Filming “The Grand Master” in Liaoyang War Museum Old Building and it’s hard to see any of the stars as the crew has not allowed others to stay in the hotels. The arrival of Wong Kar-wai, Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, and martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping caused quite a stir with many people arriving to see the stars. The crew have worked hard to secure areas of the museum, with “under constructuction” and “closed” signs hung outside the doors. “The Grand Master” crew have signed confidentiality agreements to prevent leaks, with the museum also signing an agreement.They filmed indoors until the early hours, with Wong Kar-wai wearing sunglasses at the midnight shooting. Security is extremely tight and impossible to see the cast. Zhang Ziyi was spotted and described as being very thin and pale and Tony Leung also lost weight.
In January 2009, it was reported that Wong Kar-wai had invited Brigitte Lin to appear in “The Grand Master.” It was originally thought that she would be playing the role of Yip Man’s wife but this was later denied by the film’s producer Ng See-Yuen.
He admitted that they had dined with the actress and that she had agreed to star in the film. However, they did not know what role she would play. He hoped that the reports would not change her mind. Did Brigitte Lin have any conditions for her comeback? Ng See-Yuen expressed that he did not know, but that the actress and Wong Kar Wai are great friends.
According to Taiwan’s United Daily News, Brigitte Lin’s character was shrouded in secrecy but that there are scenes where she will have to be disguised as a man, harking back to her previous androgynous roles.
In September 2009, it was reported that Brigitte Lin turned down a role in the film because it was not tailor-made for her.
In February 2009, Yip Chun (son of Yip Man and an adviser on “The Grand Master”) stated during an interview that Wong Kar-wai was thinking about inviting Gong Li to join the project. Speculation in the media about what role she might play followed, with many fans apparently believing the subsequent reports that she was co-starring in the film. It was at first reported that she would be playing Yip Man’s wife but was later stated that the role would be “a female martial arts master from Foshan.” However, the casting idea was unconfirmed by others associated with the project.
In January 2009, it was reported that singer/actor Jay Chou would be playing the part of Bruce Lee in “The Grand Master.”
At the 2008 Taiwanese Golden Horse Awards ceremony, the film’s producer Ng See-Yuen revealed that Wong had extended an invite to Chou to take part in the film.
In February 2009, Chou confirmed that his busy schedule meant he couldn’t take part in the film.
Tony Leung is busy practising Wing Chun everyday. Tony’s kung fu master and his assistants visit Tony every day and practised with Tony at his home. According to Yip Man’s son, Wong Kar-wai invited Master Leung, who was introduced to Ip Man to learn Wing Chun by Bruce Lee, to teach Tony Wing Chun. And Master Leung’s assistants would practise Wing Chun with Tony. Tony started his class since October 2008, practising for 4 hours a day, and he has improved a lot since then. The reporter can even hear the sound of practising across the wall. Yip Man’s son was surprised by Tony’s improvement. He said he was worried that Tony would not be practising hard, but to his surprise, Tony is very serious, and improved very fast.
Leung also specially employed a wushu master to create a wooden dummy and practices Wing Chun five days a week. “My current task is to be practicing Wing Chun diligently,” he said. With respect to the comparison between Donnie Yen and himself, Leung was humble and said that his skills cannot be compared to Yen. “I believe that Wilson Yip and Wong Kar-wai’s versions will be very different as they have different strengths and skills in moviemaking,” Leung said. He also said: “We’re at a very exciting stage now, in the middle of pre-production work. I’m working hard everyday, finding the character, doing physical kungfu training, and reading a lot about Ip Man himself.”
Source: Next Magazine issue 992
The 6th Hong Kong Entertainment Expo will take place on March 22 to April 18th. Tony Leung attended the press conference as the Entertainment Ambassador. When asked how his filming was going for “The Grand Master”? Tony replied saying he had filmed scenes in Kaiping earlier. The team is now in Shenyang filming. Originally he was not part of the filming in Shenyang, only Zhang Ziyi and Zhao Benshan were filming there. However, as director Wong Kar Wai felt the snow scenery was too beautiful, he decided to add Tony in as well. He will rejoin the crew after Chinese New Year’s. Because of that, he will not go skiing during New Years, as he doesn’t want to risk getting injured.
Zhang Ziyi was rumoured to have gotten ill filming in Northern China and apparently need to go to the hospital for treatment. Tony said, “It’s pretty common receiving IV fluids. The feeling is like eating chicken. When Ang Lee was filming “Red Cliff”, he had to go to the hospital after suffering from exhaustion. I hope everything will go smoothly for me.” As for the rumours that Zhang Ziyi’s screen time will be reduced? Tony says he hasn’t heard anything about it. However, it seems highly unlikely as Wong Kar Wai already has the script in place. He does not foresee any changes. Has Zhang Ziyi’s mood been affected by her negative press lately? He says he doesn’t know, as they haven’t filmed any scenes together yet. He only knows that Song Hye-kyo will be appearing in the movie. As for whether Gong Li will appear or who will play his wife? He expresses he doesn’t know either. However, Tony expresses he’s looking forward to working with Song Hye Kyo. He met her when he was in Korea promoting 2046 and felt that she was very special.
When asked if he was a good fighter? Tony joked and said, “You wouldn’t expect any less from the Grand Master right?” He expressed that while he hasn’t been seriously injured in training, he does have lots of body contact with his instructors so he often gets bruised up. He jokes and says, “I’m looking forward to counting all my injuries when the movie is complete.” Donnie Yen has said, ‘if you don’t fight, you won’t be injured’. Tony says, “This is an action movie. It’s the same as soccer, there will be physical contact. Injuries are to be expected.” He praises Yuen Woo-ping, saying his style is very good.
He admitted that when filming of “The Grand Master” started, the action was so fast-paced that he “almost couldn’t hang in there.” “This is a genuine kung fu movie,” Leung said, adding “there really will be many action scenes.”
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.”