Thursday, June 27, 2013

Blind Date: Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng in Singapore


BLIND DATE

ANDY LAU AND SAMMI CHENG IN SINGAPORE




By Jedd Jong 

Filmmakers and moviegoers know just when they’ve struck gold with an onscreen pairing, and the double act of Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng is one of those that really seems to work. Together with director Johnnie To, the three have become known as the “Iron Trio”: Their first collaboration, 2000’s Needing You, was a smash hit at a time when the Hong Kong film industry was at a low ebb.

Lau and Cheng were in town to promote their latest film with director To, the comedy-crime thriller Blind Detective. The pair fielded questions at a press conference at the Equarius Hotel, before meeting a 3000-strong throng of delighted fans at Plaza Singapura shopping mall and attending a red-carpet premiere of the movie at the Festive Grand Theatre in Resorts World Sentosa.

Both stars had an easy chemistry, both dab hands at working the crowd and clearly enjoying each other’s company. Lau and Cheng joked about how they would deal with the criticism should film reviewers dislike the movie and in a somber moment, Lau paid his respects to a recently-deceased friend and mentor. For the most part though, spirits were high. As we try to get that catchy theme song “Love Is Blind” out of our heads, here are the highlights from yesterday’s press conference and interviews. 


Q: Movie fans have been anticipating this reunion for a while! Andy, why did it take you and Sammi ten years to reunite onscreen?

Andy: I think it’s closer to eight years, right? After Yesterday Once More, we were hoping to find a unique screenplay to work on together.

Q: Sammi, why did you pick the script for Blind Detective to act in?

Sammi: I felt the time was right, and because Andy Lau was in the film, it became a priority for me. At the same time, Johnnie To was directing.

Q: And Andy, was it a priority to you that Johnnie To was directing?

Andy: It always is. The thing is, he didn’t expect that the presentation of this film was going to be something quite different, even though there were some familiar elements in the script.

Q: Andy, when you found out you were going to play a blind detective, did you think it was going to be difficult for you acting-wise?

Andy: I didn’t overthink it, I trusted that when the director brought me on board, he knew that there was something I could contribute.

Q: Sammi, you play a very bold and energetic policewoman. Did you have to put in your 200% to inhabit the character?

Sammi: I found that the script was very interesting, there were many opportunities for Andy and I to explore different character interactions and I hope the audience sees we are improving as actors.



Q: Andy, did you find there was anything different about working with Sammi for the first time in eight years?

Andy: I don’t think there’s anything very physically different about Sammi; I think that although she might have gone through a rough patch, she has come out of it and is okay now. Eight years ago, we were already very good colleagues, but now, we’re like family.

Q: How about you, Sammi?

Sammi: I truly think that earlier on, I appreciated Andy as a very accomplished actor but as the years went by, I discovered more and more that he’s a very kind person and I feel very fortunate to be able to work with someone of his caliber and character.

Q: Andy, that’s some high praise!

Andy: I believe that deep down, everyone is a good person, everyone is kind. I just want to bring out the best in myself to work with people I enjoy.


Q: Since the both of you and director Johnnie To are close friends, was it an easygoing experience making this movie, like you were having fun on set everyday?

Andy: Nope! (Laughs) 

Sammi: There’s a misconception that it’s easier to make a comedy, but I think there’s a level of skill and energy required of an actor in a comedy, no less than in any other film genre. Also, I had to tackle scenes in this film that were quite different from what I’m used to, so I wouldn’t say this past year was a walk in the park.

Q: In this film, your portrayal of the blind detective seems different from what we’re used to seeing in movies when an actor plays a blind character. It’s almost as if he can still see. Was this a conscious choice in your interpretation?

Andy: When I studied and hung out with the sight-impaired (at a training center), I decided I didn’t want to play the character superficially, I tried to understand the psychology and the feelings of a blind person. A good piece of advice from a visually-impaired person was that as a blind person, he wanted every action to make those around him feel he can see, that he wasn’t disabled. So because of that, I tried to emulate that aspiration. I can’t say if I did it right or wrong, but when I watched the playback, I felt that it was pretty close to what I saw when working with them.

Q: Which was your favourite scene in the film? I thought the scene in the casino when you were aggravating the murder suspect was very exciting.

Sammi: I agree about the scene in the casino, I think that eight to ten years ago I wouldn’t have had the bravery to play that scene because I had to open up a deeper part of myself, I think the same goes for the scene in which my character actually kills someone.

Q: Oh, it turns out you have a hidden fierce side! How about you, Andy? Which was your favourite scene to play?

Andy: The scene has actually been edited and lots of it has been cut out, but there’s a scene where I’m in the taxi with the murder suspect and I have to take pictures of my surroundings so Goldie (Sammi’s character) can get to me. I like that scene a lot, I think I acted pretty well in that scene if I may say so myself!

Q: It seems that the partnership of Andy Lau, Sammi Cheng and Johnnie To is a guarantee for box office success. So, is this expectation a source of encouragement or pressure?

Andy: This never crossed my mind. Different audiences will have different opinions about the movie; we just tried to give it our best shot.

Sammi: I think it’s encouraging that audiences have this expectation of the three of us teaming up again.



Q: When the film was screened at Cannes, you said in an interview that the conditions under which you made this film were ideal. What did you mean by “conditions”, was it that you’re in a good place in your personal life and you had enough capacity to make this movie?

Andy: I think that the “conditions” refer to both psychological and physical conditions. I had just finished doing a concert tour and Sammi was in preparations to do a concert of her own. We both went through our personal highs and lows and Johnnie had weathered some criticism for some movies he did, so all three of us have come to a place of calmness. And I think the conditions were right because everyone’s stable now.

Q: Sammi, you missed out on the Golden Horse award this past year. How do you feel about it?

Sammi: I feel that I let Johnnie To down, because he’s my mentor and I hope I can do better next time.

Q: What is your attitude towards awards, particularly movie awards?

Sammi: I don’t know why everyone thinks I’m anxious to get awards. To me, it’s more important that I get to work on some quality movies and I feel very blessed doing that. You’ve got to go with the flow.

Q: How about you, Andy?

Andy: Like Sammi, I don’t give it much thought. We all love movies and we want to give the best for the audience in the hope that they enjoy the movies we make. I think then whenever you see someone close to you lose out on an award, you’ll feel a bit of sadness for them, that’s how Johnnie feels and sometimes he thinks it’s not fair for us.

Q: Is it fair to say that since you consider Johnnie To to be family, you won’t turn down a movie offer from him?

Andy: You always have to take your schedule into account. I think a Johnnie To movie requires the very best of an actor so you have to be in the right frame, he’ll always want to see a different side of you as an actor.


Q: How do you feel when the media rates a film that you’ve done poorly? For example, if a movie critic were to award Blind Detective a “two out of five stars” rating, would you be affected?

Sammi: It’s like a dish, everyone has different tastes. So if someone were to rate it “two stars”, I’d just have to swallow it.
Q: Will it hurt your feelings?

Sammi: To be honest, kinda, yes. Please don’t give it two stars, it’ll make me sad! (Laughs)

Q: How many stars would you rate the movie?

Sammi: Maybe 4? (Laughs)

Q: How would you feel about it Andy?

Andy: Two stars? I’m actually pretty used to getting two star ratings. (Laughs)

Q: You’re being modest!

Andy: Even if it’s a two-star or a one-star rating, I value honest comments and opinion and I’ll bear it in mind. If I get a five-star rating now, I’ll get arrogant! So give it four and half! (Laughs)

Q: What do you hope the media and the audience will see in this film?

Sammi: I hope they’ll see that we’ve worked hard and appreciate some of the different aspects compared to my other films. Working so many years as an actress, I hope moviegoers will see a large improvement in my acting.
Andy: I hope that whether it’s Johnnie To’s direction, the screenplay or both of us acting, people will see that we’ve done something different and enjoy that.


Q: Andy, your character has very drastic changes in mood, where did that come from?

Andy: I think that in real life, it’s hard to find someone who has such big mood swings the way my character Johnston does, but I think Johnnie To is actually like that! He can be shouting expletives across the room one minute, then very kind the next. I tried to incorporate some of that into the character.

Q: Sammi, was your partner (Andy Hui) surprised upon seeing the fierce side you showed in the film?

Sammi: Maybe I gave him a bit of a shock and he has to take a good look at me again! (Laughs)

Q: The film has a very unusual tone. How did director Johnnie To balance the comedy and crime thriller aspects of it?

Andy: As a director, he has experience with handling many different genres. There’s a very serious topic at the heart of the film, whether or not one should hang on tightly to something with an obsession. At the same time, he hopes that the movie will be able to cause the audience to reflect.

Q: This film has been called a “Chinese Sherlock Holmes”, with Andy playing the Sherlock equivalent and Sammi’s character like Watson. What do you think about this comparison?

Andy: I’ve heard this comparison and can understand that it looks that way from the marketing and the posters, but it’s actually a very different story content-wise. I appreciate this comment and hope that audiences will find there’s more to it after watching the movie.

Q: This is the seventh time the both of you have acted together. What makes your partnership different from when you each act with other actors?

Sammi: We’re very familiar with how the other works, it’s kind of like a rhythm and as actors it’s easy for us to get in sync with each other. With time, I appreciate when actors are able to accept one another. We’re all human beings, and I felt that if we can inspire one another and help another it’s very helpful and precious.

Andy: Different actors have different energies and evoke different emotions from me when I act opposite them. We all march to the beats of different drummers, but when it comes to comedies, I think she’s the best partner to work with. Together, we’re able to help audiences see the value of life.

Q: Andy, how were you affected after the recent passing of action choreographer and director Lau Kar-Leung?

He was a very good teacher and I’ve known him for a very long time. When I was acting opposite Adam Cheng (in Drunken Master III), I felt very small because he was bigger than me and a skilled swordfighter. Lau Kar-Leung gave me a confidence boost by telling me that even if my opponent is physically bigger than I am, I should concentrate on conveying the emotion and the depth of the fight scene, so this was a very helpful direction in terms of action and movement. I hope everyone will remember his legacy.

Q: Do you have plans to hold concerts in Singapore?

Sammi: Not at the present time.

Andy: We’re in the early stages of discussing and planning a concert and will see if it comes to fruition. 


Blind Detective opens in theatres 4 July. 


Photos by Jedd Jong; Movie Stills courtesy of Clover Films

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