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 HKCinemagic 2

Statistics :
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Interview with Chee Keong Cheung, on his HK action film debut
An eclectic cast 1/1 - Page 3
Author(s) : Thomas Podvin
Date : 30/12/2008
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Vincent Lam Wai
Stephanie Langton
Mike Leeder
Jet Li
Richard Ng Yiu Hon
Brandon Rhea
Shing Fui On
Mark Strange
Vincent Sze
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
John Woo
Movies :
Bodyguard: A New Beginning
Crime Story
The Killer
Roaring Wheels
< Previous
Page 2 : On Bodyguard
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Page 4 : Film-making in HK

HKCinemagic: The cast is impressive, with actors from all over the world. Mike Leeder helped you assemble it.
Chee Keong Cheung: Thank you. It was real privilege and honour to work with such a diverse array of highly talented actors in both the UK and HK. Mike Leeder was the HK Producer along with Ean Tang and helped to assemble a great HK cast and crew for Bodyguard: A New Beginning. Mike’s certainly a very knowledgeable individual and very supportive of action and Asian cinema and he was a great contributor to the film. Without him, we certainly couldn’t have achieved what we did.

As mentioned earlier, I was in touch with Richard Ng from Underground and it was great to not only have him on board as an actor but also being able to get advice from him and filming in HK as he has such vast experience in HK and China. Richard put his son Carl forward, who I met with in HK in Starbucks. Mike put me in touch with other local talents, such as Vincent Sze who plays Leung, the Bodyguard. I remember having a very long meeting late at night with Vincent and we hit it off.

Other cast from HK included Shing Fui-On who I was very excited about working with having been very familiar with his work, in particular in John Woo’s The Killer. We had Vincent Lam Wai (Roaring Wheels) and James Ha (Crime Story) who play the gang bosses as well as Brandon Rhea who plays a drunken businessman and was seen in Fearless alongside Jet Li.

I met Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa with Mark Strange at the American Film Market (AFM). He’s a very talented actor and has such great screen presence and a large body of work. He’s a real great guy. Very gentle individual and very different to the bad guy roles he plays onscreen. We showed him some extracts from Underground and he really liked the tone and style of the film as well as what we achieved with limited resources and we kept talking and there was a window he was free. After the Bodyguard shoot he went on to take a key role in the Tekken film based on the computer game.

Stephanie Langton who plays Chloe, the girl Leung is sent to protect, is from the UK. Stephanie came to an open audition and she just stood out amongst everyone we saw and we had literally hundreds of people applying for that role. After her audition I just kind of knew she’d be right.

As well as acting, I should add Mark Strange was also very integral (as with Underground) in bringing together some great UK action talents in his role as producer including Nathan Lewis (who’s a three-time kickboxing world champion) who plays one of the hired help in the film.

HKCinemagic: Vincent Sze is a young French man from Asian decent, an up and coming actor in the HK film scene. His international personality was a reason why you cast him as the lead?
Chee Keong Cheung: No, this wasn’t the main factor. Mike Leeder first put him forward and we had a long meeting in HK and we really connected. I said to myself that he was the right person for the role. I didn’t know much about his work beforehand, but felt he was right for the part. There’s a strong character there but when you look in his eyes there is also a real vulnerability and I liked that about him.
That was something interesting. I think he has real talent and is certainly one to watch out for. His French and Chinese cultural combination was certainly unique.
The funny thing, when I was in HK, I directed Vincent Sze in English, and when he was in England I directed him in Chinese.
HKCinemagic: Richard Ng is cast against type, as a gang boss, it is really not the usual part for him. Why did you cast him?
Chee Keong Cheung: Richard’s certainly recognised more for his comedy work and playing a triad boss was a role he’d never undertaken before which I think was a real appeal for him.
I like unusual casting and like to find actors and offer them unusual roles because I think it offers something fresh for audiences. Richard is an amazing actor. When we were talking he was very serious and I thought to show this side of his persona, maybe a side that people hadn’t seen before would be interesting. He is incredibly talented and brings a great wealth of experience to any film he gets involved with and it was great to have the opportunity to work with him. He’s very observant.
HKCinemagic: Carl Ng and Richard Ng, son and father, have played together in Magazine Gap Road also. Can you talk about their chemistry on screen? I guess on the set their chemistry must be different than on screen…
Chee Keong Cheung: There’s certainly a real intensity with both Richard and Carl onscreen, but off screen it’s a lot more relaxed. I found there’s a strong relationship between both of them and also a great level of respect. They certainly challenge and push each other as actors, but in a positive way. As actors and individuals, they’re both very focused and committed and there’s certainly an intensity to them as well as a wealth of knowledge. They’re both thinkers.

In Bodyguard: A New Beginning they play father and son. Carl’s character seeks approval from his father and also Boss. Richard’s character sees so much of himself in his son, and he’s concerned that he’ll make the mistakes he made early in his life. Both characters go on interesting journeys throughout the film.

There’s one sequence, which was a challenge for both involving Richard’s character pointing a gun at his son, Carl. That was certainly an intense and emotional moment.

When directing them, I really tried to push them both emotionally and psychologically. We also worked on some improvisation between the two. I like to work closely with the screenplay, but sometimes I also like things to be organic and at times, there are moments of magic which happen onscreen that you can’t predict. At times you never know when it’s going to come and it happens when you least expect it. I like to create an environment on set with actors, where they feel they can offer up ideas and suggestions and improvisation certainly allows that. At times, saying a line [in those circumstances] can come across a lot more real than when an actor ‘reads’ it from the script, or a reaction can come across more real when they actually don’t expect something to happen but it happens.

HKCinemagic: Talk about Carl Ng.
Chee Keong Cheung: Carl Ng has a very good screen presence. He’s very much a method actor and throws himself into a role. He’s also very aware of where the camera is, which is important for film actors in order to perform to the camera and to audiences without making it obvious. This is something I noticed with Richard first. A subtle movement can have such a strong impact on camera and for me this is what makes a film actor.
HKCinemagic: Carl picked it up from his father?
Chee Keong Cheung: I think so. I’m sure Carl’s experience as a model has also helped in a positive way. I noticed a real level of respect for each other.
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