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30 March 2009 | 1500 HRS Equinox Swissotel The Stamford

It doesn’t matter to Daniel Wu that Jackie Chan doesn’t fight in his latest movie Shinjuku Incident. Indeed, the actor, who was motivated from a young age to learn wushu after watching Jackie Chan movies, will readily attest that his idol remains a great source of inspiration for him.

“This is my third time working with him... but it’s a different experience each time,” he said. “Compared to the previous two films that we worked on [Around the World in 80 Days and New Police Story], we had more scenes together this time round. And so through this movie, I got to know him better as a person, and also get more acquainted with his acting.”

In town with Jackie Chan to promote their new movie, Daniel Wu has nothing but praise for his mentor’s acting in Shinjuku Incident. “I think he performed really well in this movie and I am really proud of him,” he said. The two first met some 10 years ago at a restaurant opening where Jackie Chan promptly signed Daniel Wu up.

And certainly, it was Jackie Chan was the one who gave Daniel Wu his big break back in 1999 in Benny Chan’s Gen X Cops. The American-born Chinese came to Hong Kong just two years ago not knowing how to speak Cantonese or for that matter, Chinese. You could say he was pretty much an outsider, just like his character in Shinjuku Incident- an illegal immigrant from China in Japan.

“I think subconsciously that it definitely helped me to relate to my character,” he said. “I’ve been an outsider pretty much all my life. In America, I’m not white, I’m not that blond-haired, blue-eyed guy. When I got to Hong Kong, people started calling me ‘guai zai’. And of course, I travel around a lot too so I’m used to trying to fit into new cultures.”

In fact, the first time he visited Japan was at the age of 16 during summer. This time however, he worked harder at getting to know more about the Japanese culture in order to develop his character more. In the movie, the character he plays, Ah Jie, undergoes a 180-degrees transformation to take on what he calls a Gothic look.

“When we first came up with Ah Jie’s design in Hong Kong, we thought it was too exaggerated. But when we got to Japan, we realised it was entirely normal. The young people there, especially those around Shibuya, are just as extreme in their looks,” he said. “So I chose the Gothic look for Ah Jie because he is a very depressed person and Gothic music is just like that.”
It was his long-standing working relationship with director Derek Yee that gave him the latitude to develop Ah Jie the way that he wanted. “I didn’t even look at the script when I accepted the film,” he said, adding that Derek Yee is the only director in Hong Kong that he instantly would work with. “I really respect his work and I think he’s one of the few directors that really understand the language of film.”

That definitely makes two- since Jackie Chan had also signed onto the film just knowing that Derek Yee was going to be its director. But working with his mentor has no doubt made filming this movie all the more pleasant and memorable for Daniel Wu.
He remembers fondly how Jackie would take him out for dinner after filming to Jackie’s favourite Japanese restaurant. “I think each time we work together, we grow closer and also more comfortable with each other so on the set of this movie, there wasn’t any tension at all.”

For the person who wanted to be like Jackie Chan when he was young, it seems odd that he hasn’t done a full-fledged martial arts movie yet. “In the past, I used to avoid that because I didn’t want to be typecast. But now I think I’ll probably do one soon since I’m not getting any younger,” he laughed. Nonetheless, judging from Daniel Wu’s wide repertoire of movies so far, this is one protégé Jackie Chan can certainly be proud of.

Shinjuku Incident opens 2 April 2009

Interview with Jackie Chan

Interview: Gabriel Chong | Video: Richard Lim Jr | Photos: Linus Tee
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