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 HKCinemagic 2

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Interview with Ronny Yu
Debuts 1/1 - Page 1
Info
Author(s) : David Vivier
Thomas Podvin
Date : 28/3/2004
Type(s) : Interview
 
 Intext Links  
People :
Stanley Kwan Kam Pang
Ronny Yu Yan Tai
Movies :
The Bride With White Hair
The Servant
 
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Page 2 : Horror and fantasy in Hollywood


Introduction by Ronny Yu : Well, I hope there's no camera…anyway, if there is, I have no choice… (laughing). That makes me remember one day, a friend of mine wanted me to be an actor in his film. I said "you gotta be kidding", he replied "No, no, no! you should play a bad guy!"-"and I'll do Kung Fu too?"-I asked, "yeah, yeah! You're gonna do kung fu too!". The scene starts a very simple scene, I'm sitting here like that, and then the hero walks in and starts the conversation. I had about five lines to say… I took 6 hours…(laughing out loud) The next day, my friend said "you're dead! Eww… never mind. You won't have to come back" (laughing out loud). When the camera started rolling, I felt like…"what was the line?". So, I just stay behind the camera now…Ok, now questions !!!

debuts

HKCinemagic : Let's go back to your Hong Kong career. We've seen you started movies in 1965…
Ronny Yu : Yes, that's right.
 
HKCinemagic : We'd like to know things about your move to the USA , your transition from Hong Kong to Hollywood .
R Y : Well, the whole thing is like… my life. I mean, I never plan anything, I can't. When I was 9 years old, I got polio. My physical activity got limited. I never got to experience what young kids do, soccer, fighting… So I started thinking of my own world, dark, full of anger. I hated that. I never wanted to go out with my friends because I always felt bullied. I had to stay home a lot, with my two sisters (my family's three kids, and I'm the only boy). When holiday come, my mom took my sisters out for shopping and I, had to stay home. My father saw this, and he felt bad for me, he said "let's go back too the movies!". He so loves movies. I went with him, I had no particular demands for this but I went to see all kinds of movies. So on holiday he took me to the movie theatre before his work, then at lunch he picked me up and we had lunch together. Then, he went back to work, took me to another theatre and picked me up after 2 movies, around 5 or 6pm and we went back home.

So in about 3 months of holidays, I got to see…man… so many movies! (laughing out loud). In the beginning, I said to myself "ok, this is entertainment, comedy westerns, bang bang bang…". Then it becomes a therapy. When it's dark in the house, in the theatre I could dream. I forgot the problems, that I couldn't walk that good. I felt like the hero up there, so powerful. The bottom line is that my father actually inspired me. I never thought of being a director, I just thought that making movies was great you know… When I grew up, ready to go to college, I went to a boy school in England , and at that time I realized you could study and learn about film making. I thought you just walked into the studio, and learn one step at a time… And then I asked my father if I could go to America and learn film making, and he said "No. Film is for entertainment. Film is for people who cannot take the responsibility of working hard". I said "but I like it!", he said "No, if you wanna go to America , you gotta study what I feel like business". I wanted to go to America because once there, I knew I would get the chance to learn a little bit about film making. So I finally went there to study marketing and communication, something that is close because in communication, you can study advertising, and advertising leads you to films! (laughing). I got to learn theory, appreciate films, classic ones, master ones. After I graduated, my whole family moved to Australia from Hong Kong (my father retired). I went home and worked in my father's office for a while. I hung on with all the film people in Hong Kong , I observed them, how they put scenes together one shot after another. And then I met this guy, a cop. We become close friends and one summer, 1978 summer, he took me on one of his rounds, questioning the hookers…gambling bastards… That was very interesting. (laughing). We come out with that question "when you were young, what did you like doing?” Everybody liked to hang out -especially me- with the guys with guns. Legally when you can carry guns, you feel like you're so big! Everybody respects you...(laughing). And so on, we wrote a script called "The Servant", a cop vs bad cop thing. We find a friend who could put the money to shoot the movie and the next thing is… we needed a director. We went out and asked the top directors to read our script who said "this is silly." (Laughing out loud). We didn't even know how to put the form, we just wrote "scene 1: blah blah…" so when the directors saw that they said "come on guys… (mocking tone) this must be a joke, right?". So we went back to our "money man" who said "why don't YOU direct?” I said “well, I don't know anything! I can't hold a camera, anything!". He said "you wrote the script, so, of course you CAN direct it!". He didn't really care of the financial risk. My friend -who didn't want to be a cop anymore- wanted to be the hero, so he met the producer and said "yes, yes, of course Ronny can direct it!" (Laughing out loud). I was always thinking and saying "oh man, how I am going to do this?” "Very simple Ronny, very simple" the producer said "we hired the best cameraman, the best editor, that's easy, easy". I asked "but what if we screw it up?", he said "nah, you won't, it's a piece of cake". I knew later on, that he insisted and motivated us because that movie was his only chance, his only ticket. Who seriously would have hired a real cop as the leading character? (laughing).

It was a nightmare for me. The first day of filming, I didn't know even scheduling; I thought "ok, let's just have the whole cast here". The cameraman wanted to help me out, and put the cast on a line in front of me and asked "ok Mr. Director, now when do you want to put the camera?" (still laughing). But I was so lucky, all these cool actors realized that "this kid (me) doesn't know anything!" and rather than embarrassing me, helped me saying stuff like "ok Ronny, why not reversing roles? What about letting us walk on the scene for you and you just watch and then you decide how to shoot this?". I was relieved (smiling). So it's like the whole thing for me, is like a learning spirit. Even though it was tough and difficult, day time I shot the movie, and then night time, the editors were really helpful telling me "ok this is wrong… this doesn't makes sense… you have to go back tomorrow and give me two more shots" all his reactions were to make the thing work. I started to feel something inside me that I wanted to tell the story. And so we finished the movie, and somehow it became the number one movie!

[Ronny Yu's assistant on The Servant was Stanley Kwan]

I was so surprised and at that time I was called by the office that distributed the movie and I asked them "how is it possible?" they said: "because you don't know anything! It's also a new language, it sounds different, so new, and the audience thought -wow!-". It's exciting because you know at that time, I just thought movies cannot be slow, movies gotta move, gotta move… so every time I thought I had to economize all those reaction shots, something like to challenge the audience like saying to the audience "you have to follow the movie, so don't fall asleep or something now, ok?". And the audience realized that, that's why they loved the movie. And then somebody out there said to me "Ronny, you gotta be a film director", and from then on, I started directing, getting more and more offers up to 1993 when I had the chance to work on The Bride With White Hair (a.k.a. Jiang Hu) and I gained, because of my sort of inadequacy in terms of knowledge of film making. Every movie I make, even up to now is a learning experience, and I'm still so nervous when I start a new movie, like a kid just going to his new class.

I'm always trying different things, just look at my work: you have thriller, comedy, horror… I need to get my hands on different things. About the Hollywood thing, I just never thought of it, I still feel I'm inadequate, even for doing Hong Kong movies I'm still learning! Hollywood is so far away and so high levelled. Somehow, with The Bride With White Hair which went to a lot of festivals, got recognition, I got calls from Hollywood : producers, agents, lawyers who said "why don't you come over we have some offer…". That's how it started… and as I still have that student approach, my adjustment to all that studio system is long and tough. I'm open minded, I try not to fight my battles every time, I learn how to pick the right time to fight my battles. If there's something I strongly believe in, I try harder, if it's something that I know will help the movie and it's not my idea, then why not? I always look at this as entertainment, entertaining people after a hard day or family problems. For 2 hours, it's an escape. "Let them have fun or scare the hell out of them for 2 hours!" and they go back to face a harsh reality of life. I always call myself "movie maker" because I think I'm moving pictures to entertain people.

 
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