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Interview Gordon Chan, from The Big Heat to A-1
The Big Heat, Film Workshop 1/1 - Page 1
Info
Author(s) : Thomas Podvin
David Vivier
Date : 13/1/2005
Type(s) : Interview
 
 Intext Links  
People :
Gordon Chan Kar Shan
Jackie Chan
Maggie Cheung Man Yuk
David Chiang Da Wei
Tony Ching Siu Tung
Sammo Hung Kam Bo
Andrew Kam Yeung Wah
Jimmy Leung Chi Ming
Michael Mak Tong Kit
Johnnie To Kei Fung
Tsui Hark
Taylor Wong Tai Loy
Movies :
2000 AD
Beast Cops
A Better Tomorrow
The Big Heat
A Chinese Ghost Story
Double Fattiness
Dragons Forever
Fight Back To School
Final Option
First Option
Fist Of Legend
Heart To Hearts
King Of Beggars
The Medallion
Mr 3 Minutes
Okinawa Rendez-Vous
Painted Skin
Project 1:99
Thunderbolt
The Yuppie Fantasia
Companies :
Film Workshop
Shaw Brothers
 
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Gordon Chan is arguably best known abroad for launching the Special Forces sub-genre in the HK cinema with films like First Option and Final Option. He is also famous for the Jackie Chan’s vehicle The Medallion. Having said that those films represent barely 5 per cent of his work and capabilities. He has tackled all genres and worked with many before and behind the camera.

Chan has been in the industry for some decades, starting at the Shaw Brothers as a special effect assistant and later writing scripts for Tsui Hark, John Woo and the likes in the Film Workshop. Writing has always been an important part in his professional life as he wrote all his films and helped out a lot of filmmakers to shape engaging stories.

In addition to scriptwriting, Chan directed all kinds of movies from light social comedies with Heart to Hearts, The Yuppie Fantasia or Okinawa Rendez-Vous to non-sensical laugh-out-loud comedies such as the Fight Back To School series, King of Beggars or Mr 3 Minutes, to police dramas and action flicks with Beast Cops, 2000 AD or Final Option, to kung fu films with Fist of Legend, to modern wuxia pian like Painted Skin or straight Jackie Chan’s flicks with Thunderbolt or The Medallion.

What’s more, Chan has always felt it was important to be involved in the fate of the film industry and of HK as a whole, as he has been chairman and on the board of directors of many associations such as the HK Film Directors’ Guild or the HK Film Awards Association. He also helped on some projects such as Project 1:99 against the SARS epidemic.

We discuss all these points up until the film A-1 Headlines in our interview transcript below.

The Big Heat & Film Workshop

HKCinemagic: You’ve been involved in the movie business since the Shaw Brothers era, first as a special effect assistant. Then you wrote scripts and finally directed your first movie, The Yuppie Fantasia, in 1989. What led you to this?
Gordon Chan: Basically writing. I wrote for a couple of films, but not much. For David Chiang’s films. There was a comedy about a death, I think it was about a fat woman who dies and comes back. And she reincarnates into a beautiful woman’s body and finds that there is a look-alike fat woman. It was a ghost story. I forgot the English title [Double Fattiness, 1988]. And Maggie Cheung actually starred as the ghost who came back. But Maggie Cheung failed.

So that was one of the scripts I wrote and then, another one for Johnnie To. One of the first Johnnie To’s films --The Big Heat (1988). That movie was considered to be a disaster. Of course, it took almost two years to finish, which was pretty rare in HK. And it wasn’t a big budget movie.

It was supposed to be a first small-budget experimental genre film and it ended up taking two years and several directors to finish it, including Johnnie To, Andrew Kam Yeung Wah, Jimmy Leung Chi Ming and Ching Siu-tung. Including Tsui Hark himself. Almost everybody was shooting then.

I was only writer on that film and I went through the whole process in two years. I had fifteen drafts on that one. I thought it was enough. The story was still changing in the dubbing room. I still remember Tsui Hark asking me what the film was about and I said: “Which version?”

So I thought I worked enough in the Film Workshop. Tsui Hark had taught me a lot. In fact, I worked on all the Film Workshop films, in the creative department with Yuen Kai Chi.

Basically how it worked is that Tsui Hark would go into different creative meetings and we will join him in every of those meetings. That means we were taking part in every films, including A Better Tomorrow and A Chinese Ghost Story. I wrote the first script for A Chinese Ghost Story. But we never got any credit. I don’t think we should because everybody was involved.

HKCinemagic: When did you leave the Film Workshop?
Gordon Chan: I think I worked there until 1988, and then I left. I went to write stories for Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung.
HKCinemagic: For Dragons Forever?
Gordon Chan: Right, that was my story. And I started writing for a couple of people, including Michael Mak. But that film was never shot. There was [another] film directed and produced by Taylor Wong that was supposed to be a film on gangs. But they never managed to get it made.
 
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