang Chen fought decently as well but his role was drastically reduced in the film. He and Zhang Ziyi’s emotional scene was also deleted, weakening his character and made him less of an attraction than Zhang Jun.
Korean star Song Hye-Kyo as Mrs. Ip Man was pretty and sexy enough, but the role was too light. With only two lines she did not have much chance to perform, but she made up for it with her eyes and expressions; however she and Leung had intimate scenes. She wiped the unbuttoned Leung and showed off her legs as he bathed her feet.
The film also had many familiar scenes like reflections of Wong Kar-wai’s past work and salutes to them. Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi locking eyes was like ‘Fallen Angel’s Leon Lai-ming and Michelle Reis’ love at first sight; Zhang Ziyi’s heart to heart with a hole in the wall reminded people of ‘In The Mood For Love’ where Tony Leung’s character whispered a secret into a hole in a tree. Leung washing Song Hye-kyo’s feet was just like his massage for Maggie Cheung Man-yuk in ‘In The Mood For Love’. As for Ip Man changing into a suit and applying gel to his hair reminded people of ‘In The Mood For Love’.
Wong Kar Wai as usual invited different guest stars, this time was no exception with Julian Cheung Chi-lam, Berg Ng Ting Yip, Lo Hoi Pang, Xiao Shenyang, action director Yuen Woo-Ping, Zhao Benshan, Tsui Kam Kong, Lo Mang. Tsui Kam Kong appeared in one shot and had no lines; Julian Cheung had no lines but portrayed a Chinese Opera star. Appearing in ‘Ip Man 2′, Lo Mang was the only actor who was able to take part in ‘The Grandmaster’. The challenging master Lo Mang and thug Xiao Shenyang added humor to balance the film’s tension. Veteran actor Lo Hoi Pang’s role was not large but his every move was dramatic.
It’s being reported in the Hong Kong press that this artwork purporting to be a real poster promoting Wong Kar-wai’s The Grand Master is in fact a fake created by fans impatient for the filmmakers to release an official one.
Teaser poster artwork for The Grand Master directed by Wong Kar-wai.
Currently scheduled for a December 2010 release in Hong Kong and mainland China.
Actress Anita Yuen Wing-yi spoke about her husband Julian Cheung Chi-lam‘s involvement in “The Grand Master”.
She said that he has become much thinner because he was busy with Wong Kar-wai’s new film.
She said, “I don’t know what Wong Kar-wai told him. Now whatever he eats he has to weigh first and always work out until very late. His weight loss process seems to reach obsession level. He shrinks down day by day and I swell up day by day. I don’t even know what role he is playing. When I called the film company to ask, they said it was none of my business.”
Actress Song Hye-Kyo was spotted yesterday in HMV buying 4 DVDs, including Lust Caution and 2046. It was said that she left for Guangzhou by car yesterday to meet up with Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi and Julian Cheung Chi-Lam.
At a media event, Hong Kong singer/actor Julian Cheung Chi-Lam (A Mob Story) told reporters that he will be starring in “The Grand Master”.
Wong Kar-wai‘s next film is The Grand Master (一代宗師), a biopic of Wing Chun teacher Yip Man.
The film will star Tony Leung Chiu-wai in the title role.
Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Song Hye-kyo and Zhao Benshan are also confirmed.
The actors have training in Wing Chun and other martial arts styles with Yuen Woo-ping’s stunt team for a couple of months. Their preparation hit a setback in 2009 when Leung broke his left arm during training but he has since recovered.
Gong Li and Brigitte Lin were rumoured to star but nothing came of this.
Before anyone complains that Wong Kar-wai is jumping on the Yip Man bandwagon after the recent film, be aware that WKW has been planning the film for nearly ten years.
Wong Kar-wai formally announced plans to make a film about Ip Man in 2002, with Tony Leung and Yip Chun (son of Yip Man) in attendance. However, filming on “2046” overran due to the outbreak of the SARS virus and the subsequent rescheduling problems of the actors. Additionally, the editing and post-production also took longer than expected. After working on-off on “2046” for four years, as well as extended periods working on “In The Mood For Love” and “Happy Together”, Tony Leung wanted to delay making the Ip Man biopic so he could take time off from working with Wong Kar-wai.
In the interim, Wong Kar-wai planned to make “The Lady From Shanghai” with Nicole Kidman but the project was shelved and he made “My Blueberry Nights” with Norah Jones instead.
He also spent a number of years restoring “Ashes Of Time” which resulted in the new ‘Redux’ version. In 2007, producer Raymond Wong announced that he would make a rival film entitled “Ip Man” starring Donnie Yen. In 2008, Tony Leung turned down a number of films in order to spend an extended period training in Wing Chun for “The Grand Master”.
ENGLISH TITLE: The Grandmasters
CHINESE TITLE: 一代宗師, Yut Doi Jung Si (Cantonese title), Yi Dai Zong Shi (Mandarin title), First Generation Master (Literal English translation), The Grand Master (working title)
DIRECTOR: Wong Kar-wai
STORY BY: Wong Kar-wai
WRITTEN BY: Wong Kar-wai, Zou Jingzhi and Xu Haofeng
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Chan Ye Cheng, Song Dai
PRODUCER: Wong Kar-wai, Jacky Pang Yee-wah
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: Michael J. Werner
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philippe Le Sourd
EDITOR: William Chang Suk-ping
PRODUCTION DESIGNER: William Chang Suk-ping
COSTUME DESIGNER: William Chang Suk-ping
ACTION CHOREOGRAPHER: Yuen Woo-ping
MARTIAL ARTS CONSULTANTS: Lau Kar-leung, Guy Lai, Frankie Chan Fan-kei
ACTORS: Tony Leung Chiu-wai
Julian Cheung Chi-lam
Bruce Leung Siu-lung
GENRE: Action, biography, drama
STATUS: According to a report from Beijing, filming will run from December 12, 2009 to April 18, 2010
Reshoots began in mid-September. Filming currently suspended due to Tony Leung’s comitment to Derek Yee’s ‘The Great Magician’.
RELEASE DATE: Winter 2011 (Hong Kong)
LANGUAGES: Mandarin, Cantonese
BUDGET: US$25 million
PRODUCTION COMPANIES: Block 2 Pictures, Metropole Organization
TAGLINE: “In Martial Arts There is No Right or Wrong, Only the Last Man Standing.”
PLOT: A biopic of Yip Man — the first Chinese man to teach the martial art of Wing Chun openly, training many major level students, including Bruce Lee.
SYNOPSIS: “With martial arts getting more popular in the Thirties, more people seek to learn them via the professionals at Foshan in Southern China. Some of the experienced masters like to challenge their counterparts and undergoing battles. To have their whole concentration, it is their practice to lock up the venues and no one is allowed to leave during battles. No food and no rest before reaching any results.
Ip Man is a young rich man extremely talented in martial arts, but he chooses to keep a low profile. Yet this doesn’t keep him out of these troubles ahead. One day he is trapped in this battleground so he has to use every means in order to get out of there. The masters are amazed by his abilities. Master Kung and his daughter Kung Yi are amongst, and the latter is attracted to this newcomer.
A high warlord is assassinated by his own guard Yi Xian Tian. All masters in Foshan vow to take Tian down no matter what…”
FILMING LOCATIONS: Chikan Movie and Television City, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
Kaiping, Guangdong, China
Diaobingshan, Tieling City, China
Shenyang, Liaoning province, China
Liaoyang, Liaoning province, China