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Through the Lens of Arthur Wong
Disco dancing, Cinema City, D&B 1/1 - Page 3
Author(s) : David Vivier
Thomas Podvin
Date : 12/1/2005
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Lau Kar Leung
Karl Maka
Dickson Poon Kik Sun
Michelle Yeoh
Brandy Yuen Jan Yeung
Yuen Woo Ping
Movies :
The Fool Escape
In The Line Of Duty 3
In The Line Of Duty 4
Companies :
Cinema City & Films Co.
Shaw Brothers
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HKCinemagic: Jumping forward to the 1980s, in 1987, you joined the D&B company, and you directed your first film, In The Line of Duty 3.
Arthur Wong: Actually, my directorial debut was in 1979, Fool Escape. That was a comedy owned by Mr. Lau Kar Leung and his brother, the Lau film company. When I was in Shaw Brothers, I asked the company to send me to the States or to England to study films, and in exchange I was willing to sign a five-year or seven-year contract. They refused. Because they produce more than 150 films a year, why would they send somebody out to learn something and come back and say “oh this is too old or this is not good.” So I learnt from experience, I learnt the right from wrong.

At this time in HK, disco was very popular. It was the disco hype with Saturday Night Fever and I was still a young man by the time I was first cameraman. I was 23 years old. I liked disco very much, and some directors wanted me to be an actor, and I began to write my first script about disco dancing and about how young men would fall into this fever. The company refused I started this movie because they were afraid of censorship, they were afraid that all the students would only be concerned about playing or dancing -- the bad influence on the students would move on to the censors. So it might not pass through the censorship.

I was only a 23-year-old young boy, I got really mad and asked to get my contract discontinued. I was going out and I trusted I could find some companies to support me. So I quitted everything, including my cameraman contract, and went out of Shaw Bros. That was my bad year, because all the companies said the same: if the biggest studio is not ready for the project; we are not ready either. Of course.

So I quitted, I was very down and in bad mood. Director Lau Kar-leung came to talk to me and said: “Ok, do it for me, but no disco dance. Think about action comedy for me.” So I directed [and scripted] my first movie.

So after this first attempt, I felt I was not experienced as a director, I was too young. So I preferred to be a famous cameraman instead of a very bad director. I jumped into a new strong company specialised in comedies called Cinema City. The boss of Cinema City was one of my good friends, Karl Maka. We met when I was working for overseas productions, he was the first assistant director, I was also an assistant; we became good friends. After some years, he said he was starting a new company and asked me to come and join him. Very shortly, and luckily, every single Cinema City’s picture became a box office success.

HKCinemagic: You worked on most of the Cinema City successes?
Arthur Wong: Yes. And after a while, I came to the D&B company and the boss [Dickson Poon] wanted me to be involved in action films.
HKCinemagic: You were scriptwriter/ director for In The Line of Duty 3 (released in 1987).
Arthur Wong: Yes. Actually the script was written to suit Michelle Yeoh. One day she called me for lunch, and I thought something bad would happen. She said “I am going to marry the boss of the company.” And he didn’t want her to do any more pictures. So I went to Taiwan and HK to do a big casting to find a girl who could fight and be a second Michelle Yeoh.
HKCinemagic: That was Cynthia Khan… So you wrote the film, directed and also did the casting?
Arthur Wong:Yes, in HK, when you are a director, you work in every department. So I found a woman in Taiwan.
But at the time, I was not very good at controlling the budget. I trusted the wrong people. So I went over budget. But it was an experience, and the next time as a director I knew that for each scene how much it would cost and I could calculate [the whole film budget]. So that’s also why I co-directed the film with Yuen Woo-ping’s brother [Brandy Yuen Jan Yeung].
HKCinemagic: And Yuen Woo Ping did In the Line of Duty 4 after that, but you didn’t take part in this film.
Arthur Wong: No, I didn’t.
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