The Unexpurgated interview with Zhang Ziyi and Wang Leehom
SINGAPORE — Who would have thought Zhang Ziyi and Wang Leehom would hit it off so well?
Just think about it. One is an international film star who has battled the likes of Chow Yun Fat, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and Michelle Yeoh in her films. The other is a notoriously awkward (but oh-so-handsome-and-talented) singer-songwriter-actor.
So you can’t blame us for being mildly surprised to see the actress giggling and gushing, like us plebeians, over her “perfect” co-star.
The actors were in town last week to promote their new romantic comedy, My Lucky Star, which opens in Singapore on Sept 19. Directed by American film-maker Dennie Gordon, the film is a standalone prequel to 2009’s Chinese box office hit Sophie’s Revenge, which starred Zhang, Fan Bingbing, Peter Ho and Korean actor So Ji Sub.
During our brief interview, the duo recounted stories of their experience working together, threw praises at each other (the name Meryl Streep came up at one point) and even finished each other’s sentences.
Maybe — just maybe — two superstars really can be friends after all.
Q: Ziyi, you play a character who pursues Leehom’s character quite actively in the movie. Are you like that in your personal life?
Zhang Ziyi: No, I’ve never pursued anyone. I’m always the one who is pursued! (laughs)
Wang Leehom: Wow, really?
Z: But in our movie, we want to send a message, and that is that girls can woo boys, too. If I like someone, I will tell him. I don’t think there are any dating rules that we necessarily need to follow. Anyway, it’s more in vogue these days, for girls to pursue guys.
Q: What about you, Leehom?
W: Yeah, I am the same, like Ziyi. I’m a little more passive. Well, in the past at least. I’m different now.
W: Because when you’re passive, the rate of success is a little lower. (laughs)
Z: I’m still not married now because of this!
W: When you’re passive and people pursue you, you realise, after a while, like, “Oh this person’s not too bad”. And actually, the types of people who would pursue you actively are quite limited. And they may not be the types of people that you would like.
Q: Ziyi, you’re well-known for your more serious roles in movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But recently you’ve been starring in comedies like My Lucky Star and Sophie’s Revenge. Is this a genre you’d like to try more often?
Z: Actually the character in My Lucky Star resembles my character a lot more than my other movies. Those movies really required very serious acting, to be immersed in the emotions, to express those emotions deeply and adequately. So no one director has ever approached me to shoot a comedy. Nobody has ever come to me. Like they believe I should act in very serious movies, such as The Grandmaster. But I do feel a little tired. So I thought I’d make movies like My Lucky Star and Sophie’s Revenge.
Q: Ziyi, there is one particularly romantic scene in the movie where Leehom hugs you, and you parachute down from the roof of Marina Bay Sands together. What is the most romantic thing you’ve ever done in your personal life?
Z: The most romantic thing? I’ve got to think about it.
W: I want to hear about it, too.
Z: Oh dear!
W: Is it not convenient to say?
Z: No! But I feel the pressure … Can I tell you later? Ask Leehom first!
W: Actually I want to add to the previous question. When we see Ziyi act as heroines — actually she possesses those traits too. That is why Ang Lee, John Woo, Zhang Yimou and Wong Kar-wai have approached her, because they see those traits, too. This is a very important trait for actors — she can carry a movie on her own. On the other hand, she has comedic traits, too. She has them all.
Q: Do you think she is a good comedian?
W: Yeah, I think she’s great! I’ve discussed this with our director. She’s like a young, Asian Meryl Streep. She’s really multifaceted. She can star in deep, heavy roles, but also lighthearted ones. She can sing. So the audience, her fans, can look forward to her projects, because she achieves new heights in each one of them.
Z: Thank you, Leehom. Leehom praised me! I can’t stay calm anymore.
Q: Leehom seems really shy, and his face turns red all the time. Do you think he knows why he is so popular among girls?
Z: Well, that’s easy. Leehom’s so talented. And he’s so handsome.
Q: But do you think he knows why?
Z: I’m sure he knows!
W: What? My face has turned red again.
Z: In his songs, he writes his own songs and lyrics. His voice is romantic.
W: And in real life?
Z: In real life, he’s … not bad. He took us to iFly (at Sentosa). Oh, that day was really romantic. Speaking of romantic, I’ve thought of something. You know, in life, at least to me, it’s the simple things that make me feel really happy. Like when two people take a roadtrip during a vacation.
W: Once, when we were shooting in Hong Kong, we took a speedboat back to our hotel. We went so fast, the fastest our boat could go. That was a lot of fun.
Z: Yes, that was really fun. That was an interesting story. On our first day of filming, we met with a typhoon in Hong Kong. But we insisted on shooting, until the Coast Guard told us to leave. And there were so many paparazzi waiting for us on shore.
W: Yeah, so we ran away.
Z: We didn’t want to deal with that, so we asked if there were other ways to leave. And they told us we could take the boat back to the hotel.
W: But it was quite far away.
Z: Yes, a group of us younger people got in the boat, but the older ones were too frightened. So the younger people got in, and we went so fast. And Leehom said, “speed up!” So we kept speeding up.
W: And it was a real storm. It was a lot of fun.
Z: We had raincoats on, but we…
W: We took them off.
Z: I think it’s these small…
Z: These adventures that take place when you don’t expect them to can be very romantic.
Q: Leehom, you’re making Hollywood films now (with Michael Mann). Has Ziyi given you any advice or tips?
Z: No! He’s working with big-name directors.
W: Actually, many of the people on our crew have worked with Ziyi before, in Memoirs Of A Geisha. And they really, really love Ziyi.
Q: Are you still filming?
W: No, we’ve finished shooting. I learned a lot. I think I understand Michael Mann better now. He’s had such a long career. He’s 70 years old, and has so many movies. So I can understand the way he thinks, the way he works. It’s very interesting.
Q: Do you think you might direct a movie soon?
W: Preparations are still underway…
Z: What? You want to direct?
Q: What do you think about taking risks?
Z: Life is worth taking risks for.
Q: What about relationships?
Z: Relationships are part of life. This movie sums it up quite well, I think. It has meaning for everyone. You never know what might happen tomorrow. You don’t know if you’ll get new experiences, or if you’ll improve, or if you’ll learn anything, if you don’t take that first step. One simple example is, if I hadn’t insisted on making the Sophie series of films (Sophie’s Revenge and My Lucky Star), we wouldn’t be meeting each other here today, I wouldn’t have met Leehom, and Leehom and I wouldn’t have become friends. There’s nothing to regret, we just continue with life. It doesn’t matter if we fall, or make mistakes. We’ll look at the reasons for our mistakes…
W: And improve.
Z: Yes, and reflect. And then start again. That’s life. Then there’s meaning in life. It’d be too boring to do things step by step. That’s not really in our personality too.
Q: You said earlier that you’re passive, and that may be why you’re not married now. Do you think Leehom is your perfect match?
Z: I don’t dare to fantasise about Leehom because Leehom has been occupied.
Z: Occupied by too many people. Lehom is too perfect.
W: You’re too courteous.
My Lucky Star premieres in Singapore on Sept 19.