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Interview with David Wu, a chef in the editing room
On Iron Road 1/1 - Page 2
Author(s) : Thomas Podvin
Date : 3/6/2008
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
King Hu
Betty Sun Li
John Woo
Movies :
Iron Road
< Previous
Page 1 : From HK to America
Next >
Page 3 : Editing
Picture credits: CBC/Iron Road Productions/Mainland Productions/Cheerland Entertainment Organization

HKCinemagic : Why were you interested in the Iron Road project, as a filmmaker and as a Chinese?
David Wu : I am one of the film-makers who have been wanting to direct a film about Chinese workers in the building of the pacific railways. Back in 1998, John Woo had planned to produce one, which was supposed to be directed by the late King Hu. In the same year DreamWorks was developing another one. But it was aborted, for what the reason, I don't know. My guess is maybe the subject matter was an issue. Also along the years there have been quite a few producers, directors planning to launch projects about the building of the railroad.
I remembered the first time producers Anne Tait and Barry Pearson approached me, I was instantly attracted to the script which is a love story built with this historical backdrop. And romance is an international language.
I told Anne and Barry we got the right script because my concern was to have 100-minute long movie just about sweaty bareback Chinese workers with pigtails; that was not going to sell. Maybe that's the reason DreamWorks had pulled the plug. And as a Chinese director I have to say it's my mission and passion to tell this story and the timing was right.
HKCinemagic : Cross dressing and gender crossing are common in Chinese literature, opera and even films (see for instance Butterfly Lovers). In Iron Road, Little Tiger is in fact a girl. Was it a big twist for the story? Was it an important aspect of the story for you?
David Wu : It is more of a drama twist for James' character. After all like you said there have been so many stories like this so it won't be a big wow for the audience. Especially for mainland China and HK audience, Betty Sun Li is a star to them, so with Sun Li playing Little Tiger the audience is expecting the drama twist as they follow James' path.

David Wu and Betty Sun Li
HKCinemagic : Why the main character is Little Tiger/Sun Li and the story is told through her eyes, and not through the Canadian James/Luke MacFarlane.
David Wu : Because we chose to tell the story about a Chinese girl trying to survive in a world of alpha males and she crossed the ocean to earn a living by making a dollar a day. Most of all is to find her father who she believed was still alive. It is a story about survival, which is always my most favorite subject matter for movies, such as The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Killing Field, Papillion, The Defiant Ones, etc. The story starts with Little Tiger and ends with her being heartbroken to let the audience care more about what will her life be after that. It’s compelling.

Peter O'Toole and David Wu
HKCinemagic : About Sun Li: why did you cast her as the lead? She hasn’t played much of this type of roles before…
David Wu : For all the films I’ve made I’ve never wanted to typecast. And I always invest a lot of time communicating, talking with actors before I decide he/she is the [right] one. Simply by getting to know her persona and her attitude, how she sees the script and the world, what sort of movies, music she likes, etc. and I found out for a petite young Chinese actor, Sun Li has seen a clear perspective for what roles, what films she will act in. She thinks big. She told me she doesn't want to be typecast to nice sweet lover/girlfriend/student/... at the time she actually had turned down a big offer for the leading role in a sweet romantic Korean film for which she could have made big bucks.
What I like about this young actress is she uses her eyes to express her emotion, which is the first thing I look for when choosing an actor.

Betty Sun Li and David Wu
HKCinemagic : What did you want the film to look like and what were your instructions to director of photography Attila Szalay?
David Wu : The word was real. But I told my DOP Attila that we are not making a documentary for a history channel. In terms of setting a style by lighting, camera movements and framings I don’t want the style to become a blockade that keeps the audience from being drawn in. Because being too stylish can kill a film. In fact we did go through a lot of references of existing lighting which look achingly beautiful. And we were very lucky with the weather for capturing existing lights.
The best scene is the ending scene when Little Tiger says goodbye to James. A perfect afternoon sun has backlit this heart-wrenching moment. I am blessed.

David Wu, Sylvia Liu and Attila Szalay
Page :  1  2   3  Top
Previous :
Page 1 : From HK to America
Next :
Page 3 : Editing

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