TWO: ASSEMBLING THE GUARDS
Yen. Tony Leung. Nicholas Tse. Fan Bingbing. Wang Xueqi.
Hu Jun. Eric Tsang. Simon Yam. Leon Lai. Jacky Cheung.
Despite the fact that "Bodyguards and Assassins"
was one of the most expensive Chinese films ever and
destined to be a huge blockbuster, it wasn’t easy
to assemble such an ensemble cast together for the film.
stars are reluctant to work in ensemble movies because
they can get compared against each other," said
producer Peter Chan. "Each actor is an individual
enterprise so really the question was why would they
want to be part of something that they could be compared
against someone else?"
added that to say 'yes' to a movie like this required
a lot of trust on the actors’ part in both himself
and Teddy Chen. "No matter how well they think
they do on screen, there’s always a chance they
could be cut out in the end, so it’s always a
challenge to get actors to be part of an ensemble movie
stressed that it was important to make sure that trust
is returned- though it isn’t always easy. "Sometimes
it’s really hard to be fair to every actor. Movies
are like a child in that it takes its own course as
it develops. It becomes very organic. So the fact that
there are so many actors and so many characters means
that it’s very hard to be fair to everyone."
certainly helped to win the actors and actresses’
trust was the film’s script, which director Teddy
Chen described as "one of the best he has ever
seen". Indeed, Teddy Chen said that the script
in its current form had gone through over 1,000 changes
during the ten years the film had been in production.
is a very complete script with very strong characters,"
said Chen. "So though there are many characters
in the story, none of them are actually supporting roles.
Each was just as fleshed out as the other and I think
the actors all recognized this when they read it. The
challenge to them was really how to give their best
to whichever role they were playing."
as Peter Chan revealed, it still took some persuasion
before Donnie Yen came on board. "Donnie’s
career was on the rise when we approached him to play
this role so he’s very cautious about the roles
he plays. And coming after last year’s "Ip
Man", I think he was very careful that he wanted
this role to be different from what he had played before."
get Donnie Yen on board, Teddy Chen rewrote the script
several times, particularly because Donnie’s role
was in fact meant for someone else- which Peter Chan
refused to reveal. But once he was on board, Chan praised
Donnie Yen for being every bit a perfectionist. "Every
time after we finished shooting a scene, he would want
to take a look at the playback to see how he did. He
was very motivated to excel," he said.
the other hand, Tony Leung needed no such persuasion
to be cast in the movie. After all, he had already agreed
when Teddy Chen approached him ten years ago. But what
he did need time to get over was whether he would be
comfortable playing his current role in the movie- that
of the newspaper editor Chen Shaobai who was good friends
with revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen.
years ago when Teddy approached Tony to star in this
film, he cast Tony as the baddie [now played by China
actor Hu Jun],” said Peter Chan. "And when
we told him ten years later who he wanted him to play,
I could see that he stuttered. He was trying very hard
to conceal it as an actor would but I could sense his
Tony Leung was won over after reading the revised script
and even gave his own ideas how to beef up his character.
"I was more pressured than stressed when I was
told that I would be playing a different character,"
said Leung who reportedly even went to the gym to tone
up for his previous character.
never did he once think of turning Teddy Chen down.
"I had made a promise to him before that I would
be part of this movie and I wanted to honour that promise
to him," he said.
anything, the only thing I was afraid of starring in
this movie was the expectations of the other stars’
fans. Look at them- you have Donnie Yen’s fans,
Nicholas Tse’s fans, Leon Lai’s fans. I
wouldn’t dare imagine what it would be like if
I eventually let them down!"
One of our article: "A Labour of Love"
And Assassins opens 17 December 2009 and is reviewed