Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Oncoming Storm: Firestorm Press Conference


Andy Lau and Gordon Lam Ka Tung sweep into Singapore

By Jedd Jong
Pictures by Jedd Jong

Producer-star Andy Lau is hoping to end 2013 with a bang with his action-thriller Firestorm. Lau, who was in Singapore with co-star Gordon Lam Ka Tung, happily proclaimed “we blew up Central!” The major Hong Kong thoroughfare of Pedder Street definitely feels the heat, serving as the location for the climactic final showdown in the film that was chosen to open ScreenSingapore. Firestorm received its world premiere at Resorts World Sentosa last night, and F*** was at the press conference at Marina Bay Sands that afternoon.

In Firestorm, Andy Lau plays Hong Kong Police Senior Inspector Lui Ming Chit. “It’s a very straightforward part,” he explained. “He lives by an established set of rules, but over the course of the film, he has to break these rules.” Gordon Lam plays To Sing Pong, former schoolmate and Judo rival to Lui Ming Chit, who falls in with the wrong crowd but is desperate to prove to his girlfriend, played in the film by Yao Chen, that he has turned over a new leaf. In order to do so, he becomes an informant to Senior Inspector Lui.

Throughout the press conference, Lam’s bromance with Lau was evident, Lau constantly ribbing his co-star and “employee”. “Since he joined my production company, he’s been begging me every year to give him a romantic part. When we auditioned the actresses, none of them agreed to act opposite Gordon,” Lau joked. In addition to the schoolboy-ish teasing, Lau also had genuine praise for Lam. “Honestly speaking, I think he’s grown a lot as an actor,” he said. “It’s his first proper action film and I think he was very successful in taking on that aspect and putting his spin on this material.” When asked if he was looking out for his own by casting Lam in the film, Andy replied “If I don’t look out for my own, who am I gonna look out for?”

Lam certainly seemed grateful for the opportunity to take on what is probably his biggest role to date. “When I entered the industry, I was very green and didn’t understand how anything worked. Everything I know, I learned from him,” Lam said of Lau. It can be said that the To Sing Pong character, with his personal history, conflict and relationships, is even more complex and more interesting than Lui Ming Chit. “He’s a character who does everything for the love of a woman,” Lam says. Lam also expressed that up until this point, he didn’t feel confident enough to take on a leading role even though he had been offered such parts, and that it was Lau’s guidance that got him through the making of Firestorm.

Lau hopes that the wham-bam action spectacle on display in Firestorm will draw crowds. “It’s a very action-packed film, and I hope that it will be able to compete closer to the level of Hollywood films in terms of its production value,” he told journalists. Lau touched on the budget and time constraints faced by the production. “If a sequence takes three months to shoot on a Hollywood production, we have to get it done in one,” he said. “I hope audiences appreciate the diligence we took in putting these sequences together.”

Senior Inspector Lui Ming Chit’s relationship with To Sing Pong is a very rocky one, and the film’s central hand-to-hand combat sequence pits them against each other. When asked if he found filming the sequence exhilarating, Lam replied “Of course I did. I’ve been waiting more than ten years to hit Andy Lau!” He describes the intense training he underwent to take on the physically-demanding role, and Lau even admitted that the shoot was harder on Lam than it was on him.

Firestorm has been post-converted into 3D. When asked about this method of presentation, Lau said that director Alan Yuen is very skilled in the area of computer-generated effects and that he has been wanting to shoot in 3D for some time. “I don’t have expertise in this area, and at first I was opposed to the idea of Firestorm as a 3D movie,” he reveals. “He (Yuen) convinced me to shoot one scene as a test, and that was the fight sequence down the stairwell. After using that to demonstrate the 3D presentation, I thought it actually didn’t look too bad. Is 3D a necessity for Firestorm? I don’t think so. This has been a learning experience for me in the area of 3D filmmaking technique. This is the first 3D cop film to come out of Hong Kong and we’re very much testing the waters.”

Lau also voiced his support for the Singapore film industry, inviting would-be directors to pitch projects to him and even approach him to star in local films. “Oddly enough, nobody from Singapore has contacted me about investing in a film here,” he said. “I saw Ilo Ilo on the plane and I 
thought that the content and the cinematography, all of it was very solid. I really would like to throw my support behind new directors and I’m being serious here, if anyone has a proposal, you can send it to my office. I may be expensive, but I’m worth it.”

When asked to compare Firestorm to the Infernal Affairs series of films, Lau observed that “ultimately, the characters in Firestorm are more proactive whereas the characters in Infernal Affairs were more reactive… What we want audiences to take away is that every decision you make has to be made with care; that one impulsive decision can affect the rest of your life.”

Lau also reminded everyone of his softer side. “I really like the scenes with the little girl,” he said of the moments between Lui Ming Chit and his goddaughter in the film. “Basically, it reminds me of my fan base that I have as a singer. When I saw them first become fans, they were about the same age as the girl in the movie, and I’ve witnessed my fans growing up over the last 30 years. Then they have children of their own, whom they introduce to my music and I can see it happen with a new generation. So, I have a soft spot for kids.”

Firestorm opens in Singapore on 12 December 2013.


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