Jun 02, 2011|
I was born in Stanford, a town outside Peterborough in England. When I was very young, I became fascinated with Chinese martial arts and culture and films in every way, shape and form.
When I found out there was such a thing as kung fu movies, I was like, that’s what I want to do. I wanted to make kung fu movies in Hong Kong.
Somebody that I knew was going to produce a film in Hong Kong. I knew next to nothing and they knew absolutely nothing. It was like the land of the blind, and I was the man with one eye. So I flew to Hong Kong and I thought, OK I’ll work for a couple of months.
It was utter chaos. It was just the most awful experience.
Third of the way through, these guys run out of money and everybody fell out and I was sitting there very depressed and thought I was either going to stay here and make a go of it or I’m going to go back to England and probably never have the courage to come back again.
I met an actor who I developed a friendship with, Donnie Yen. Now of course he’s a huge star, but for many years he was kind of the dragon in waiting, waiting for his chance. He’s got it now. But at the time, he was a known figure in the industry, he just wasn’t a superstar like he is today.
So I told Donnie I got two choices, one was going back to England, and if I chose to stay I had to do something but I didn’t have any project. He said, “I’m doing this movie in China called ‘Circus Kids’ and they’re looking for a white guy for me to fight. Why don’t you come and do that?”
I really appreciate that opportunity. If he hadn’t said that, I probably would’ve gone back to England and not have the life I have now.
Frankly, the Hong Kong film industry doesn’t want white people around. That’s why there are none. If you look at the industry in the 10-15 years I’ve been here, how many other white guys have there been? Maybe a couple, not many.
I was hired by Media Asia. I worked with them for three years. I think three years is about right to stay at any company where you don’t have a stake in it—you have a year to learn how to do the job, a year to do the job well, and a year to get bored doing it.
I left to join Emperor and did two films: “The Medallion” and “The Twins Effect.” That took about three years, then I left. And for one year I was independent and started a company with actress Maggie Q.
I was doing a film called “Dragon Squad” with Maggie, and director Daniel Lee said that me and Maggie needed luckier [Chinese] names to make it. So he gave us new names. Within a week, I was offered a job by Harvey Weinstein and Maggie was cast in “Mission: Impossible III” with Tom Cruise.
I’m currently directing a film called “Snowblade,” which is a very dark, edgy and sexy period martial arts film with a female protagonist.
I believe it has literacy, a redemptive art to it— as in, it’s not just a catalog of horrible acts—it’s about a character who goes on a journey.
Normally with these kinds of movies, you just fast-forward to the kung fu and the sexy bits. I hope for this movie people will appreciate the dialogue and the story and think it’s an interesting film.
Years ago when I was in Cannes I met Quentin [Tarantino] and between 10pm and 4am, he acted out for me every shot of “Kill Bill,” and I remember thinking he spoiled it for me because no matter how good the film is, it’s never going to live up to this live performance.
I got mistaken for him. I’m a little bit handsomer. There’s a funny story. I was in Cannes and there was this girl who took a picture with me. And then she says to my friend, “please tell him how much I love ‘Reservoir Dogs.’”
All those young filmmakers, if they can make films half as entertaining or half the merit of the middle-range movies of the 80s, I’ll be really happy. But I don’t see it.
I feel like I’ve been in the industry long enough that I’m allowed an opinion.