The Ying1 Xiong2 Tie3 (Hero's Invite) was sent to the various sects of the martial arts world for a gathering at the Ying1 Xiong2 Hui4 (Hero's Meet)...

Snapping back to reality during the wait for the press conference to start, the various media (print, TV, and ourselves) were gathered at the Conrad Centennial Hotel for the press conference of Seven Swords, and in attendance were director Tsui Hark and stars Donnie Yen and Charlie Young, in Singapore as part of their Asian whirlwind tour to promote Seven Swords.

Everyone was all smiles and obliged with answering all the questions (more on that later) that the host / media threw up. It's kind of surreal looking at doe-eyed Charlie Young in her white dress (and pink boots), possibly because she had at one time retired from the industry, but yet time has been kind to her, and she looked as pretty as before, with no signs of obvious ageing. Donny Yen looked chic with his unbuttoned blue shirt, and was obviously hamming it up for the cameras, flashing his pearly whites gamely throughout the conference. Tsui Hark, once touted as the Spielberg of the East, actually looked quite regal in his black coat.

Charlie Young was reminiscing about working with Tsui Hark again, and her first role in a martial arts film in which she had to actually learn horse-riding and kung-fu. It seemed that she's the spokesperson in detailing the difficulties they faced on the set - with the extreme temperatures the cast and crew faced everyday, to the grueling schedules that they had to work with.

One of Donnie Yen's challenges in this movie, was the requirement to learn the Korean language in a short period of time, and delivering those lines convincingly. The other challenge he faced, which sadly was edited out for the cinematic release (but should be on the DVD), was a long dialogue scene with Leon Lai, when he first emerged from his cave. Not that the lines were difficult, but because the scene was filmed in freezing cold, their jaws were tight, and the situation made worse as he had to hold his metallic sword. It was no doubt that they looked forward to after each take when they can quickly return to their trailers for a quick warm up. Despite his martial arts background, he still found each action sequence tough. I think Donnie surprised those in attendance by introducing himself and replying to a question in extremely good English (without a trace of any HK accent).

Tsui Hark was all praise for his stars being able to rough it out in the harsh environment during production, and mentioned he was fortunate to be able to work with both stars again (they are Tsui Hark regulars). Needless to say, most questions fielded were for the director, ranging from "Why make Seven Swords" to "How is it different from Magnificent Seven / Seven Samurai".

It is to the latter question that we learn Tsui Hark is a fan of Akira Kurosawa, and emphasized that Seven Swords was in no way a copy or a repeat of the classic. He credited Kurosawa for the excellent film he made, and stressed that Seven Swords was a different story, in a different era altogether, and was written by someone else.

While philosophizing some questions and motives behind making the film, there was a reporter who asked the director some difficult and candid questions. One criticism made was that Seven Swords offered nothing new to the genre of martial arts film, and questioned if the Tsui Hark era of success was indeed over, with recent string of box-office disappointments. To that, Tsui Hark was quick to answer that he welcomes criticisms, and will learn from them.

The other question was pertaining to Donnie Yen's supposedly steamy passionate scenes with Korean actress Kim So-yeon, in which the reporter said it wasn't steamy enough, and suggested if it was deliberately cut off by the director or the distributor. While Donnie Yen explained that there are different perceptions to what constitutes "passion", and that there is no need to be exploitative, Tsui Hark was however, quite taken aback, and asked if there was further censorship to the film. Our host for the day, however, managed to take control of the situation and diverted attention to another question from the floor.

Cameramen were having a field day circling all around our trio with fervent effort to capture their best moments, and while Tsui Hark was doing most of the talking, Donnie and Charlie seemed to be enjoying teasing the cameras. In 35 minutes, the conference was a wrap. As swiftly as they entered the ballroom, they left as quickly too.

and our heroes exited the Meet swiftly using their Qing1 Gong1...

Meet The Fans Session @ Wisma Atria

By 3:30pm, there was a crowd standing in front of a relatively small stage, waiting for the stars to arrive. It's interesting to note that the crowd was a mix of older folks (probably Tsui Hark fans), middle aged guys (who grew up with Charlie Young), and some teenage girls (fans of Donnie Yen perhaps?) The long wait was made easier by Yes93.3FM's DeeJay entertaining and speaking to the crowd, conducting Q&As and giving out prizes to the winners, including gala premiere tickets. As the clocked ticked toward 4:30pm, the crowd swelled and many gathered on the upper floors as well.

Tsui Hark, Donnie Yen and Charlie Young didn't appear until 5:15pm, when they took the glass lift down from Level 3 to Level 1, and the crowd broke out in thunderous applause. Cameras of all shapes and sizes were brought out by the crowd and no time was spared in capturing our stars in digital photos.

After some quick introduction, they bantered with the crowd and again a Q&A session was conducted for the stars to hand out goodie bags to the winners. Charlie Young seemed to be very obliging to a lot of requests for photographs, smiling and pausing for her fans in almost all directions, Donnie Yen (with a jacket this time) looked a bit tired, but still tried to be as lively as he could when called upon to make some comments about the movie.

Tsui Hark was in sun-shades most of the time, and was in a "ra-ra" mode promoting his movie to the crowd. Nice things were said of this stars, similar to what was mentioned during the press conference earlier.

Things happened fast and furious, as they were soon directed to sit behind a table and autograph some posters, which were handed out to some I-Weekly magazine readers. Tsui Hark actually stopped the minders from proceeding to give out a poster, which was lacking Charlie's signature (she was interviewed at the time), and it was actually a nice touch to ensure that the winners weren't short-changed of a signature. Sadly though, the winners had to pose with their prized possessions, but couldn't spare a minute to talk to the stars, and were whisked off stage as fast as they came on to collect their prize.

It was all over in 20 minutes, as the stars bade their goodbyes, and posed together one last time for that Kodak moment. As they were leaving, autograph hunters actually pounced on stage from various directions to try and chase after them, but the tight security at hand allowed only a handful near their exit route to get just one last Tsui Hark signature on a memorabilia.

Given this enthusiastic response from the crowd, the film could prove to do well at the local box office

Reported by Stefan Shih | Photos & Layout by: Lokman BS


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