(click to enlarge)
Wong Kar-wai, Bajiquan master Wang Shiquan, Frankie Chan (back), Xingyiquan master Fu Yangquan
The trailer for Wong Kar-wai’s ‘The Grandmasters’ was released earlier this week. Yesterday, a new film poster and a documentary called ‘The Road To The Grandmasters’ were also released for the audience to get an understanding of the production. In the newly released poster, lead actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai as Ip Man has his back to the camera faithfully worshipping and displaying a dutiful and traditional aura and spirit. In the documentary, Wong Kar-wai talked about how this film started for the first time, when he saw a video three days before Ip Man’s passing deeply moved him and gave him the inspiration to make the movie.
The documentary revealed that the idea of making ‘The Grandmasters’ started in 1996 when Wong Kar-wai was working on ‘Happy Together’ in Argentina. He saw a local magazine with Bruce Lee on its cover and felt that the superstar’s influence on the world. Yet because the Bruce Lee story has already made many times, he wanted to explore Bruce Lee’s master Ip Man more and how he turned Bruce Lee into a legendary figure.
Under the introduction of Wu Bin, (China’s national wushu coach and Jet Li‘s master), over the course of three years Wong Kar-wai visited Beijing, Tianjin, Xian, Hebei, Henan, Inner Mongolia, Taiwan, Guangdong, Hong Kong and other locations and over 100 different kung fu masters of Wing Chun, Eight Diagram, Tai Chi, Xingyi, Tongbei in order to find the spirit and the philosophy behind kung fu. The video mentioned that and how some of the martial art masters have now passed away and were unable to watch ‘The Grandmasters’ in its entirety; during the process Wong Kar-wai was determined to bring back an era from one person and one street.
‘The Road To The Grandmasters’ not only showed Wong Kar-wai’s filmmaking process but also included the training of Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen.
Normally looking frail as a bookworm, Tony Leung can be seen jumping rope, practicing with wooden stacks in the video and sparring with the stunt team. Once breaking his arm during practice, Tony Leung truly gave his all in his training. He did not just rely on looks and action poses to be convincing as a kung fu master because director Wong Kar-wai asked all actors to “get inside the characters’ bones”. Aside from Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi is shown during her practice screaming from the split that the master asked her to perform and Chang Chen screaming in pain from stretching with the master. For 3 actors, willpower was the greatest training.
Tony Leung was Wong Kar-wai’s only choice to play Ip Man. Wong Kar-wai said, “I want to remove everything that Tony Leung had and shape him anew into another person.” He invited Ip Man’s final disciple Leung Siu-hung to teach Tony Leung the ways of Wing Chun. Master Leung had high praise for Leung. “To someone who has never studied martial art, Mr. Leung has a lot of potential. When you teach him a set, he understands what follows and kills three birds with one stone. He has this kind of potential and the material to learn kung fu.”
Tony Leung’s three years of training was also unveiled for the first time in the documentary. He said, “The director and I hope through the training process to experience the personality of a true martial artist, from which to shape a master image that has both flesh and blood.” With the upcoming film release, Tony Leung said that he was not nervous. He only hoped that viewers would not watch this film with just the idea of watching an Ip Man movie, because anyone who knew Wong Kar-wai knew that he definitely had his own way to innovate and open everyone’s eyes.