Formerly known as “Dark October”, the very long-gestating “Bodyguards and Assassins” is becoming reality, and is definitely one of the most exciting and expected Hong Kong / Chinese action movie to be released in South East Asia next year. Just before the beginning of the shooting, director Teddy Chen (“Downtown Torpedoes”, “Purple Storm”...) announced this huge project officially at the Hong Kong Filmart in March 2009, with his producer Peter Chan (“The Warlords”) and one big part of his amazing cast (Donnie Yen, Tony Leung Kar-fai, Simon Yam, Eric Tsang, Hu Jun, Nicholas Tse, Fan Bing-bing, Leon Lai, and Wang Po-chieh). At the same time, Teddy Chen also announced at the Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing forum (HAF) his next project, the thriller “Punitive Homicide”.
Frédéric Ambroisine: You’ve just announced at the FILMART what’s probably the biggest movie of you career?
Teddy Chen: Yes. It’s called “Bodyguards and Assassins”, I’m gonna start to shoot it in Shanghai next week. On the set, I’m gonna rebuild the Hong Kong of 1905, rebuild the Victoria Harbour, Queen’s road, and some of the main Hong Kong roads of the last century. The story takes place exactly on October 15th, 1905. The revolution father, Doctor Sun Yat Set, comes to Hong Kong for one day. During his stay, some people from the Ching dynasty want to get rid of him. Then, some bodyguards arrive, from every street, to help him, to protect this great person.
FA: Did this event actually really happen?
TC: Actually, the life of this revolution father has been threatened many times. Several assassins tried to kill him, once in San Francisco. He was also kidnapped in London. That’s real. But my story isn’t real. I created the 6 or 7 unsung heroes that will protect him and risk their lives to help the revolution. They are heroes with no names. They are not soldiers. These kind of heroes are from the streets. They are actors, guys selling stuff on the streets, beggar, one of them is a rickshaw man... They’re all from the streets. They are not from a revolution team, you know. Nobody knows them. They are unsung heroes.
FA: When did you start to work on this story?
TC: I wanted to make this movie ten years ago. The ideas came out in 1999 and some investors get involded in the project. But in this ten years period, I had some problems making this movie, especially because of the SARS. It happened in a village in China, next to the set of the movie in 2003. Everybody was afraid of course, so we had to stop. After the SARS in 2004, one of my main investors passed away, and I didn’t have enough money to carry on. So, I stopped again...until now. My producer Mr Peter Chan Ho-sun and I, discussed about this project for the first time in 1999. We had to work together on it, but something happened and I left. It didn’t work out. Ten years later, he came back. We discussed about it 2008, and he said “OK, let’s do it again”, because he though it was the right time to do it.
FA: And you have also another project that you’re presenting at the HAF, “Punitive Homicide”?
TC: Yeah it’s a smaller budget called Punitive Hominicide. It’s a thriller, a psycho serial killer story. I’m gonna do it after this project, in 2010. It’s about a psycho. It’s about murders. The story is about some people getting killed in Hong Kong. 1, 2, 3 are murdered... And the killer who did that he killed gave them some kind of punishement after their death. He cut away some pieces of body, in different way. But there is one common point between the murders: the victims all have an ancient antique jade, inside their body. The policemen don’t know why, and there’s no way to find any clue or to know why the killer is doing this. With the help of a university professor, who teaches history, they find out that the killer thinks he’s the king of the Ching dynasty. And he start killing because he wants the world to be in peace. So he starts killing the kings of the 6 kingdoms. All the movie is a mind game thing. And there will be an unexpected ending. I think the mind game will work out with the audience...
FA: It’s very much in the same style of “Double Vision”, also written by Su Chao-pin...
TC: Yeah. Su Chao-pin and I are very good friends and I like the things he did, he’s kind of good in this kind of field.
FA: Who’ll play in the movie?
TC: At this moment, Chang Chen, from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, Hsu Chi from “The Transporter” and Anthony Wong.
FA: When did you hear about HAF for the first time?
TC: This is my second time at HAF. Actually “Bodyguard and Assassins”, when it was called in English, “Dark October”, was selected at the HAF projects in 2003. I think it’s a great way to know more people from the industry, people who’re not from Hong Kong. You have a project for them and maybe sometimes they have a project for you. Maybe you can work out on this project now, maybe you can work on it later. It’s good to meet people. I think it’s good for the industry.
FA: For this project, you’re looking for some Hong Kong investors or foreign investors maybe?
TC: I have already half of the budget from Media Asia, I’m looking for the other half from foreign countries. From western countries, from Europe... It’s quite interesting because, many of the French companies that I met like this ideas of “Punitive Homicide”. I think maybe it’s gonna be co-produced by a French company.
FA: So, you’re leaving tomorrow for China?
TC: Yes. And I’ll start the shooting of “Bodyguards and Assassins” next week. It’s a lot of pressure for me. Because it’s a big movie, it’s a great cast and I have to make this thing out well, you know.
FA: You worked with some of the actors before.
TC: I worked with Leon Lai, Tony Leung, Eric Tsang...Never with Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse.
FA: Any last words ?
TC: I hope you like my next film, and my next next film. And I hope to work on “Punitive Hominicide” with a French production team.
Interview conducted on March 25th, 2009 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.