|Patrick Tam : Andy Lau was actually my first choice for the role. He expressed interest in my story, and he was willing to finance the film without taking his usual acting fee, which would have been a huge sum, for taking up the leading role. It would have been a challenge for him because, at that time, he was taking on heroic roles in Hong Kong movies, and this would have been a breakthrough for him as an actor. However, he withdrew from the project.
I was doing the editing for Johnnie To’s ELECTION (2005), and I came across Tony Leung Ka Fai, who was the main character, and he also expressed interest in the role. However, his schedule was a bit tight, and he could only give me one month. I felt I couldn’t complete the shooting in a month.
Aaron Kwok and Ian Ng in After This our Exile
My line producer (Cary Cheng) suggested, after the release of DIVERGENCE (2005), which starred Aaron Kwok as a police detective, that I might consider Aaron Kwok. I showed him a copy of the script, and, amazingly, he had a deep understanding of the character. He trusted me, was very interested in the story, and wanted to work with me on this project. He was quite committed and devoted, and he was willing to shed his former image as a pop idol. At this point, he was about 40 years old (born in 1965), and he was ready to take on more serious roles as an actor. This was really a matter of timing. I was just lucky and blessed that all the actors had faith in this project and were willing to contribute whole-heartedly to it. My producer (Chiu Li-kuang/邱瓈宽) gave me total freedom in handling everything. She set us up financially without any creative interference. I really cherished this opportunity for us to work together, and I appreciated the creative contribution from all members of the crew. It was a matter of opportunity--timing.
[Aaron Kwok] has gone way up. I think he surpasses Tony Leung Chiu Wai in his performance in AFTER THIS OUR EXILE. Over the years, Leung has declined as an actor. He shouldn’t do another film with Wong Kar-Wai. He’s a bad influence.
Charlie Young and Aaron Kwok
[Tony Leung] is sticking to this Bryan Ferry [ed. lead singer of Roxy Music] image. When I edited ASHES OF TIME (1993), Tony Leung released two records, and he asked me what kind of image he should have as a singer. I was very fond of Bryan Ferry—very suave, Roxy Music style. I said that fits your image. If you look at the “four kings” of Canto-pop (Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, Aaron Kwok, and Leon Lai), not one has this “Bryan Ferry” image. That was the image I recommended to him, and he has this image in all of Wong Kar-Wai’s later movies (IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, 2046). He has kept this image without growth. He is stuck there. It’s a pity. Aaron Kwok has the greatest potential to develop and take up diverse roles in acting. He is a mixture between Andy Lau and Tony Leung. He has the potential, and he is serious and willing.