[ScreenSG] Finding Old Treasure
Nick Cheung and Wong Jing go back a long time, way back in fact to close to 20 years- and it is this enduring partnership that convinced Nick Cheung he should give comedy another go with Wong Jing's latest movie, "Treasure Inn". After all, as Nick himself declared at a press conference held in conjunction with the inaugural ScreenSingapore to promote the movie, he had all but turned his head from the genre of late.
Indeed, the actor who won Best Actor two years ago at the Hong Kong Film Awards and Golden Horse Awards for his role in "Beast Stalker" has made it a conscious effort to choose more dramatic roles such as in Johnnie To's "Election" and "Election 2" and even in Wong Jing's 2009 movie "To Live and Die in Mongkok". But he decided to take a leap back into the comedy genre when Wong Jing handed him the script of "Treasure Inn" and told him to give the genre another go.
"I didn't want to do the same stuff I have done before, so despite requests from fans who tell me that they have love my previous comedies and would like me do another one, I resisted," he explained. "Then I got Wong Jing's script and told myself that if I was going to do another comedy, I would rather be working with an old partner, someone I was familiar with".
"It's not easy to make a comedy," he added. "Some people think as long as you do some loud or crazy things on screen people will laugh at it, but it's much more complicated than that. You need to put a lot of thought into what will work, and what won't, and as an actor, I needed to trust that my director would do all that."
Of course, there's little doubt that the actor, who built up his film career from a TVB actor by acting in Wong Jing movies, trusts the veteran and extremely prolific director. In the past, Nick said that he would discuss his own ideas with Wong Jing whenever they made a movie- but now, he's content to just let Wong Jing explain the character to him, and follow his director's instructions.
Trust however goes both ways, said Wong Jing. He likens his actors to jockeys, and his scripts to the horse that they are on. "As a director, I give them riding instructions but I leave the actors to decide how they wish to ride the horse," he said. Certainly, Wong's own experience as the jockey has taught him how to make it conducive for his actors to give their best.
"I always try my best to end the day's shoot punctually," he said. "I believe that actors need to rest to be able to perform well. In Hollywood, most shoots only last for about 6 to 8 hours a day." That was apparently how Nick and his co-star Nicholas Tse took the time to go jogging regularly after filming had ended, Wong said- though he is quick to add that the two young actors couldn't hold a candle to their 50-plus year old Kenny Ho whom Wong described as being fit as a fiddle.
Co-star Liu Yang, who plays the owner of the titular inn in the movie, also remarked how enjoyable the filming experience was. She especially enjoyed watching Nick act, his buck-teethed persona a regular source of entertainment on the set. The China actress is yet another of Wong Jing's regulars, her past eight films over the past three years all films which were either written, produced or directed by Wong.
That's also a testament to the number of films that Wong has made and continues to make over his career stretching over more than 30 years. Yes, if there's a title for the most hardworking Hong Kong filmmaker, Wong Jing would probably win the title hands down. When asked about the sheer number of films he makes a year, Wong said that it's because he doesn't just make films in one genre.
"Many filmmakers like to focus on one particular genre... and it's tiring to keep coming up with new ideas in the same genre," he said. "For me, I'm willing to make movies of many different genres, as long as they are able to entertain my audience."
Asked if he prefers comedies to other genres, Wong candidly said that he "likes to make the kind of movies that earn money". Undoubtedly, with a career and the experience as vast and varied as Wong Jing, he'll know where that treasure lies.
By Gabriel Chong