In 1994, Tsui Hark (徐克) directed the film Butterfly Lovers <梁祝>, in which the role of the female lead was played by Hong Kong singer/actress Charlie Yeung (楊採妮), who had debuted just two years prior. Nineteen years later, Charlie took on the challenge of directing. For her directorial debut, Christmas Rose <聖誕玫瑰>, she specifically invited her old friend Tsui Hark to be the film’s executive producer.
Although Charlie has previously said that Tsui essentially watched her grow up and that the two are close friends, she actually took a very circuitous route in order to ask him to accept the role of executive producer. In the end, the one who made the request turned out to be Yu Dong (于冬), the CEO of Polybona Film Distribution (保利博納電影發行).
“When she was writing the screenplay, she asked for my opinion,” Tsui shared. “After the screenplay was finished, she went off to discuss with investors. Afterward, it was Yu Dong who brought her screenplay to me and asked if I was willing to be the film’s executive producer. I said of course I was willing to, but Charlie didn’t directly come find me at all.”
In response, Charlie said the “detour” was due to her respect for Tsui. “I really did want to get Tsui Hark from the start, as well as director Jacob Cheung (張之亮),” she explained. “The two are both very important friends of mine. If I asked them as friends, they would definitely help, but I was afraid that my screenplay wasn’t good enough, so I wanted to get that ready first and then look for investors. At the time, I really didn’t have the courage to directly ask ‘Master’ [Tsui Hark’s nickname] if he was willing to be my executive producer.”
Christmas Rose deals with an alleged case of sexual harassment, a subject that Tsui once said would be difficult for a female director to film. “Afterward, I received a ‘protest’ from a female director,” he shared. “She said that directors are directors – how can you separate them by gender? That’s sexism! Of course, I know that there shouldn’t be sexism in an industry, but speaking as a director, there are some specific subjects in which gender will indeed occupy some sort of superiority.
“For example, with Christmas Rose, Charlie Yeung used her gender to her advantage and put her viewpoints on a few issues into the movie, thus making the movie more exquisite and gaining the approval of all of the actors.”
Despite his praise for Charlie’s screenwriting abilities, Tsui jokingly added that her directing style made him feel a little “discontent.” “She is always very cultured and refined, very courteous, very polite,” he said. “But directors are all strange people, and they all have tempers. For example, I know many female directors who will spout profanity on set, but Charlie Yeung is still very polite to everyone. I asked her why she doesn’t use profanity – how else is she going to relieve pressure?”
Christmas Rose, which will star Aaron Kwok (郭富城), Kwai Lun Mei (桂綸鎂), and Chang Chen (張震), is scheduled to open in theaters in May.
This article is written by Joanna for JayneStars.com.