Among the many films premiering at the 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival, which began on March 17, is the highly anticipated period film Saving General Yang <忠烈楊家將>. The war movie stars a bevy of popular and good-looking actors, including Taiwanese actor Vic Zhou (周渝民). In a recent interview, Vic shared his views on his public and private image, experiences with horseback riding, and struggles with the film’s final battle scene.
Vic Chou is Yang Sanlang
In Saving General Yang, Vic plays the third son, Yang Sanlang, who is known for being a man of few words, as well as an extremely precise archer. Director Ronny Yu (于仁泰) once said that Vic simply is Sanlang, because the two of them are so similar: many people describe Vic as “melancholy,” and he himself conceded that he is prone to suppressing his emotions. However, Vic added that he actually has a polarized nature: “I’m actually quite childish. I can talk non-stop, and my behavior and actions can be very extreme. There will also be times when I don’t like to talk. Then I will be quiet and enjoy these feelings of solitude.”
Sanlang, whom Vic sees as a wolfish type of character, is a bit different from roles he has portrayed in the past. After rising to popularity as Hua Zelei in the Taiwanese idol drama Meteor Garden <流星花園>, Vic is still the quintessential “pretty boy” to many viewers. In his heart, he understands that retaining this type of image is not his goal. “I don’t want to act those simple, handsome roles,” he shared. “I can’t reshape myself, and I don’t want to use special effects or makeup to change myself. The only thing I could think of was to see if I could stop caring that much about image. To tell the truth, I am privately the type of person who will grow out a beard. Maybe others will think it’s sloppy, but I think doing so is being loyal to myself.”
Physically Draining Role
After being cast in Saving General Yang, Vic first had to learn how to ride a horse. He recalled learning from his riding instructor that horses would not listen when they get moody, and that one should not be too polite when talking with them, otherwise the horses will think they have the upper hand. Vic emphasized building rapport with his war horse and would often chat with it. “I often talk with my pets,” he said. “Even when I see animals at the pet store, I’ll talk to them. When I’m talking to a horse, I will treat it like a small child. The riding instructor told us that a very intelligent horse can have an IQ as high as that of an eight-year-old child, so I respect them a lot. I hope that they will feel my compassion for them, and that they won’t bully a novice like me.”
Although practicing horseback riding was difficult, Vic enjoyed having the opportunity to learn a new skill, which he feels is an advantage to being an actor. “I wouldn’t have learned to ride a horse otherwise, unless I really loved it,” he said. “I’m very happy that because of this film, I was able to start learning horseback riding from the basics.”
Apart from horseback riding, Vic also faced the physical challenge of filming the final battle scene, in which he is engaged in an archery fight amid a cluster of reeds. Filming the scene took four to five days to complete, and although the reeds look very elegant on screen, Vic shared that they would always scrape his skin and draw blood: “Every time I went into the cluster of reeds and then came out, I would go to one side and pant and rest for a bit. Then I would wipe the bloodstains off my face. When filming that scene, I really forgot where I was. Pain and everything else, I couldn’t feel it.”
Vic was also able to contribute his own suggestions for this final battle scene. “The director asked me if I had any ideas for this scene. I said, ‘I hate, I really hate this person [his opponent].’ If it were me, I would vent out all my emotions in the moment I fire the arrow, and would let out a loud howl.” The director approved of Vic’s idea and included the howl in the final cut.
Acting Promotes Personal Growth
Despite the many difficulties involved in playing Yang Sanlang, Vic felt like the role taught him a lot and challenged his acting skills. “Because of this movie, I now pay more attention to family relationships, as well as the feelings of my family members,” he shared. “I find it very enjoyable when a film or even a character is able to help me change my attitude toward things, especially if it’s a positive change.” In the end, he still finds much pleasure in performing: “Performing is a great thing. As long as are you are willing to put in effort, make sacrifices, and invest energy, then a different pattern will appear.”
Saving General Yang will open in theaters worldwide on April 4, 2013.
This article is written by Joanna for JayneStars.com.