Wong Kar-wai’s latest film ‘The Grandmaster’ will finally be released after taking 14 years to get to the screen from planning to production. A visibly relaxedTony Leung Chiu-wai attended a press conference in Beijing where he remarked that the three year production period made him thoroughly suffer, and he was somewhat in disbelief that it has already been completed. Zhang Ziyi described the production process as “getting on a pirate ship”, as she decided to never make another kung fu film. Film critics had more praises than criticism, some even described ‘The Grandmaster’ as along the same vein as ‘Ashes Of Time’. When Ip Man removes his changpao and puts on a suit, it’s eerily similar to the character Chow Mo-wan from ‘In the Mood for Love’.
‘The Grandmaster’ will be released in China on the 8th January. Wong Kar-wai led stars Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen and others to the Beijng press conference. Song Hye-Kyo who was rumoured to be upset at Wong Kar-wai’s schedule was notably absent. After watching the film, some film critics wrote that aside from the perfect visuals, the poetic expression of the story was along the same vein as ‘Ashes Of Time’.
The 50-year old Tony Leung talked about the three-year long production. “Ultimately I didn’t start practicing kung fu until I was 47. I broke my arm twice, each time I needed several months to recover and wasted the fruits of my previous training. Wasn’t that very painful?” The earliest released rainy night fight scene was shocking visually, but behind the scenes Leung actually suffered. “After 30 overnight shoots, I told director Wong Kar-wai ‘I am done, I can’t take anymore’; the director said that ‘fine fine fine’, just like that. Finally we shot for another week, after which I thought I had pneumonia. I actually had bronchitis and lay in bed for five days. For half a year I worked at night for a long time. After the wrap I needed to adjust. I went to bed at midnight and got up at 4 or 5AM. I went running before the sun came out. (His wife) Carina Lau Ka-ling asked where I was going, during that period, my body was truly very tired.”
Leung admitted that at first he was somewhat in disbelief that the film has wrapped. “On the day of the wrap I thought I would be especially excited, when the director said ‘Leung Chiu-wai’s final shot’. After the shoot I wasn’t too happy, maybe I felt that later I still had work like voice work and promotions. I was somewhat in disbelief still. In my experience, we could have had two wrap banquets and still go back to shoot. Three days later I could receive a call, ‘A scene could actually be even better, come back and fix it’, the possibility still exists.” He said that after returning to Hong Kong and settling for four or five days, he was much more relaxed. “Actually the pressure was tremendous all along, I was very tensed. Wong Kar-wai on the set was very relaxed, he was never in a hurry. We were the ones who were.” Donnie Yen’s ‘Ip Man’ will soon make its third installment. ‘The Grandmaster’ was often made fun of as taking too long to make. Leung said, “When you have fried chicken you still have to wait! The two movies are different. We shot for so long because we needed such a long time to be able to achieve it, so I don’t have anything to say.” He said that he needed to rest and would not make a movie for now.
Zhang Ziyi plays an Eight Diagram palm master in the film. She said that two nights ago after watching the film in its completed form for the first time she did not sleep all night. “Due to health and character consideration, I decided from now on I would not make another kung fu film. I am older, during training this time I realized I had many old wounds. My body was in a state of overload.” Zhang Ziyi joked that the production process was like “getting on a pirate ship”. “After three years of training and being with the character, I sensed the character’s troubled fate”.
Wong Kar-wai was often asked why it took so long. He said, “With such good actors supporting me, if I have the time I am willing to keep shooting. Although I was reluctant to part with it, everyone has to see it. ‘The Grandmaster’ displays the beauty of the Chinese people.”
Max Zhang Jun plays the character Ma San in the film and has an intense fight scene with Zhang Ziyi at a train station. Those who have seen the film have said that it’s the highlight of the movie. Zhang Jun said, “The pressure was enormous on this film, the fighting was real unlike before. Every school and every style were very clear cut.”
Wong Kar-wai was known for taking his time to be concise. Back then when he spent five years to complete ’2046′ it was already classic, no one expected that ‘The Grandmaster’ would take 14 years from from planning to official release. At first Wong Kar-wai and Jeff Lau Chun-wai discussed ‘The Grandmaster’ story, in 2001 the script was officially registered, in 2003 the film announced its official production. For ten years most of the time only the buzz of the production could be heard. In 2008 Raymond Wong made ’Ip Man’ with Donnie Yen, leading to a “twin incident”.
‘Ip Man’ was released and became a hit, even following the momentum with a sequel. However Wong Kar-wai insisted on completing his research before beginning production and asked Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen to study martial arts. In July 2009, Leung suffered a bone crack while sparring, during the shoot he even had a fracture. The film began shooting three years ago, with the rainy night fight scene in the trailer taking 30 nights, giving Leung bronchitis and made him sick for five days after the shoot. The film even had two wrap banquets, in the end Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi and others were called back to continue additional shoots. Thus before the film is released, Leung still does not believe it truly has wrapped up production.
Playing Ip Man’s wife in the film is Korean star Song Hye-Kyo who is currently working on a Korean television series in Korea and thus was absent. However she still sent a video for the premiere.
In the video she apologized for being unable to attend the premiere and revealed that she was a fan of Director Wong. She said, “Spending three years to work on ‘The Grandmaster’ with Director Wong Kar-wai has been a very happy period of time for me. It includes working with excellent actors, I have learned a lot, gained valuable experience. I have always been the director’s fan. Although my character this time isn’t a key role, being able to participate in the director’s film is already a honour for me.”