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Interview with Jimmy Wong Ka Lok
Background, first parts and typecasting 1/1 - Page 1
Author(s) : Arnaud Lanuque
Date : 14/3/2007
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Jackie Chan
Cho Wing
Ann Hui On Wah
Andy Lau Tak Wah
Jimmy Wong Ka Lok
Michelle Yeoh
Yeung Jing Jing
Movies :
Ah Kam
From The Same Family
S.D.U. 97
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Page 2 : A favourite of Wong Jing

A former popular model, Jimmy Wong Ka Lok quickly managed to find his place in Hong Kong cinema industry (with Ah Kam). Unfortunately, despite some interesting capacities displayed in a few productions, he also suffered from a common curse of Hong Kong actors: typecasting. Jimmy kindly agreed to discuss his career. A good occasion to discover an underrated actor!

Background, first parts and typecasting

HKCinemagic : Can you tell us what is your background and how you got involved in HK movie business ? I know you were a model for Giorgio Armani, right?
Jimmy Wong : Yes. I was born here [in Hong Kong ] but I grew up in San Francisco , I went to school and did my college there and later moved to Europe for 4 years. I was based in Milan but often moved to Paris or other places like that. I did pretty well in the modelling industry so when I came back I still got a lot of contacts in the industry. So I got a lot of commercial work opportunities. And, at that time in Hong Kong , I came back in the 1990s, they were always looking for new faces. Hong Kong lacked actors. So, I got a lot of offers. Some were good films but some were… I think I filled in a lot of areas where more successful actors wouldn't fit. But for me it was good experience so I took a lot of bad boys roles. I kind of got stereotyped in that area unfortunately. But I grew up in the States so I didn't care. Acting is acting. It just became a bit boring after a while. Always playing the same kind of role. Now, I've become quite picky about what I pick.
HKCinemagic : Do you keep modelling?
Jimmy Wong : No, I don't do modelling anymore. But, on occasions, I do some endorsement for product or special appearances. It's quite common for actors in Asia .
HKCinemagic : Do you have any martial arts background?
Jimmy Wong : I did some boxing, English boxing. But I've always been athletic. When I came back I studied Thai boxing. But, on cameras, real fighting doesn't look impressive. It's always weird for me because when I'm using my fighting skills I'm always fight conscious and I'm always told “no, no, you should do like that” [Jimmy shows big punch moves]. And it works! It's like dancing.
HKCinemagic : Do you have any idea why you became stereotyped in this kind of bad guy parts? Because, obviously, you look good and could have easily made it for heroic leads.
Jimmy Wong : Well, I didn't have an agent back then. For a lot of the roles, they always wanted a bad boyfriend and they also needed it to be good looking. And if you proposed this kind of parts to actors like Andy Lau, of course, they would not take it. And I didn't mind too much. But after a while, I got mad (laughs). I think the first film I ever did, From The Same Family… I liked that script by the way... And I got some comments by some critics who said: “That guy who played this role was quite good, surprising, but I don't know his name.” (Laughs.) I think from there people saw me in this type of role. But that director got to know me and he wrote the character accordingly, he did so with me in mind and so it wasn't very difficult for me to act. It was a fun role. But sometimes, in Hong Kong , you never know. You can end up with a great script or a great director. I got to work in Ah Kam for example. It wasn't a bad movie. But it was not what people expected either from Michelle [Yeoh] or Ann [Hui].

The stunt that went wrong during the shooting of Ah Kam

HKCinemagic : This movie was also affected by the injury Michelle Yeoh suffered in the middle of the production. Did it affect your part?
Jimmy Wong : Not really, the script was always about the 3 guys, Samo, the kid and me. It's quite a good movie actually but I think audience was looking for an action piece or something very dramatic. The role of Michelle Yeoh was inspired by a real stuntwoman…
HKCinemagic : Yes, Yeung Jing Jing.
Jimmy Wong : Oh, yes, that's her name! You are bringing back a lot of memories (laughs).

Flirting with Michelle Yeoh in Ah Kam

HKCinemagic : Was it a good experience to work with Michelle?
Jimmy Wong : Yes, we got along great. We became pretty good friends. And it went very well with the crew too. But, for that movie, which was my second at the time, it was a bit difficult. For the first movie I did, it was very dramatic, so you had to act a bit out of proportion. When you have to act normal, low key, it's harder than you expect. And it wasn't made easier for me as I was working with Michelle and Ann who were quite big names. I probably could have been better.
HKCinemagic : Did Ann Hui help you build your character?
Jimmy Wong : Yes, she did. But she's a type of director who doesn't direct you but let you perform. I was expecting a lot of direction but I didn't get any! I guess it may be the reason why she wanted me for the role. She didn't want me to act but to be myself. But I was a bit new at that time to understand that.

HKCinemagic : So you're not completely satisfied of the final result?
Jimmy Wong : Oh, definitely it could have been better on my part, for sure. But I was not a very experienced actor at that time, I could have easily overacted. So maybe it was better this way…
HKCinemagic : SDU 97 was shot mostly in the Philippines. Usually, most of the actors who have worked there don't enjoy it. Was it the same for you?
Jimmy Wong : Labours are cheap in the Philippines. You can blow up anything you want (laughs). And there are a lot of guns. But, yeah, the conditions there are definitely harsher but still fine anyway. Things may not be as professional as here, for explosions for examples, you have to remain careful. I remember there was a guy with a remote control. And a band of guys was chasing after us and after that some guy was supposed to hop over and they would push the remote control. But there was that scene this guy was running and right when he was over it, they pressed the remote control and it blew all over him (laughs). He had scratches all over the legs and did a bit of hospital.
HKCinemagic : You were not too stressed about those conditions?
Jimmy Wong : It wasn't that bad. A lot of little troubles. Mostly when dealing with smokes or tiny rocks. But it was fun in a way. Because in Hong Kong usually, for this kind of films, they would tell you: “Ok, for this shoot, use 6 to 8 bullets, don't go crazy!” Over there, you just can go crazy (laughs). It's cheap.

Action time for Jimmy!

HKCinemagic : Did you have any training to prepare as a SDU member?
Jimmy Wong : Not really. But I'm pretty athletic and I'm not afraid to do my own stuffs. Directors like it. I try to do everything.
HKCinemagic : How long did the production last?
Jimmy Wong : I believe I was there around 2 months. But I think the shooting days were less than thirty.
HKCinemagic : What did you think of Cho Wing ? It was his first direction.
Jimmy Wong : I liked it, he's very Kung Fu style! I did learn a lot from him. On action style, I was quite happy with it. But we didn't have a good drama director and the story was kind of cheesy. But Hong Kong is Hong Kong ! (Laughs) For me, it was a good experience; it was very educational for me on the action. There were some scenes I'm very happy with. I remember, there was one scene, in a mansion. This house was three levels and I'm afraid of heights! And the directors asked me: “Ok, can you be on the top, jump over to this and then come down and slide down the stairs.” I was like: “Ok…” I was really worried, thinking if I miss this jump I'm dead! It would be a 20 feet drop, nothing down there. So I just practiced next to it with the stairs. I practiced and there was no problem. So, I prepared and did it for good. But what happened was that they put the camera exactly at the same level, without showing the heights. So at the end it just looks like I did it without any risks taken! This kind of things happen sometimes in Hong Kong . When I do some stuff, I'm so happy. Here, I really tried to control my fear… And if it was a big production, it would have looked like something like Jackie Chan do. But here, it only looks like a small jump. A jump with 20 feets high looks like a jump from 6 feet high (laughs).

A stunt which looks disappointing on screen to Jimmy's dismay

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