AND ASSASSINS PRESS CONFERENCE & INTERVIEWS |
16 December 2009
ONE: LABOUR OF LOVE
Teddy Chen had the idea to make "Bodyguards and Assassins" back in 1999, but little did he expect that it would take ten years to bring this film to the big screen.
"I told [producer] Peter Chan that I had three requests if I were to make this movie- first, I wanted it to be a film with a lot of different emotions flowing through it; second, I wanted the emotions to drive the film, and lastly, I wanted to build a city on which we would film this movie," he said.
The last was the reason why the US$23 million film only got made ten years later. In order to ensure the accuracy of the movie’s historical backdrop, Teddy Chen wanted to construct a set to house two of Hong Kong’sold landmarks- the Victoria Harbour pier and a certain famous cobbled street called "Shi Ban Jie".
But as Peter Chan explained, it just wasn’t possible to do that back then. "In 1999, the Hong Kong film market was at its lowest and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" hadn’t come out yet so there was no Western market to sell this kind of film. The budget that a movie of this size would require was simply impossible to pull together," he said very frankly.
"The last eight years the China market has grown tremendously- from 700 mil RMB to over 6 billion RMB. That’s almost eight or nine times," he added. "It’s pure simple economics. You need the critical mass to be able to sustain a budget of this film. Without the China market, it’s just not possible to make this film."
He would know. "Bodyguards and Assassins" is the first film from Peter Chan’s new production company Cinema Popular, a joint venture with influential mainland Chinese entertainment group Polybona and helmer
Huang Jianxin. The Beijing-based company aims to produce 15 films over the next three years for the China market. The movie tells of a fictional assassination attempt
on revolutionary leader Sun Yat-Sen during his visit to Hong Kong and the group of ordinary people who bandied together to protect him.
In town to promote the movie alongside stars Tony Leung and Fan Bingbing, Peter Chan said that it was thanks to Teddy Chen’s naiveté and commitment that this film was able to see the light of day. "This
was really Teddy Chen’s dream and a culmination of the 10 years of meticulous planning from a group of people who believed in his dream."
Indeed, it was no small feat building the set the size of 5 football fields, a 1:1 replica that is the largest and perhaps most lavish ever built for a Chinese film. Reportedly, Teddy Chen’s fastidious attention to detail meant that he wanted to make the set as authentic as possible, right down to getting houseflies on the set so it would look and feel like the "Shi Ban Jie" of old.
In the end, it was all worth the effort. "I think as an actress, to be able to film in such an environment is really very lucky," said Fan Bingbing who praised the set as the 'most beautiful she has ever seen'. "From the costumes to the production design, I was very touched by everyone’s efforts to try to help the actors/actresses get into their roles better."
Her co-star Tony Leung shares her sentiments, saying that he was very honored to be able to be part of this production. It also felt quite surreal when he first stepped onto the set. "As a boy growing up in Hong Kong, I used
to walk by that street all the time. I still remember how it was a dangerous place to walk because it was sloped and there were a lot of gaps between the stone pavements so you could easily just trip and fall," he said in a wistful tone.
In fact, right from the beginning ten years ago, Teddy Chen had already approached Tony Leung to be part of this project. And the fact that Teddy persevered in his dream to make this movie was something which has won Tony Leung’s deep respect.
"When I first saw the movie in Beijing, I heard a lot of people
crying at different points in the movie. But I did not cry. I held back my tears," said Tony Leung. "When I arrived back at my hotel, I replayed the film in my
head three or four times and I cried the whole night."
"I cried because of three reasons- one, I had fulfilled my promise to Teddy to be part of this project; two, I was very happy for Teddy Chen who finally after so many years managed to realize his dream; and three, I was touched by how all the actors gave their very best in this film to make Teddy Chen’s dream come true."
Ironically, to fulfill this vision, Teddy Chen was so worried that he didn’t sleep well for months. A movie of "Bodyguards and Assassins" stature would need at least a year to film, he said, but he only had nine months to do it. Now, he said, he can finally rest easy. After all, it’s no small feat getting so many people to believe in one’s labour of love and to put in their best for it. Teddy Chen has just done both.
Part Two of our article continues..."Assembling The Guards"
Bodyguards And Assassins opens 17 December 2009 and is reviewed