Serious thoughts from ‘Asian Jim Carrey’He is wildly popular among his fans for his lowbrow, slapstick sense of humor that parodies scenes from classic kung fu films. His use of exaggerated poses and gestures earned him the nickname of Hong Kong’s Jim Carrey.
At a press conference yesterday for his upcoming film “Kung Fu Hustle,” however, actor-director Stephen Chow did not appear at all like a comedy star.
His face had a sincere look; his answers were thoughtful, if not serious. When asked about his impression of Korean films, he adamantly replied that “their subjects need to be broadened more for international audiences.”
Lam Tze Chung, an actor who stars in the film, concurs about Chow’s seriousness.
“As a director he hardly laughs behind the camera,” Lam says. “He has high hopes for his actors. Sometimes his expectations are so high that they almost sound like absurd demands for his actors.”
The film, which was funded by Sony Pictures Entertainment, takes place in pre-revolutionary China in “a pig-sty alley,” a territory coveted by the local gang.
Sing, a hapless petty thief played by Chow, aspires to be a ruthless kung fu fighter. He eventually overcomes his inadequacy, and becomes the great kung fu master in a village protected by skilled kung fu fighters.
“All I can say for now is that this film is the best movie I’ve shot so far,” says Chow, who also participated in producing it. “It has all the best scenes; every scene in it is impressive.”
So far, Chow has starred in more than 50 Hong Kong films, and directed seven.
“Shaolin Soccer,” which was distributed by Miramax in 2001, is Hong Kong’s highest-grossing Chinese movie of all time, making $46 million in Asia.
The film, about a soccer team led by a monk from a legendary temple in Shaolin with excellent martial arts skills, was also screened in the United States last year, and attracted a major cult fan base for kung fu movies.
“It doesn’t really matter where I work,” Chow says when asked about his ambition to work in Hollywood for his future films. “I think the U.S. film industry is genuinely curious about Eastern culture. They always want to know more about things that they consider ‘Asian’ or ‘Chinese.’ But as long as the conditions guarantee that I work with a quality staff, the location is not very important to me.”
Chow is also known for his eccentric public persona. After the press conference, he stood in front of a poster for his movie and casually made his favorite kung fu poses for the cameras.
To maintain the security of information about the film before its release, it is known that he hired people to blow up the set, a street of apartment buildings from the 1940s, after the shooting wrapped up.
“People say all kinds of things about kung fu,” says Chow. “For some it’s a religion. For others it’s about effort and courage. But for me it is an attitude toward life. It’s everything to live for.”
by Park Soo-mee