Jacky Cheung Reveals Why He Stopped Working with Wong Kar-wai

By on March 30, 2016 in Movies, NEWS

Jacky Cheung Reveals Why He Stopped Working with Wong Kar-wai

On March 29, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts hosted a forum featuring Jacky Cheung (張學友). At the forum, Jacky talked about his 30-year career as a film actor, sharing tidbits about his professional life behind the big screen.

The 54-year-old actor and singer, who shot his first movie in 1986, said film had profoundly impacted his life. Not only did film introduce Jacky to his wife May Lo (羅美薇), film also introduced Jacky to Wong Kar-wai (王家衛), one of the most difficult directors he had to work with.

“If you take everything seriously like it’s real, there’s going to be some loose ends you have to tie,” said Jacky. “I learned this the hard way. I was clueless when I did my first film, thinking that everything has to be real. In the end, my actions affected my life. I really fell in love. Now, regardless of how many times I kiss my costar, I know everything would end when the movie ends, but I didn’t know how to control that at the time.”

Devoted to You <痴心的我>, one of Jacky’s first movies, costarred his wife May Lo. Unable to get out of character, Jacky fell in love with May in real life. The couple tied the knot in 1996, after ten years of dating. They now have two daughters, born in 2000 and 2005.

Jacky admitted that his daughters were the reason why he decided to reduce his work output, and said, “I’m 50 years old now. I really want to realistically experience each and every stage of my life. I don’t want to leave myself out of the loop all the time.”

On Working with Wong Kar-wai

Wong Kar-wai was another individual who had deeply impacted Jacky’s life and film career. They collaborated in three films, including As Tears Go By <旺角卡門>, Days of Being Wild <阿飛正傳>, and Ashes of Time <東邪西毒>.

Jacky shared, “In Days, there was this one simple scene where I had to look up from the floor. That simple expression took over 60 takes. After doing it over 60 times, Wong Kar-wei said ‘whatever, that’s enough’ and walked way. That got me feeling really uncomfortable. If our relationship was strictly director and actor, then I’d understand, but we were friends. I didn’t understand why he treated me like that. At least tell me which take you’re going to use, or which take didn’t work!”

Jacky then added, “It was then when I started to realize how suffocating it was to be an actor. I wanted to perform, but what would be good? Film is a collaboration between directors, actors, cameramen, lighting… it’s a group effort. If I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, I’d feel helpless. This is why I eventually stopped working with director Wong Kar-wai.” Jacky said Ashes of Time was probably his last collaboration with the director.

Critics say Jacky’s performances in As Tears Go By and Days of Being Wild reminded them of Robert DeNiro in the 1973 film Mean Streets, and that it was possible that Wong Kar-wai had drawn inspiration from Robert DeNiro’s role in the crime film. Jacky said that he did not watch any of Robert DeNiro’s works prior to filming those movies, but expressed, “Robert DeNiro is a very respected actor in this industry. Thanks for thinking so highly of me.”

When speaking about Jacky’s critical success in the film industry, the forum showed some clips from 1990’s Bullet in the Head <喋血街頭> and The Swordsman <笑傲江湖>, both which earned him nominations at major film award ceremonies. Bullet in the Head gave Jacky his first HKFA Best Actor nom, while The Swordsman gave him his first Best Supporting Actor win at the Golden Horse Awards.

“I did pretty well!” remarked Jacky as he watched a short clip from Bullet in the Head. “If I couldn’t even win [Best Actor] for that, I don’t think I’d ever will!” As for The Swordsman, Jacky said, “I don’t even know why I won for that role.” Jacky teared up when the forum showed a clip of him and his late friend, Anita Mui (梅豔芳) in the 2002 film July Rhapsody <男人四十>. The movie was Anita’s final film appearance before passing away from cervical cancer in 2003.

Source: Oriental Daily

This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.

14 comments to Jacky Cheung Reveals Why He Stopped Working with Wong Kar-wai

  1. ivan says:

    Jacky best
    Btw do anyone here know when is his next world tour ?

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    • jjwong replied:

      @ivan last I heard from @llwy12 there’s no official dates yet. It’s sometime this year though, probably toward the end.

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    • llwy12 replied:

      @ivan @jjwong Jacky’s world tour concert will start in October in Mainland China – Jacky as well as his record company (and concert organizer this time around) Universal already confirmed that the tour will launch in October as originally planned.  The HK leg of his tour is tentatively scheduled for December, but it has yet to be confirmed, as Jacky said that the earliest they would be able to arrange the HK shows would be in December due to availability of venue (referring to the HK Coliseum, which is notoriously difficult to book).  No dates have been officially announced yet, though definitely stay tuned, as the announcement should come out soon (probably after all the promo efforts for Jacky’s new film Heaven in the Dark are completed).

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  2. jjwong says:

    Where can I get full transcript or clips for this interview?

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    • llwy12 replied:

      @jjwong Full transcript and clips aren’t out yet, since this talk only took place yesterday…but I’m pretty sure there will be stuff out soon, as the fans who attend are pretty good about pushing out the video clips and transcripts of his talks.  Timing-wise though, this one might take awhile, as many fans have been busy lately trying to keep up with all the interviews and various reviews/material related to Jacky’s latest film Heaven in the Dark, which premiered last week in HK….plus the HK Film Awards is this weekend and with Jacky being one of the hot favorites in the Best Actor category, most of us are busy with all the latest buzz surrounding that.  Once the interview gets posted, will let you know. 🙂

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  3. happybi says:

    If there is no direction, how will he know what WKW need? Probably can’t stay as friends if he continue to work with him. Difficult person.

    Glad he is spending more time with his family for sure!

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  4. llwy12 says:

    One clarification:  Jacky debuted in the film industry in 1985, which is the year that Devoted to You was filmed (not 1986 as the article states).

    Wong Kar Wai does have a mind of his own when it comes to his films – no one ever knows what he is thinking and none of the actors who work with him know how his films will ever turn out.  Many actors who’ve worked with him have said that while many of his films are very well done artistically, it can be ‘torture’ for the actors because they could spend so much time filming/re-filming scenes, only to have all those scenes cut from the final product.  I’ve heard that some actors had starring roles in his movies, yet after WKW’s post production editing, in the final version of the movies, those actors end up only having a few scenes….of course, this should come as no surprise, since WKW is famous for filming stuff and then cutting most of it in the final version.  Which is why I absolutely admire Tony Leung for being able to work with WKW for this long – he’s probably the only actor on the planet who has an inkling of what WKW wants and completely accepting of his style, lol.

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    • aiya replied:


      Actually, Takashi Kaneshiro was the actor who really took to WKW’s impulsive and improvisational style of movie making.

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      • llwy12 replied:

        @aiya True, though I don’t think Takeshi worked with WKW nearly as much as Tony has. But I guess regardless which actor, as long as they are ok with WKW’s style and the extensive amount of time it takes to film one movie, that’s what matters most.

        I haven’t watched any of WKW’s movies in recent years (not like he’s made that many movies recently anyway, lol), but I do like his works from his earlier years (mainly late 80s/early 90s period). It’s actually quite fun listening to all the memories of filming that the casts from Days of Being Wild and Ashes of Time / Eagle Shooting Heroes have shared throughout the years – from an acting standpoint, the unpredictability made things a bit difficult, but from a personal standpoint, it also made the friendships between the cast stronger.

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      • @llwy12 True, collaborating on a WKW project really does wonder for friendships. I read somewhere about how Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung’s friendship got so much stronger when filming Happy Together despite them being totally opposites in terms of personality. I guess alienation and a near-death experience can do that to people LOL

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  5. Wong Kar Wai is one of those directors that has everything in his control and uses his actors as pawns rather than working with them as partners. Not that anything is wrong with that because he really does bring out the best in all his actors but obviously it can be suffocating and harsh on them. Didn’t he make Tony Leung cry once? He’s merciless and unpredictable. But maybe that’s also the reason why Tony Leung loves to work with him, it’s challenging for someone who’s really passionate about film and acting to work with someone like Wong Kar Wai. Think about it, everyone is always praising how ‘talented’ Tony is ever since he entered the industry, that must be a blessing and a burden because it really doens’t help you improve. I’m sure most directors let Tony do whatever he wants too. And honestly he made more bad movies with forgettable performances in the the 80s-90s than good ones. But WKW makes him doubt himself and his acting, wore him out each and every time they collaborate and brings out the best in him. Match made in movie heaven.

    I absolutely understand Jacky’s suffering with this director but man I can’t help but imagine what kind of performance he’d be able to have if he’d just let WKW ‘torture’ him once more LOL

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    • llwy12 replied:


      “I absolutely understand Jacky’s suffering with this director but man I can’t help but imagine what kind of performance he’d be able to have if he’d just let WKW ‘torture’ him once more LOL”

      LOL…true, though in Jacky’s case, no need for the ‘torture’, since filming movies is no longer a priority for him anyway.  I can’t remember who said it (as I’ve been reading/watching so much stuff related to Jacky lately with his new movie out and nomination at HKFA – the amount of interviews/articles/promo material released recently has been staggering, lol), but the person was spot on when they said that nowadays, Jacky’s #1 priority is his family (more specifically, taking care of his daughters) and after that is his singing career – acting in movies is only 3rd priority at most (maybe even lower than that in some instances)….of course, Jacky will still put 110% effort and take his movie performances seriously regardless of priority or not (From Vegas to Macau was proof of that, as majority sentiment from general public was that Jacky was the only one truly focused on ‘acting’ in that movie, implying most of the others took the production less seriously).  If Jacky’s priority was more acting than singing, then yes, working with WKW again may not be a bad idea – but since his priority (career-wise) is singing, then no (plus his acting right now is already great enough anyway, lol).

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      • @llwy12 That is true. I think it’s wonderful that Jacky’s priority is his family.

        I guess as a movie fanatic it would nice to see such a fine actor working with a great directing master once again. Especially since both of them has matured and perfected their skills over the years.

        Like, Jacky gave fine and reliable performances in his latest movies ‘Helios’ and ‘Heaven in the dark’ (couldn’t bear to watch ‘From vegas to Macau 3’, the thought of Wong Jing wasting such a good cast with his lousy directing makes me mad) but both movies have their own issues that take away from the acting in my opinion… I’m crossing my fingers for another Jacky and Ann Hui collaboration!

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      • llwy12 replied:

        @peanutbutterjelly I totally agree!  Making a movie is a huge collaborative effort and when you’ve got a great director at the helm along with a great cast and great script, it’s pretty much a match made in Heaven.  July Rhapsody was definitely one of those movies that fell into this category and the results were amazing!  As much as I liked Helios, Heaven in the Dark, as well as the movie that Jacky participated in 2 years ago to support his mentor Shu Kei (the movie was a small budget production called A Complicated Story and was a ‘project’ of sorts directed by graduates of the HKAPA film program), there was definitely something missing from all of those movies that could’ve made them great movies on the level of July Rhapsody.  Don’t get me wrong though – not saying that all movies have to be big budget commercialized productions with famous names, as I despise movies with no substance just as much as the next person (i.e.: movies like From Vegas to Macau, which was nothing more than a brainless, gimmick-filled raunchy CNY flick) – but there is no doubt that a good movie (i.e. Heaven in the Dark, Helios, A Complicated Love Story) can definitely be enhanced and pushed to ‘great movie’ status (i.e. July Rhapsody) with the help of a master director.

        I’m also looking forward to another Jacky + Ann Hui collaboration!  Absolutely loved July Rhapsody (one of my all-time favorite movies) – from the script to the directing to the acting/cast, etc., that movie was amazing and despite all the awards it already got, I personally feel that it should’ve gotten even more recognition than it already did.  Unfortunately though, doesn’t look like another collaboration will happen anytime soon.  In recent years, Jacky has taken to supporting newer directors when it comes to film projects and outside of that, it’s pretty much ‘friendship card’ projects where he may participate if asked by his friends and the filming fits his schedule (which is what happened with From Vegas to Macau, which he agreed to film because of Andrew Lau….same thing with Nick Cheung’s film Keeper of Darkness, in which Jacky had a cameo….technically Heaven in the Dark was the same thing too, as he agreed to film that movie because of Karena Lam).

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