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Statistics :
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Interview with top gweilo Mike Leeder
Mike Leeder, actor 1/1 - Page 1
Info
Author(s) : Arnaud Lanuque
Date : 1/3/2010
Type(s) : Interview
 
 Intext Links  
People :
Jackie Chan
Pauline Chan Bo Lin
Condee
Bruce Fontaine
Ken Goodman
Mark King
Bruce Lee
Mike Leeder
Mike Miller
Louis Roth
Steve Tartalia
John Wakefield
Wong Jing
Chingmy Yau Suk Ching
Shawn Yue Man Lok
Movies :
City Hunter
Crime Story
Fun And Fury
Girls Without Tomorrow 2
Kickboxer King
Knock Off
Once Upon A Time In China II
The Twin Dragons
The Way Of The Dragon
 
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Page 2 : Mike Leeder, magazine writer


In the Hong Kong film industry, he is known as “Big Mike” --big for his size, but also big for his heart. Entertainment industries all over the world are tough circles, full of two-faced and opportunistic individuals. Meeting someone as genuine and as passionate as Mike Leeder was a very refreshing experience. True to the city he has adopted as his own, Hong Kong, Mike is a multi-hyphenate talent: journalist, casting director, actor or scriptwriter working in the heart of the former British colony, and sometimes in China or other countries (South Africa), he does it all! Thanks to his multiple hats, he has gathered an impressive amount of knowledge on how the Hong Kong film industry works and he has always been gracious and generous to share his knowledge with other fans (notably in the UK magazine Impact Movie Magazine).

Leeder was equally gracious and generous with his time and with sharing his understanding of the industry when we met him for an interview. Our meeting initially scheduled for two hours turned into a four-hour session of intense discussion! Many different topics were addressed, from the infamous IFD to the last project of Rza, passing by Jackie Chan's evolution and by numerous forgotten gems from the golden age of the HK film industry. That is an incredible variety of subjects, which should certainly content fans of Hong Kong cinema. So please enjoy, I know I did.

 

Big Mike's website, http://www.mikeleeder.com/

 

Mike Leeder, the actor

HKCinemagic.com: So how did you get into Hong Kong movies?
Mike Leeder: The funny thing is a lot of my friends were into martial arts movies and I was not. They would watch anything and I would be like “this is stupid, this makes no sense.” And one day, one of my friend rented Snake in the Eagle's Shadow. I watched it and it was the first martial arts film I found pretty cool. After that I watched back everything I could. But I never liked Bruce Lee movies because I thought it didn't make sense. Because films like Way of the Dragon were heavily cut in England so you would not see the alley way fight. So I tried to watch everything but there wasn't much information available at the time. I went to Chinatown , I bought Ric Meyers' book… Then I thought I wanted to go to Hong Kong, I wanted to do stuff over there. I was thinking about it while I was working as a manager in a store. Boring job. And one day in 1990, I took a plane and went to Hong Kong. I didn't know anyone. And I've been here ever since.
 
HKCinemagic.com: What did you do first when you arrived here?
Mike Leeder: I landed and went to YMCA which back then was a cheap place to live. Then I went to see several film companies. I did English teaching jobs to help pay the bills.
 

Snake in the Eagle's Shadow , an inspiration for Mike Leeder

 
HKCinemagic.com: Your goal back then was acting ?
Mike Leeder: Yes, I wanted to be an actor and I did a lot of movies I refuse to mention, films where I just pop up as an extra. I met most of the other guys doing movies because it's a pretty small society here. I had been writing for some magazines on and off and basically kept doing it. A friend of mine gave me a job which gave me the flexibility to do movie stuffs. I did a lot of interviews, some of them were like my heroes, some of them were great, some of them were disappointing.
 
HKCinemagic.com: Were you fluent in Cantonese around that time?
Mike Leeder: No, and I'm still working out actually. It's the hardest language in the world I think. There's 6-9 tones, depends on who you ask! So one word can have so many variations depending on the tones used, the emphasis you put on something. It's frustrating because it's very subtle. Mandarin is so different to Cantonese, which can be hard when you're trying to learn that too, but it's funny that I find people appreciate and encourage you to try and speak Mandarin, but not Cantonese as much. The main thing is to have confidence. My understanding is pretty good, my speaking depends on my mood and emotional state… if I'm having bad day it can get so much more fluent!
 

Where is Mike?

 
HKCinemagic.com: Where are you in City Hunter ?  
Mike Leeder: I'm just in the big casino scene, the hard and soft dance scene.
 
HKCinemagic.com: How was the conflict between Jackie and Wong Jing on the set?
Mike Leeder: The thing is Jackie can be perfectionist, Wong Jing is very relaxed. For example, if Jackie wants a big dog and you bring him a small one, he will wait for it to grow. If Wong Jing wants a big dog and you bring him a cat, he'll just change the script. Jackie Chan was just coming out from Police Story 3 so it was a bit bizarre. You had Wong Jing directing bits of City Hunter, Ching Siu Tung directing bits of City Hunter, Jackie directing bits of City Hunter. And at the same time Jackie was also working on bits of Crime Story. And originally, the director was supposed to be Ricky Lau but he left. When I saw Twin Dragons, I thought “yeah that's the character from City Hunter,” a womanising fighter. It was a really disjointed production when they filmed it. Even on the set, you could feel it would not flow together. But Chingmy Yau was a goddess, and there were a few friends amongst the foreign extras and bit players, my old friend Mike Miller from Knock Offturns up at one point.

I also appear briefly in the embassy of Once Upon a Time in China 2. That was actually here I first met Mike Miller. They wanted a guy to get shot by an arrow. And Mike Miller was like “I'll do it.” He acts as a doctor but also as a guard in the embassy. In the West, you would have the arrow on a wire to hit the chest. But they just gave him a piece of wood and shot the arrow. The end shooting of Once Upon a Time in China 2 was crazy, they finished it like Sunday and it was being released a couple of days later... I was also in Girls Without Tomorrow 2, there is a whole room full of western businessmen up to no good, I'm in it. Ending up with Pauline Chan in a room… Which was pretty nice. I did a lot of extra stuff because I'm not a good martial artist. People like Mark King or Louis Roth had the acting western roles usually. I did a lot for TV series. There was one I played a rapist, and still to this day, people recognise me from it! Often at the wrong times! TVB had a guy named Greg Rivers on contract back then, an Australian who speaks perfect Cantonese and would play the major western roles in their TV shows, while ATV had John Wakefield under contract back then.

 

Kickboxer King , a typical IFD production trying to surf on the kickboxing trend
initiated by Jean-Claude Van Damme

 
HKCinemagic.com: Do you remember in which IFD production you appeared?
Mike Leeder: I'm in Kickboxer King, very briefly. The director was Vincent Wan and he was like “OK you guys can choreograph, you can do everything.” It was a learning experience for everyone, and gave Bruce Fontaine and Ken Goodman the chance to experiment with choreography. On Kickboxer King, we had Condee from Fun and Furyand Operation Condor. We convinced the make up people that if a white guy got a black eye, a black guy would get a white eye. So, you see at one point in the film Condee looks like a panda. I was also in one [film] with Steve Tartalia but I can't remember the name. We were paid by the hour.
 
HKCinemagic.com: Some of those films featured pretty bad performances. It reminds me of the gweilos playing the German soldiers in Green Hornet
Mike Leeder: I was one of those German uniformed gwailos! (Laughs) For some reason German soldiers and imagery often seem to turn up in Hong Kong movies etc. for the wrong reasons. A few years ago I got called to work on a music video with actor/singer Shawn Yue, they wanted me to play an Army officer… I get there and they give me a regular German army uniform and the other guys also, then Shawn Yue comes out dressed as a member of the Waffen SS… and they're telling us the story that we're playing the bad nazis and he is playing the good nazi who saves some children from us.
 
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