Featured Contributor; New York City, New York (@TheDivaReview)
to Vote

[ A big thanks to Diva Velez for the following interview with the legend himself. You can find her writings on film at: www.thedivareview.com]

The Lady Miz Diva:  I'd like to congratulate you on winning the first Star Asia Lifetime Achievement award at the New York Asian Film Festival. Are you surprised about the great reception you get from American fans?
Sammo Hung:  Yes, I'm very excited and surprised and I feel sad. I get the award and it looks I need to retire soon. {Laughs}
LMD:  Does it ever occur to you to slow down? It seems like your fights are more intense than 25 years ago.  How are you feeling?

SH:  I'm fine, I'm fine. I like my job, you know? And after many years I still feel very nice and very good. Actually, I love movies, this is very important. All the time I try it make myself happy and when you're happy you have a lot of things to think about.

LMD:  Your grandmother was famous martial artist Chin Tsi-ang, your grandfather was the well-known director Hung Chung-ho and both your parents worked behind the scenes in film.  Was there ever any chance of your working outside of the film industry?

SM:  No, I don't think so, because my grandpa and grandma, they were very popular people.  I was aware all the time with my mother and father.  After I was born, my parents, grandma and my grandpa, they all stopped the film business already.  Then I was like a normal child; I went to normal school, but I didn't like normal school.  Then I went to the Peking Opera school.  This was a new style and new study.  Actually, for my family, I don't think there was any relationship {to being in films}.   At that moment, I just thought about some friends on my mother's side, their parents, they were worried about Sammo, "Oh what will he do later after this school?"  "Oh, let him learn some opera and then he can take up something later."

LMD:  Was there one most important lesson from the China Drama School that you still keep today?

  I think everything was very important for me.  Because at the time and moment I learned something, my mind can't think about other things.  Learning drama and action, whatever, this was very important and training until now.  You think about how to do everything great.

LMD:  Of all the different film work you do, acting, fight choreography, directing, writing, which is the most important to you and why?

  Actually, what I love to do is directing and I love to write.  I love to keep some ideas that I want to think about and then how to create the stories and most important are the characters.  I love to create the characters.  I'm not the hero type; my movies have some many different characters.

LMD:  I'd like to talk about your fight choreography.  All the films you have worked on have a similar strength, but they all look different.  I'm thinking of the beautiful fight in Three Kingdoms scored to Peking Opera.  How do you determine what style or look is necessary for a fight?

SH:  Mostly I've gotta know the film first, the characters.  I always follow the character to create the fight, whether it's fighting or just action, whichever, you don't put the character into the fight because the audience will watch and it means nothing.  If you can create the fight with the character in the same tones and same movement, the audience will feel something.

LMD:  In the films playing at the festival, Ip Man and Ip Man 2 and in Sha Po Lang, you have a wonderful collaboration with Donnie Yen.  Can you talk about working with him?

SH:  Actually Mr. Yen, he's a very good action star and whenever we create the fights, he's very easy to handle.  We have a very good time.  Mostly when we fight, it's very easy for us.  I love to play with Donnie Yen; he's the best to play with since Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao.  Those three guys are a very good combination.

LMD:  How you feel about popularity in the US?  Was it ever important to you?  You had a big success here with the TV series Martial Law, but you never seemed to make a big effort to break America.  You work hard, but you never seem desperate for the success you have.  Like many of your contemporaries, did you ever feel like you had to pursue US fame?

SH:  Of course it's important to me, but I haven't tried to deliberately make myself a success outside of Hong Kong.  I'm a very low key, mellow kind of guy.  If there's an opportunity, of course I'll try it out and see it will work, but I'm not going to fall over myself to try to do that.

LMD:  I'd like to talk about your work with actresses.  You make them look amazing and strong, but still feminine and sexy.  Do you approach fight choreography differently with women differently than if you were staging men? 

SH:  Actually it's a very big difference because the ladies are still ladies.  When we create fights for the men, a man can get hurt, he can do anything, whatever, to me it's like he can handle something like that, you know?  But a girl still is a girl.  You gotta be more careful and you've gotta know more what do when they get hurt.  One thing {with ladies onscreen} is when you're hurt; you take it on your heart only.  You cannot make a face {makes classic Sammo pained face}, no.  What she's gotta do is be the tough girl.  She's gotta pay something; the girls who are action stars, they're a little bit harder and they're more harder than men, cos in their body their energy is not like a man.  If he wants to do something, he wants to be a man, but she still is a girl, so we need more energy focus for them.  More protection.

LMD:  You have been a part of every important era in modern Hong Kong action cinema since the 1960's, very notably in the 1970's, in your own starring films throughout the 1980's, and recently in movies like Sha Po Lang, Ip Man and Three kingdoms, you're seeing another new age in martial arts filmmaking.  Is there a particular era of action filmmaking that you enjoyed the most?

SH:  I've worked for more than 40 years.  I started working 40 years ago, I'm so old, you know?  Literally, because the timing is different -- when I worked in 1973, 1975 and then until now, it just rolls like a wheel, you know, roll, roll, roll.   And then the timing {changes} we gotta follow up; this year the Paris movie and two weeks later we got an action movie, right now a comedy.  Because the timing goes forward, push, push, push, and right now the new technology for the audience they will see a lot of things, you know?  And then how do you create the fights and how do you make the action movies, how do you chase the time and the audience?  {A filmmaker} has a lot of things on his mind; you gotta do something to catch them.

LMD:  Now you have to start designing fights in 3D!

SH:  {Laughs} That's right!

LMD:  Are you tired of being asked about Bruce Lee?

SH:  Actually I haven't talked too much about Bruce Lee, just a few things.  Because Bruce Lee, he's our hero.  So many things, his movies, his posters on the walls, so many people have never forgotten him, you know?

LMD:  Have you ever considered writing an autobiography?

SH:  For so many years friends have asked me that question, but I don't like it.  I don't know why.  I've done so many bad things, but I don't want anyone to write it.  I don't want anyone to write it if it's not true, so why would I do this?

LMD:  Is there a film that you've made that you feel best represents you?

SH:  I like so many of the movies I've done, like Prodigal Son and Pedicab Driver and Heart of Dragon and Eastern Condors and Millionaire's Express.  Actually I like a lot of them!

LMD:  If you retired, like you mentioned you might after this festival, how would you like your fans like those who came to the awards & the festival to remember your career?

SH:  I don't know how to say that, but I always love that people always remember me.  When people see me they say hello, whatever. But even if they don't know me or forget me, I don't mind that, too! {Laughs}

LMD:  When you think of the great Hong Kong action stars of the last 40 years there's Bruce Lee, there's you, there's Jackie, there's Jet Li and Donnie Yen, but it doesn't seem like there's anybody behind you guys.  Can you think of an action star who is coming up that we should look out for?

SH:  Now it's very hard to know.  I hope that in a short time I can know who is coming up and ask to do some good action films in the future, but now it's very hard.  I'm still looking for, I'm still waiting.

LMD:  What then do you see as the future of Hong Kong action films?

SH:  It's really hard to see.  It's true, because the while action film {market} is very bad because of the economy.  Hopefully Ip Man 1 and 2 will let the producer or the other filmmakers -- mostly they have the same feeling - {it'll} give more filmmakers a chance to make good films.  Then I see the timing, the new, young generation, they're coming again.  That's very important.  In the market, in the box office, we don't have a chance to see any action movies; it's giving no chance to the new generation.

LMD:  Is there the possibility of an Ip Man 3?

SH:  No, actually, I don't want to make Ip Man 3 anymore.  There's a lot of movies about kung fu now.  For me, this was because the writer really put his heart into writing the story and the director put in a lot of heart to make this film and Sammo Hung has a lot of heart.  Actually, I'd love to do another action film.  Success or not, it doesn't matter but they must put the heart in the film.  A little more heart, a little more feeling, then its okay.

LMD:  What's next for you, Sammo?

SH:  My next movie I don't know how you call it in English, but it's about the background character in the Peking Opera.  The main opera character is called Wu Sheng, but the main story is around the stage.  I heard people talk about, "Oh it looks like an opera," but it's not, you will see.  The story is very good the character is very good.  I'm the action director, but I like this movie.   When I took this job I just finished Ip Man 2 and then because they wanted to make this movie in March, we were training in January and then they got behind.

LMD:  Will you please give a message to our readers?

SH:  Actually, I would love to say something for everybody.  I hope everybody has good health and take it easy on everything in life and not to be too hard on yourself.  If your heart is good, but in your mind you have to take it easy.

LMD:  Uh-huh.  Sammo, I think you need to listen to yourself!

SH:  That's just like me, everything I gotta do harder, you know?  I'm always, "I want this one! I want this one!"  But I need to keep doing something, I need to create something, this is very important, but then after that, if you do it, if it's a success or not, doesn't matter.

~ The Lady Miz Diva Vélez
June 26th, 2010

TDR direct link: Sammo on The Diva Review 
to Vote
Screen Anarchy logo
Do you feel this content is inappropriate or infringes upon your rights? Click here to report it, or see our DMCA policy.
JahsoldierJuly 2, 2010 5:21 AM

"I love to play with Donnie Yen"

Classic. He comes across as a real genuinely nice guy in his interviews. Hope he never retires because the film industry needs guys like him. I wouldn't be adverse to a Sammo/Arseno reteaming again!

Looking forward to the Opera film. Thanks for the link :)

CashBaileyJuly 2, 2010 10:52 PM

Sammo has always been my personal favourite HK fight choreographer. His stuff has always been so fast and brutal; a complete contrast to the whimsical style of Yuen Woo-Ping, Ching Sui-Tung or even Jackie Chan.

No martial artist will EVER look better than when they're directed by Sammo Hung. He just has the gift of making novices (like his wife) look amazing on-screen.

And on a personal note, I briefly met Sammo on the set of MR. NICE GUY and I have never been so awed or intimidated by another person in my life.

AnthonyJuly 4, 2010 7:10 PM

That is awesome. Congrats, Sammo.

When will Jackie, Yuen and Sammo work together in a new movie? I'd love to see them together again like 80s movies.

KouJuly 19, 2010 9:28 PM

Sammo Hung is truly a great Hong Kong martial arts international superstar since the 1960's 'til today. He deserves a lot of respect for his hard-work and making martial arts films. I hope he doesn't retire anytime soon. Congrats upon receiving this award Sammo!!!!

https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlMkyASLggt9hZMz-HoneN7BXuQ2OpNpZwSeptember 28, 2010 7:12 PM

What would HK cinema be without him? He seems a really genuine humble and great guy and without a doubt the most talented versatile artist ever. Comedy, Action, Drama, The guys a directing/ choreographing legend. Probably the most important figure in HK cinema as far as i'm concerned. Long live Sammo Hung!!!!