THE GRANDMASTER Singapore Press Conference

Award winning Hong Kong actor Tony Leung sympathises with Korean actress Song Hye Gyo, his co star in the action drama The Grandmaster. Leung, who plays Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man in the film, has Song as his on screen wife.

“I’ve been cast in Vietnamese and English films before, and I know it doesn’t feel good to be in an environment surrounded by people who speak a foreign language,” explained Leung at the press conference held at Marina Bay Sand’s Art Science Museum on 23 January.

He continued: “But she is professional and pulled it off” 

Accompanying Leung in Singapore is the award winning filmmaker Wong Kar Wai, who donned his signature shades throughout the press conference. The two also attended the gala movie premiere at Marina Bay Sand’s Grand Theatre on the same night. Fans caught the two walking the red carpet in the integrated resort’s The Shoppes.

Having worked with the charismatic Leung for the past 20 years, he feels that being cast as Ip Man in his latest work may be Leung’s most challenging yet.

“This is nothing he has tried before - this role requires more physical, and more importantly, spiritual energy,” said the auteur matter of factly.

The Grandmaster, a Hong Kong Chinese production, is based on the life story of Ip Man, a character that has been made famous by Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen. Wong, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, hopes that his rendition can be a breakthrough in the wushu genre.

He stated: “I feel that there has been no peak after Shaw classics like Shaolin Temple, and I wish this film will add a philosophical touch to the already great genre.”

Leung, who was hurt twice in the film that took 14 years from planning to actual production, admits that this is an unfamiliar territory. The superstar, who won multiple awards, including a Best Actor accolade at the Canne Film Festival, for his role in Wong’s 2000 film In The Mood For Love, reflected on how the experience changed his mindset.

“We get hurt and meet difficulties in life all the time, and being immobile during the production of the film just means that I have to get better and continue,” Leung put in plain words.

He also talked about how the role is a challenge to play: “Just as I was wondering what breakthrough I can have in my career, along came this role. And I took a long time to practise and prepare to meet the director’s standards.”

The commitment and encouragement from the cast and crew also made Leung spur on despite the difficulties. He said: “The cast and crew hasn’t’ worked together for about a decade, but the chemistry on set is still very strong.”

After playing so many different roles in Wong’s films, what will the duo do next to surprise audiences?

Wong said candidly: “Maybe it’s time we formed a rock band to refresh things a little.”

Text by John Li; Photos by Linus Tee

Read our review of The Grandmaster here.