INT: Chow Yun-Fat
For anyone who is not yet aware, BULLETPROOF MONK, a film starring Chow Yun-Fat, Seann William Scott and Jamie King, is opening this coming Wednesday (not Friday), the 16th of April. What's it about?
The Monk (Chow Yun-Fat) is a Zen-calm martial arts master whose duty has been to protect a powerful ancient scroll. Faced with finding the scroll's next guardian, the Monk's quest brings him to New York City where, to his disbelief, it appears his successor is a smart-mouthed pickpocket named Kar (Seann William Scott). Kar's a charming, street-tough wild card who enjoys his life of no responsibility. As the Monk instructs Kar, the unlikely duo become partners in protecting the scroll from a power-monger who's been chasing it for 60 years. Amidst high-flying acrobatics and martial arts action, this comical odd couple has to work together to keep the scroll -- and mankind -- safe.
Q: Do you enjoy the physical part of this role?
CHOW: Not really, but when you have the wire on and they fly you in the air, it can be a lot of fun. It depends on the difficulty of the wire work. For me, I'm not fascinated about all the wire works or martial art things, I'm more dedicated to the drama and the romance. I'd rather have a girl than a wire or two guns, but I'm glad that we have a lot of young actors in this movie. They give the movie a lot of energy and also a lot of inspiration for the new generation. I am already a veteran in this industry, more than 30 years, so more or less we need some new faces. They taught me a lot about how to be a young actor. I'm still young in Hollywood, you know.
Q: What kind of things are you talking about?
CHOW: Seann and Jaime have different ideas how to create a role, which is very interesting. They make the character look good in their certain way, in ways I never thought about it. Plus this movie is West and East, two cultures planted together. I'm still learning a lot of new things and I really want to explore the culture. They taught me a lot about the American language, about the people living in the Midwest or on the East Coast and West Coast.
Q: So even with all your experience you can come to a project and learn something.
CHOW: Every movie is give and take. I think I took a lot from every single movie.
Q: What is going on with the Monk? He has a mission.
CHOW: That's maybe going too far. It's only a comic book, okay? This character is a lot of fun. You have acting, a little bit of comedy and a good relationship with Seann's character, the monk and Seann. It's very unusual to have drama, friendship, a mission, more or less, in a movie with a very important message about Buddhism. In the very beginning scene, my master teaches me how to understand the universe and philosophy. My character was undisciplined, so later on in modern day I meet Seann and he gets the same lessons that I got when I was young. I have the responsibility to put him on the good track. So more or less, Seann and the master monk are teacher and student and buddy and friend. It's very complex.
Q: The relationship is important but not natural.
CHOW: Right, it's not like most Kung Fu movies, with a master who is stiff and serious. This one is more like friend, like buddy, interesting.
Q: You don't understand what you have.
CHOW: Even the monk, he doesn't know. He doesn't understand the scroll that much [laughs] because I don't know how to read the Tibetan. Only joking.
Q: Talk about Jade's character. It's an unlikely combination.
CHOW: When I saw the dailies of a bunch of young people together, I think I'm out of the movie - this Asian guy full of Asian culture. How can it blend into the Western culture, blend in with the young people together. But they actually have a lot of interesting chemistry with the Monk. Very interesting.
Q: Is it easy to say it's good vs. evil?
CHOW: Depends on your wisdom to understand the movie, or your wisdom to understand the philosophy of Buddhism. Actually the script has a lot of very deep philosophy about Buddhism. It's interesting, once you go to see it.
Q: When you first read the script, what was it that made you say I want to be the Bulletproof Monk?
CHOW: I was 100% for this movie because my wife, Jasmine, controls every single character I play. She's in charge of planning my projects. I just wait for the order. She says, "Now the movie called Bulletproof Monk. You have to do it." I wasn't concerned about the character; I was concerned with my wife. It's an order.
Q: You're following instructions.
CHOW: Yeah, right, instructions - "You have to do this," and I say, "Yes, ma'am."
Q: Talk about Seann. This is a very serious role for him.
CHOW: That's why he has a lot of concern about his character, about the treatment of the lines. He always had a lot of discussions with me about how to treat the scene. And Paul is a very good director. He gave us a lot of room to create our character. I think Seann is very talented and I think he's one of the up and coming stars in America. He has a lot of potential and can be a good actor and also a very popular star.
Q: Beyond his success in comedies…
CHOW: Oh yeah, absolutely. I admire him as a friend and as a buddy in this movie. I appreciate that he is performing. I am glad I have this opportunity to work with him.
Q: What was your experience with Jade like?
CHOW: She is not that much related to the Monk, but personally I really, really like her. And the canvas loved her because she's really, really beautiful. She does a lot of martial art with Seann, like they're dancing together. I think it's beautiful. Seann and Jamie have a very strong chemistry in the movie.
Q: You've had experience with wirework before, is this any different or special?
CHOW: Depends on how the director treats the fighting sequence. Actually, we can do it in the computer, but if he uses the real actor, put on the wire, it looks more real than when you use the CGI. So, if we have a lot of time to practice the scene, get it very organized and make it look good, we have a strong impact on the audience. They see the real actor doing all the martial art things in front of the camera. Plus, Stephen and Paul have a lot of new ideas. Paul is from commercials and knows how to make the images very rich in front of the camera, and I hope he can treat the martial art movie in a certain different level, rather than what you saw before, like in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I really want to put my character, Seann's character, Jamie and the whole movie on a new level.
Q: Something different.
Q: Has he talked to you specifically about your character and the journey the monk is on?
CHOW: Yeah, he always taught me how the Monk looks, his color for the Monk, you know, the hair. He had a lot of angles, plus the set up with the lighting and everything and choosing different colors -- the texture is matched to my color tone. The combination of the color is putting in a very rich and beautiful harmony. I told him I've never worked with a director like him. He had a lot of ideas on the set, so after one take he'd request, "Yun-fat can you do that in a different way?" He liked to ask me to do things in different ways, which is very special in my mind. I think it is very good for an actor to have a lot of inspiration from the director. He gave me a lot of room to create the Monk in certain way, which I haven't had before.
Q: Do you like that kind of thing where you can come to the set and have ideas come out?
CHOW: Yes, every minute, every second.
Q: You have to be on your toes then. Sounds very collaborative.
CHOW: Right, right, exactly. It depends on coincidence and inspiration, depends on the click, you know. Once we click to the same idea, or some idea we're happy about, which is related to our movie and related to the character, we just do it.
Q: You talk about texture… everyone spoke about an important look.
CHOW: Yeah, you can see it in the monitor every day.
Q: Is there something unique about a project that's produced by Terence Chang and John Wu?
CHOW: Yes, exactly.
Q: What's that relationship like for you? Terence said he created this for you.
CHOW: He had this idea for four or five years already. He waited for so long to create this project because he needed to look for a studio that could support his group of people and make our dreams come true. I've worked with John and Terence for many, many years, through many, many movies. I appreciate that he gave me a lot of opportunity with his company and his colleagues. This is a long relationship with them, you know, melodrama, comedy, action. When he told me he had created some new project for me, I was so glad to do it because we've known each other for so long.
Q: Must be nice in this business to have such a strong relationship.
CHOW: Oh yeah, absolutely, absolutely.
Q: Can you summarize what audiences can expect?
CHOW: I think it's more than I can summarize, you know.
Q: It's got a little bit off everything, but it's not a martial arts movie.
CHOW: It's a lot of different combinations together. I can say that this is very interesting movie. Everything you can name or think about, you can see in this movie.