The Lady From Shanghai – what happened? part 2

21 June 2005
This article mentioned that Nicole just recently returned from a 4 month vacation in Australia, and has conferred with Wong Kar-wai in Sydney. It also mentioned a recent interview with Nicole where she said she had freed up August for WKW.

21 July 2005
“Oscar winning actress Nicole Kidman has recently met Director Wong Kar-Wai in New York to prepare her costumes for her role in the Lady From Shanghai. This film, which is Wong’s first English language film, is set in Shanghai during the 1930’s. Nicole will play a Shanghai woman who has a dangerous love affair with a spy. The name list of other cast members has not yet revealed. This film will be shot in Shanghai and Russia at the end of this year or early next year.”

22 July 2005
According to this article, Nicole met with Wong Kar-wai and costume designer William Chang in New York. Chang has started designing some cheongsams and other costumes for Nicole. The article also mentioned that the film is about this woman struggling to survive amidst the war and espionage. The love story will be a focal point, and WKW will highlight the beauty of Nicole’s inner reserve and mystique.

27 July 2005
Wong Kar-Wai interview on The Charlie Rose Show:
CR: Finally you’re going to make a movie called The Lady From Shanghai with Nicole Kidman.
WKW: Right.
CR: What’s the story?
WKW: We don’t know yet, but we know it’s about.
CR: We know the character.
WKW: Yeah, I..I..I… know there’s a character which I like very much to have Nicole to play. It’s a dangerous woman because..uh..and she’s in danger.
CR: A dangerous woman who’s in danger…um…sounds good to me.
WKW: It’s quite attractive.
CR: When do you start?
WKW: Next year.
CR: Next year.
WKW: Right, so I can enjoy my time to do all this research.
CR: So that’s actually what you researching here now.
WKW: Exactly.

13 December 2005
This article quoted the Chinese film company who’s jointly producing this film as saying that “The Lady From Shanghai” will now have to start “early next year”. The company disclosed that it’ss putting up US$10 million in a joint venture with a foreign company to fund this film. Due to many factors (which he did not disclose), they missed Nicole’s schedule. So they will have to wait for Nicole.
The article further mentioned that at the present time, only WKW is clear about the story line. And the cast is still not set, but will definitely include Chinese actors; although none has been selected.

4 January 2006
“According to an unidentified source from Taiwan, the post of cinematographer of the movie now belongs to Darius Khondji (The Interpreter, Panic Room, Se7en), rather than Wong Kar-Wai’s regular Christopher Doyle, and another Wong regular William Chang is still in charge of the production design. The story will be set in the chaotic 1930s and shooting will take place in northern China, Russia and Europe. Kidman will play a woman involved in a dangerous romance with a Chinese spy. Before the shooting can start, which has been scheduled at some time after the coming Chinese New Year, Wong Kar-Wai needs to complete the script, pick locations and finalize Kidman’s insurance.”
(Darius Khondji would be the cinematographer for “My Blueberry Nights”.)


6 January 2006
The article mentioned that Nicole has completed “Fur” and “The Visiting”, and is waiting for “The Lady From Shanghai”. Apparently, Wong Kar-wai has to consider “height” when casting for an actor to team with Nicole. So he may bypass one of his favorites, Tony Leung, and may consider Chang Chen.

6 January 2006
Another site reported that Wong Ka-wai will be part of the jury for this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and that he’s also preparing two films, “The Lady From Shanghai” and another one about Bruce Lee’s mentor, which will star Tony Leung. Taiwanese actor Chang Chen is now rumoured to play Nicole’s love interest in “The Lady From Shanghai” instead of Tony Leung.
The article also mentioned that the film about Bruce Lee’s mentor should start filming the second half of the year, while the other article mentioned April as a start date for “The Lady From Shanghai”.

14 January 2006
This article confirmed that Nicole has already signed to join “The Lady From Shanghai” and filming will start “the second half of the year”.


17 January 2006
After winning a Golden Globe for her performance in “The Constant Gardener”, Rachel Weisz told reporters that, “I am going to do a movie with Wong Kar-wai.”
Mentions that she will be filming in New York.
Speculation that either Rachel Weisz is replacing Nicole Kidman in “The Lady From Shanghai”, co-starring in the movie or starring in another movie altogether, therefore “The Lady From Shanghai” is postponed.

21 January 2006
“Golden Globe winner Rachel Weisz is happy because she doesn’t have to pretend she’s pregnant for the next movie, The Lady From Shanghai, by Wong Kar-Wai. The actress is 5 months pregnant and she won’t need to hide the bump.
Weisz said “It’s great that my character is pregnant too. When I was shooting The Constant Gardener (by Brazilian Fernando Meirelles), I played a woman that was expecting and I had to wear a fake bump.”
(The movie in question turned out to be “My Blueberry Nights” and not “The Lady From Shanghai” as previously thought.)

6 February 2006
This article mentioned that because of Wong Kar-wai’s high standards, the script could not be finished on time. Consequently, the start date for “The Lady From Shanghai” kept getting delayed. With Nicole being a busy Hollywood actress, it’s extremely difficult to coordinate their schedules. So now WKW has to rush to get another film started.

7 February 2006
“Recent mainland reports indicate that Wong’s work with Kidman might be put off indefinitely because the script was not produced as planned.”

13 February 2006
This article cited “sources close to Wong Kar-wai” as saying that the reason filming is being delayed till 2007 is not only because the script is still undergoing revision, but also because WKW is still looking for a male lead to team with international superstar Nicole Kidman. Even though this film is being “announced” in the Berlin Film Festival, they only showed a poster with a “silhouette”. There was no mention of the female and male leads.
“Wong Kar-Wai has decided to postpone the production of The Lady from Shanghai to 2007 and shift his focus on the hurricane Katrina project. A teaser poster of The Lady from Shanghai has appeared during the Berlin Film Festival. Someone from a French distribution company said Wong had difficulty of casting the right leading man to work with Nicole Kidman.

This image shows a large portion of the teaser poster appeared at the Berlin International Film Festival. It shows a lady walking in a street alone. Some kind of menu is written on the window glass and a bullet hole is visible on the right. The elevated rail line makes it looks more like a street in New York or Chicago, rather than Shanghai. Story of Lady from Shanghai is set at multiple locations around the world and Shanghai is only one of several cities to be featured in the film. Part of the URL of the official site is also reveal on the poster –
Also according to World Entertainment News Network, Rachel Weisz just said that she would play a pregnant woman in the film and she would not have to “hide her bump”. Since Lady from Shanghai has already been postponed to next year, her pregnancy will not be a matter any more.”


The Lady From Shanghai – what happened? part 1

Whatever happened to WKW’s “The Lady From Shanghai”?

First and foremost this is not a remake of the 1947 Orson Welles film of the same title, nor is it based on its source novel “If I Die Before I Wake” by Sherwood King.
In interviews with Italian magazines, Wong Kar-wai said that:
“The first one is a thriller between China and USA, “The Lady From Shanghai”, but it is not a remake of the Orson Welles film. I have choosen Nicole Kidman because she is really good, brave and she works with everybody. I will treat her with all my heart, as always I do with my actresses, that I choose for different qualities. Nicole, that I have admired in “To Die For“, has the character of the Hitchcockian star: is elegant, is dangerous and in danger.” (Corriere della sera)
“To turn Nicole Kidman into The Lady from Shanghai, is a thought that doesn’t make me sleep the night. I dream with open eyes.” (Messaggero)
The long-mooted thriller directed by Wong Kar-wai and starring Nicole Kidman has been shelved indefinitely in favour of “The Grand Master”.
It may be possible that the project could be resurrected after filming on the Yip Man biopic is completed although it’s most likely abandoned.
In the meantime, let’s take a look a closer look at its turbulent history.

19 September 2003

“According to The New York Observer, Nicole Kidman has reserved six months of 2004 to work on an untitled Wong Kar-Wai movie. Wong has confirmed to Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily that he had been in contact with Kidman. He has told her that six months might not be enough and Kidman said she knew Wong Kar-Wai’s way of working (very, very slow actually). Wong said he would meet Kidman next month in Hong Kong, Shanghai or somewhere in the States, to discuss the detail. However, Wong has yet come out a story for the film and his current “2046” has yet shown any sign of wrapping up.”


29 September 2004
“The working title of the upcoming Wong Kar-Wai film starring Nicole Kidman, is The Lady From Shanghai.
The story will be set in the 1930’s Shanghai, the birth place of Wong Kar-Wai. Japanese actor Takeshi Kitano has also been mentioned as the candidate for playing the “bad guy“. (William) Chang Suk-ping, the art director and costume designer for most of Wong’s films, has arrived in the United States to work on Nicole Kidman’s character. Shooting will start in February, most likely in Shanghai.”

1 October 2004
Wong is quoted as saying, “Early next year, we will work with Nicole Kidman on the new film The Lady from Shanghai, which we will definitely finish in 3 months.”


20 October 2004
According to this article, Nicole confirmed in an interview the other day that she will be working with Wong Kar-wai on his new film The Lady from Shanghai. She also disclosed that the film’s other leading actress will be Gong Li. Unfortunately, these two actresses will not have the opportunity to share screen time. According to Kidman, the director renowned for his slow and meticulous filming process, actually had already quietly completed most of Gong Li’s scenes within 5 weeks. She also revealed that she had spent considerable time in New York with Wong Kar Wai discussing the script, in preparation for the actual filming.
Even though WKW has completed part of the filming, he cannot expect Kidman to be as accommodating with her schedule as the cast of “2046”. She currently has 3 films on her slate, with “Bewitched” nearing completion and “Eucalyptus” and “The Producer’s” yet to come. “The Lady From Shanghai” will have to wait until after these films are completed.

21 September 2004
“One year ago Nicole Kidman said she would work with Wong Kar-Wai in a film and nothing has happened ever since. Now according to a short message “Grozilla” wrote to AICN, the project is still alive and a French producer is “very close to sign the next Wong Kar-Wai film, with Nicole Kidman as the main female part for sure.” Takeshi Kitano (Zatoichi) has also been mentioned as the candidate for playing the “bad guy”. The story would be set in Shanghai during the 1930’s.”

7 November 2004
This article revealed that Gong Li, who’s in the U.S. filming “Memoirs of a Geisha” will not be in “The Lady From Shanghai” as widely reported. Because of Gong’s scheduling conflict, Wong Kar-wai has not planned on including her in the cast. WKW’s biggest headache at the moment is Nicole Kidman’s series of pending films which create scheduling challenges. As Nicole is currently the highest paid Hollywood actor to film in China, WKW also worries about avoiding media intrusion, providing adequate security measures and selecting the appropriate film locations.

7 January 2005
“After completing publicity tours for 2046, Wong Kar-wai recently toured several locations in China and Europe to scout film locations for “The Lady From Shanghai”, which will star Nicole Kidman. As this is his first time working with Nicole, as well as his first English-language film, WKW has expended a lot of energy to scout locations, research the film’s era (said to be in the 1930s), as well as fine-tuning the movie plot. He has several different themes for the movie; but at the present time, he has not yet finalized the movie plot.
Filming was originally scheduled to start in March, but may have to be delayed until April because of Nicole’s scheduling conflict. This is the first time ever that WKW has to accommodate an actor’s schedule. That goes to show the Nicole’s stature in the eyes of WKW.”

25 January 2005
“When Wong Kar-wai held a press conference for 2046 in Bangkok over the weekend, he began to disclose news he was preparing to cooperate with Hollywood star Nicole Kidman. This time the Hong Kong director plans to put Kidman on center stage of his new production “The Lady From Shanghai”, which begins shooting in June. Wong said Kidman did not request to see the screenplay, which fully reflected her trust in Wong.
It seems Kidman has already prepared to adapt to Wong’s trademark directing style, which focuses less on the script and more on on-the-spot shooting. Wong also revealed Kidman already knew the major plot line of the story. The story is inspired by a lady in danger and mixes love with espionage. The movie will be produced in Shanghai but features an international cast. Therefore, selection of the working language to be employed during shooting attracted plenty of attention.
The movie will mainly feature English, but it is not decided yet, as the whole script has not been finished yet,” said Wong. Some news sources have reported that Kidman plans to commit one year to the movie, as Wong is famous for his slow process of shooting. However, Wong responded it would take only a few months.”


25 January 2005
Sina News also reported about the Bangkok conference. The article also mentioned that Nicole is attending a function to promote a brand name watch. At the event, Nicole was wearing flat shoes. The reporter commented that the medium height Tony Leung should not have much to worry about “looking up” to Nicole when they start filming in June.

10 March 2005
According to this article, this is the first Wong Kar-wai to have a complete script. Because this film is a joint venture with a foreign company and also because Nicole has a tight schedule, WKW committed to complete filming in 3 months. Currently, filming is scheduled to start in June. At the moment, the male lead role is not yet confirmed. Contrary to previous reports, Tony Leung, who has starred in many WKW movies, may not join “The Lady From Shanghai”.
Even though this film has “Shanghai” in its title, and WKW is very fond of using some well-known Shanghai spots in his movies such as “2046” and “In the Mood for Love”, “The Lady From Shanghai” will not be filmed in Shanghai. The exterior shots will be filmed on location in Harbin (in Northeast China), New York and St. Petersburg, Russia.

6 April 2005
This article mentioned that The Lady From Shanghai will start filming “this summer”. It also mentioned that Wong Kar-wai had already signed an agreement, which reportedly included a clause for the timely completion of the film. With WKW’s “ox-cart speed” completion of “2046”, Nicole has to pay particular attention that “The Lady From Shanghai” schedule does not get dragged out because she has multiple filming schedules at hand. It could very well be that “The Lady From Shanghai” may end up being WKW’s first film to be delivered on time.

May 2005
Inside Film Magazine May 2005:
“‘Hitchcock’…seems to be an especially big influence on his up and coming film starring Nicole Kidman. The US$25m film will be shot in China and Europe later this year is a thriller and he has chosen the ever popular goddess Kidman because ‘she is both dangerous and in danger, and that is what everything is about. Opposing qualities of strength and deep fragility.’
Wong has locked in Kidman with a secret story idea and this time will be using scriptwriters on set. He says, ‘the best directors are like architects and give you a window into another world’.”


Filming The Grand Master in Liaoyang War Museum

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.

The Grand Master Casting Speculation round-up

Brigitte Lin?:

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.

Gong Li?:

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.

Jay Chou?:

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 training for The Grand Master March 2009

March 2009

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

Tony Leung says The Grand Master will be action-packed

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.”

Filming The Grand Master in Shenyang

January 2010

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”.

Interview with martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping

 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.