Oscar Leung: “I Was An Useless And Arrogant Jerk Before!”
Thirty-two-year-old Oscar Leung (梁烈唯) has worked in the entertainment industry for 10 years. Despite filming television series for 8 years, Oscar was only featured in top newspaper headlines for the first time recently. Oscar thanked the media, while noting that his news was not overshadowed by other current bigger entertainment news. Of course, Oscar Leung and Mandy Wong’s (黃智雯) useless and greedy characters, “Kwan Yi Gor” and “Kwan Yi So,” in L’Escargot <缺宅男女> stole the spotlight. However, making the entertainment news headlines was also due to good timing.
With his popularity rising, Oscar became the interview target of many publications lately. Upon the photographer’s request to take some topless photos, Oscar immediately removed his shirt. Thanks to his frequent exercise, Oscar revealed a steely, muscular torso.
After the first set of photos were taken, Oscar said a little sadly, “Earlier, TVB took a similar set of photos for their managed artists. Prior to taking the photos, the photographer asked if it was necessary to pump up my muscles first. I said it was not necessary. After the photos were completed, the photographer said, ‘Wow, your muscles are incredible!’ Perhaps other actors did not possess such muscular physiques and placed next to my photos, the results did not look too good. Although I spent a day taking the topless photos, none of them were published.”
Without Oscar’s admission, you will not know that he had attended school in Sha Tin and had a [university entrance] examination score of 1 point. He was a delinquent student who helped his “dai lo” (big brother) chase girls. However, to prepare for his role as “Kwan Yi Gor,” who suffered bipolar disorder, Oscar read numerous books on the subject. Even the director of L’Escargot failed to understand the gestures that Oscar had created especially for his bipolar character. However, it was always good to be well prepared, as opportunities were not always fair for everyone.
Oscar’s Past Life As a Delinquent Student
Oscar revealed, “My grades were terrible in school. I never imagined that one day, I would read so many books to prepare for a role. I think I truly love acting!
“I attended the Caritas Shatin Marden Foundation Secondary School in the Sha Tin district. The school was well known for its delinquent students, resembling the environment depicted in Fight Back to School <逃學威龍>. The students smoked in class, brought knives to school to stab people, and sold drugs and heroin to their classmates. Everyday, there was a police car parked in front of our school. In each class, there was a tall, strong student that would be the biggest troublemaker. I was the one of his most able followers, his ‘strongest horse’! At the time, I was already a multi-tasker, responsible for comic relief and borrowing homework. For the girls he liked, I got their phone numbers and relayed love letters.
“When I was young, I did not know how to appreciate Sean Lau’s (劉青雲) acting. At the time, my favorite actors were Jackie Chan (成龍) and Stephen Chow (周星馳). I watched A Moment of Romance <天若有情> at least 50 times. In the middle of the night, my friends and I would ride our bicycles, carrying our stereo while playing Leslie Cheung’s (張國榮) song, Delinquent Generation <暴風一族>, and roamed the streets. Seeing other people ride in their private cars, I would stare and say, ‘You think you’re that great?’ In my mind, I truly thought that it was great to have your own car. My biggest dream was to quickly earn enough money to buy my own car.
“During my Form 3 summer break, I worked as a chef’s apprentice. It was obvious that I was taken advantage of during this job. After I started my shift, the other [kitchen staff] would take a nap or play video games, while I put together the meat kebabs by myself. It was very difficult to assemble the raw meat on the skewer sticks, pricking my fingers easily. The meat was cold and the onions induced tears, which made people laugh at me. After one week, I quit and grumbled while going back to school to start Form 4.
“After graduating Form 5, my godmother helped me find a job in a production company. Recording a music clip, I thought that I would have a chance to become a singer. Considering myself to already be an artist, I did not do anything except wait to become famous. Ultimately, the music album was never released and I had no money to spend.
“A friend introduced me to the job of building scaffolds. I still thought that I had a chance to be an artist and was afraid to show my face while constructing the scaffold. I was only willing to build the underside of the bamboo scaffold. If you can differentiate between 6 feet, 8 feet, and 12 feet bamboo poles, you can do the job even if you were dumb.
“I built scaffolds for several months. When Chi Hung Gor was casting for film, Juvenile Delinquents <少年犯> my godmother brought me to the screen test. Wow, I was cast as the male lead and asked to sing the movie theme song! This time, I became Chan Ho Nam (陳浩南) and burst into the scene in Causeway Bay!
“A scaffold builder earned $300 HKD per day; a clerk earned $5,000 HKD per month. I earned $30,000 HKD in my first movie. Afterward, I starred in another 4 films. Filming for several weeks, I easily earned $60,000 HKD. At the time, I made sure to look cool and did not take the bus when going outside. I bought my Nike sneakers in 40 to 50 different colors. At the time, Facebook and blogs were not in use yet, so I lined up my sneakers and took pictures of my collection. Carrying the photos in my pocket, I would show off the photos to other people. I felt so proud and asked all my friends to come out for dinner. I encountered a former lazy classmate from my school. I pulled out $50 HKD and gave it to him as a dining tip, ‘You are the type destined to work as a waiter, while I’m a star….
“After SARS occurred in 2003, I did not film any movies for over a year. My father went bankrupt. Sharon Chan (陳敏之) said that I could not live like this and introduced me to work at TVB. I was certain that no one knew who I was, since my neighbor did not even know. Only the tough characters on Temple Street told me, ‘Your album sells very well….’ At the time, I still felt that I was doing great….
Hitting a Low Point
When I first entered TVB, Sharon Chan told me that it will take time for an artist to be booked in shows and offered a management contract. My first drama was Producer Miu Siu Ching’s (梅小青) Shine On You <青出於藍>. In my first year at TVB, I was already booked in many shows and signed a management contract. I told Sharon arrogantly, ‘All the things that you said I couldn’t do, I have already accomplished them!’
“I was not grateful towards the individuals who cast me in dramas. I felt that no one else acted [the role] as well as I did. When the director said that I had overacted in a scene, I did not know how to reflect upon the advice. ‘I intentionally designed it that way….’ I think my face must have been hateful at the time. My current girlfriend, Tina (Cherie Ying’s 應采兒 assistant) said I was difficult. Even Moses Chan (陳豪) told me, ‘If a person is too arrogant, there is no room for improvement and will be surpassed by others at any time!’ The words were very straightforward, but I did not know that people were talking about me.
“Aside from Producer Miu Siu Ching, there was no other producer who cast me in their dramas. Quickly, I had no more work ahead. I experienced my first year of having no shows. I will forever remember the dark period of having no work for 4 months.
“When I received a last minute request to appear as a debt collector extra in Michael Miu’s (苗僑偉) Au Revoir Shanghai <上海傳奇>, the cast tried to hide their laughter upon seeing me. They pointed to the clothes pile reserved for extra roles, ‘That costume is designated for extras like you!’ When I turned my back to change into my costume, they continued to whisper.
“I did not blame the people for acting this way. I was once a very hateful jerk. I do not regret that I had such a history. Similar to my ‘Kwan Yi Gor’ character, a person is most useless when he does not realize how useless his is. Without such a past, I will not be the person that I am right now. Without this experience, I would not be grateful towards the individuals who cast me in dramas. Otherwise, I would remain arrogant while thinking, ‘If they do not cast me, who will they use? Is there someone who can do a better job than me?”
A House Or A Home?
Finally, Oscar made a mark and had an opportunity to climb higher. Without feeling smug, Oscar’s New Year wish was to lead a practical life. “I am helping out at my cousin’s cafe because I truly want to become a shareholder. I want to earn my admission fee quickly and make enough money to marry my girlfriend. And save enough for a down payment for a house in Sham Tseng. As for a car, I’ve driven a Toyota 1300c.c, which resulted in my colleague laughing at me for being unable to even lease a van. My expectations are not high. If I can get a car that has enough horsepower and is wide enough to fit my parents and girlfriend comfortably, that is best.”
In a past interview, the reporter had encountered an artist who stated that he was content with the status quo. However, a moment later, that actor broke up with his wife of 10 years to date a wealthy heiress, even willing to give up his acting job. The reporter asked Oscar how long it would take to save enough money for a house down payment? Other men changed [their women], house, car, and even traveled to Great Britain and Italy. Was Oscar afraid of being driven by temptation in his relationship?
Oscar replied, “I do not like Italy; I only like to go home. As noted in L’Escargot, do you want a home or a house?” It was great to have ambition and the reporter truly wished that Oscar Leung will persist until the end.
Source: Face Magazine #245
Jayne: Oscar Leung made a deep impression upon me when I first saw him in Dicey Business, portraying the young, arrogant Bobby Au Yeung, who was at the top of his gambling game, until he he was humbled. When I watched Dicey Business, I was impressed by how Oscar managed to portray his character’s arrogant side so well.
In this very blunt interview, Oscar did not mince any words about his past. He went to a very tough school in which he had to fend for his life so to say and thus aligned himself with some tough characters. Due to his own street-wise ways, he manages to inject a certain toughness and grittiness into his characters. Due to his life experience, he has a maturity in his acting that actors his age do not possess.
Oscar is an “everyday man in Hong Kong” struggling to earn his living, struggling to make enough money to get married and buy a home. As earlier articles drew similar comparisons, Oscar is not too far from the characters portrayed in L’Escargot, in which money is a very real issue he faced everyday. Littered throughout the interview, you hear about Oscar’s struggles with money, not being able to buy a nice car and not being able to even afford his own wedding.
The interview left me feeling a bit sad due to Oscar’s financial struggles all his life. However, you also hear the strength in his words and realize that he is one tough guy. I wish him greater success in his career and while materialism should not be the ultimate goal, to at least live comfortably without having to worry too much about money.