' He’s huge in Asia and
an award-winning art house actor in the West. So, what’s TONY LEUNG’s cross-cultural appeal? Words: Miles Fielder
hroughout Asia Tony
Leung is a film star. and
something of a pop idol. too. Between playing the leading man in crime thrillers. historical epics and romantic dramas. at the prolific rate of three lilms a year. he sings in concert tours.
Outside Asia. however. the 42-year-old Canton-born actor is best known for his appearances in art house and cult films. That‘s partly because of the stigma of subtitling and partly because those films that travel are received and applauded as art rather than commerce. Take. for example. Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai‘s super stylish tale of unrequited passion. In the Mom/for Love. Leung won the Best Actor Award in Cannes in 2000 for the film. which subsequently became an art house hit in the UK. It brought him wider recognition outside his home territory. but because he hasn‘t gone to Hollywood. he‘s still perceived on this side of the world as an art house player. Not that he is bothered by such distinctions. ‘I never differentiate between movies and art.’ he says: ‘I know the difference. but I don't care.‘
Fame and fortune in acting catne easily to Leung. although he never sought them out. After graduating from an acting class at a l-long Kong TV station. he secured a role in a children‘s comedy show and then made his first film. l’eng kuang ha sun (Mad Mar! 83). Over the 20 years since. Leung‘s done over ()0 films. working with Asia‘s fittest filmmakers: Kar-wai (six times). John Woo (on the cult classics Bullet in the Head [I and Hard Boiler!) and Zhang Yimou (on the forthcoming martial arts adventure. Hero).
‘I love acting.’ he says. ‘lt‘s
the only way I can express my emotions. because I‘m very shy.’ That‘s an odd thing to say. considering his lovelorn office worker from In the Moodfm' Love (and. for that matter. his lovelorn cop in Kar—wai‘s earlier film. Chung/ting lair/Mess) comes across as emotionally repressed. Maybe that‘s down to cultural differences between liast and West. but then Leung says of the next lilm in which he'll be seen in the L'K. the superbly-titled undercover cop thriller Infernal Affairs. ‘I wanted to play the role as flat as I could.‘
Leung says that Kar-wai is ‘good at misleading actors. He works without a script. just hints at characters and story.‘ During the filming of In the
24 THE LIST 1‘.) Fair-«’1 Mar 200/1
DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN MOVIES AND ART.'
Mood/Ur Love. Leung says Kar—wai told hitn: ‘You are not in love with [co-star] Maggie (‘heung. you are a man seeking revenge.’ lluh'.’ And Leung. who‘s currently filming 2046. Kar-wai's follow-up to that film. says he’s playing the same character again. except he‘s now a mean and dark fellow who writes pornos. lluh'.’ lluh'.’ Leung says he‘s not sure if his character will turn out to be who he thinks he is. In fact. he's been working on and off on 20-16 for four years and he's ‘not even sttre what it‘s about‘. Working with Kar-wai is challenging. he murmurs.
Whatever the challenges. Leung is a very charismatic performer. With him. less is more. and this is a quality Kar- wai has exploited in the lilms they've made together. Would In the Mom/for Lore have been so achingly romantic if Leung and (‘heung had not kept their passion simmering beneath the surface'.’ Of course not. It‘s Leung's apparent lack of emotion. combined with his good looks. which translates. I think. to Western audiences as deeply enigmatic and thus is highly appealing. And it‘s what makes Tony Leung an Asian superstar.
Infernal Affairs is on selected release from Fri 27 Feb. See review, page 27.
Lights, camera, action!
IF YOU LOVE 007 THEN DON'T miss a very special night at the Dominion Cinema. Edinburgh on Thu 25 March. There will be a screening of the classic Goldfinger, followed by a live on-stage chat with the original pure golden girl Shirley Eaton who, unsurprisingly, is pushing her new autobiography, Golden Girl.
IT’S ALL GONE AWARD nomination crazy for young ﬁlmmakers from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Lanarkshire. Nominations for this month’s 2004 First Light Film Awards, which celebrate the best short ﬁlms made by young people across the UK are in. The awards which will be held at the Odeon in Leicester Square on Wed 25 Feb, are presented to youngsters aged between seven and 18 who have made ﬁlms under the UK Film Council’s Lottery-funded First Light programme. Edinburgh is represented by a number of young ﬁlmmakers from Young People Speak Out, with two ﬁlms nominated in the Horror category: Cry Wolf and The Soul Owner. Lanarkshire has two nominees, both from the group Frames Per Second Media. The ﬁrst is an animation called Dancing Danielle and the second is A Day in the Life of Class1b. Also, Catriona Black’s Piobairean Bhdmais and Neil Coslett’s Killing 17me at Home are up for the British Animation Awards 2004 Public Choice Scotland. Good luck to you all. CORRECTION TIME — THE GREAT documentarian Nick Broomfield will do a masterclass at Edinburgh College of Art on March 5th (not on February 13th as previously stated RoughCuts) from 2.30—4.30. followed by a screening of Aileen.- The Life and Death of a Serial Killer.