The blockbuster success of 2013’s Journey to the West: Conquering Demons <西游·降魔篇> gave Stephen Chow (周星馳) more reasons to stay behind the reins than on screen. The comedy film, a loose reinterpretation of the Chinese literary classic Journey to the West <西遊記>, is set before the monk Tang Sanzang recruited his three-men entourage.
Four years later, Stephen is prepared to release the film’s sequel The Demons Strike Back <西遊·伏妖篇>, which centers on Tang Sanzang. In this comedy sequel, Kris Wu (吳亦凡) replaces Wen Zhang (文章) as the young and handsome monk who is on a pilgrimage to the Western Regions (modern-day India) to seek Buddhist scripts. He saves and recruits three disciples to help him fend off demons during his journey.
For The Demons Strike Back, Stephen ceded directing responsibilities to Tsui Hark (徐克). While Tsui Hark was in charge of the technical and dramatic aspects of the film, Stephen handled producing and consulting responsibilities.
On why he decided to step down as director, Stephen said, “It used to be just me doing everything. This time it’s a brand new experience. The content we made is fresher, and I think that’s very important. I like it this way a lot. Director Tsui is an extremely pragmatic director who makes movies for art and creativity. I’ve always admired him, and that’s why I’ve enjoyed this process so much. We’ve had our disagreements, but we’ve managed to overcome them and create a project together. None of us needed to take a step back because we would lay it all out.”
Asking if their arguments would ever get fiery. Stephen laughed and asked Tsui Hark, “That’s right! Where did your fire go?” Tsui Hark joked, “I used it to cook!”
Stephen’s last film as an actor was CJ7 <長江七號>, which was released in 2008. Asking if Stephen would be interested in returning to the big screen, he said, “I’ll look more into it.” (Would you be okay if you were approached to appear in a film?) “No one has really showed they want me yet,” he said, breaking the room into laughter. (What about playing Sun Wukong again?) “No thank you!”
Stephen Chow: “Law Kar-ying Was a Handsome Monk”
Kris, who had worked with Stephen before for The Mermaid <美人魚>, had a pretty nerve-wracking audition experience for The Demons Strike Back.
“I wasn’t exactly scared, but I was pretty nervous,” he said.
“He actually wasn’t scared or nervous,” said Stephen. “He was so good acting as a crazy guy.”
Stephen told Kris to perform a short skit as a mentally-ill patient, which impressed Stephen right on the spot.
“He told me liked to play characters like those,” said Stephen. “I wasn’t expecting to see that side of him at all. It was hilarious. He didn’t look crazy. He just looked like he was having really bad cramps.”
Kris’ role in the film, Tang Sanzang, has been portrayed on screen numerous times. One of the most popular and classic portrayals was by veteran actor Law Kar-ying (羅家英) in 1995’s A Chinese Odyssey, which also starred Stephen Chow.
Despite rumors of Law Kar-ying and Stephen having a falling out, Stephen reached out to Law Kar-ying to do a Cantonese voice-over part in The Demons Strike Back. The two old friends have not collaborated in 22 years.
Stephen said, “I do think the real Tang Sanzang would look similar to [Kris]. Buddhist monks tend to be very pretty. Look at Law Kar-ying!”
So who is more handsome then? “Compared to Law Kar-ying, then sorry Manager Wu. I hope you understand!”
Kris nodded in agreement, “Of course!”
Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back opens in China and Hong Kong on January 28, 2017, Chinese New Year.
“Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back” HK Trailer
This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.