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Interview with Andrew Lau and Alan Mak -Infernal Affairs
INFERNAL AFFAIRS part 1 1/1 - Page 2
Author(s) : Amy Lee
Gina Marchetti
Date : 3/11/2004
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Christopher Doyle
John Woo
Movies :
City On Fire
Infernal Affairs
Companies :
Base Production Ltd
Media Asia Group
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Page 1 : Personal Experiences as Filmmakers
Next >
Page 3 : INFERNAL AFFAIRS series

On The first installment of INFERNAL AFFAIRS
HKCinemagic.com: How did Infernal Affairs first get off the ground?

Alan Mak, photo by Gina Marchetti for HKCinemagic.comAlan Mak: Around 1998, I saw FACE/OFF, and I really liked that movie. For John Woo, it is quite difficult to make a movie in Hollywood in his own style. Because Hollywood is based on a producer system, it is difficult for a director to express himself using his own style of filmmaking. In this case, John Woo had the right to the final cut, and it turned out very well. The surgery about changing the face and body, however, was really not believable. So, with that movie as inspiration, I began to start to think about a story in which two people swap identities. Infernal Affairs really started from there. In Hong Kong, there are so many movies about undercover cops, but we didn't have any about a triad member infiltrating the police. Actually, I think it must happen, so Infernal Affairs came out of that idea. Actually, I think all the filmmakers in Hong Kong are influenced by John Woo.


HKCinemagic.com: Did you conceive of Infernal Affairs primarily as a police story or as an action film?

Alan Mak: From the beginning, we were being pressured to put more action in the film. During the marketing of the film, for example, I was asked if I could put more action scenes in it. So, I asked them how much more money the film would make if I put in more action, but they couldn't answer my question. From the beginning, I did want to put another three to four minutes more into the action scenes, but Andrew would not consider it, because he thought the drama is really more attractive to the audience.


Picture courtesy Media Asia
Picture courtesy Media Asia
Face Off: Tony Leung and Andy lau


People always ask how you can find Tony Leung and Andy Lau to act in this movie. It's not common to see the two of them in the same film. Because Hong Kong movies were going through a bad time, they both wanted to find a good project so that they could cooperate and make a good film. They read the script, and they were attracted to the idea. Having a script before a project comes together is not common in Hong Kong . In this case, it helped quite a bit to have a strong script.


HKCinemagic.com: How did you come up with the look of the film and the visual effects?

Andrew Lau: When I direct a script, because of my background as a cinematographer, the look of the film becomes essential. When I worked on CITY ON FIRE, the look of the film lighting, dark images, camera movement was very different not the normal style for Hong Kong. I used a lot of green and blue in the color palette using natural lighting without correction to give it that very distinctive look.

For Infernal Affairs, I worked very closely with Christopher Doyle who spent lots of time in the film laboratory working on the color getting the color timing right so that the colors would look the way I had wanted them to look. I wanted to design all the lighting, but I didn't want to have to fiddle with the lights a lot on location. I worked with the art directors on the lighting. For example, at the police station, we wanted to use fluorescent light. I controlled the on-location lighting design, but I still needed to work on the look of the film in post-production.


Picture courtesy Media Asia
Picture courtesy Media Asia
Gritty visuals by Andrew Lau and Christopher Doyle


On location, we were so busy that I wanted to avoid the problem of adjusting the lights, so Christopher Doyle had a lot to do at the lab. He's good at lab work. He's patient, and I'm not patient with the lab. A lot of people asked why I would hire Christopher Doyle, since I'm an accomplished cinematographer, but he really helped with the post-production to create the look I wanted for Infernal Affairs. I trusted him to do it.


HKCinemagic.com: Could you talk about the soundtrack and how you chose the music for Infernal Affairs?

Andrew Lau: It was easy to choose the Taiwanese pop music (Tsai Chin's "The Forgotten Times"), because we used that CD to test the sound system. The location scout always used that song to test the equipment. The song is really good, too.


HKCinemagic.com: Did you anticipate the success of Infernal Affairs at the time you were making it? Did you know you were going to save the Hong Kong film industry with this film?

Andrew Lau: Of course not¡­. That was a hard moment, a horrible time in Hong Kong. Box-office figures were so low. Before Infernal Affairs, I set up this company (Base Production Ltd.), and people thought I would lose money. A lot of people were talking about the Hong Kong film industry as a sunset industry. People thought I had a lot of guts to set up a new company, and asked why. Why not? I only know movies, so what else can I do? We have to keep on going and make movies.

Even in the best of times, it's hard to knock on doors, find a producer and find investors. Media Asia liked the idea, and I talked to the executive producer there who understood it was a high concept film. He tried to push up the budget for us. I tried to do a calculation to determine how much I needed for the film. Even with the calculation, the deal was loose. Even with 20 million Hong Kong dollars in box office, we would still lose money. Totally, the budget was 50 million Hong Kong dollars. The actors were one-third of the budget. At that time, the investors expected the budget to be 50/50 cast and production costs but I wanted more for the production costs to get the look I wanted for the film.

With that budget, I was able to use a full orchestra for the score. This was the first time in Hong Kong film history that a full orchestra was used for a film score. Before this, a synthesizer was used, but, this time, we used a real orchestra. A lot of the budget went into creating the quality you see on screen in the sets, the sound, and all the details. For example, a car we used for only one shot cost 20 thousand. We wanted to do something that was a good quality film.


Picture courtesy Media Asia

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Page 3 : INFERNAL AFFAIRS series

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