The Making of THE GRANDMASTER
For the casting of THE GRANDMASTER, director Wong Kar Wai
needed actors who could make the extraordinary commitment to
several years of rigorous kung fu training. He wanted them not just to
embody the spirit, dignity and ethical bearing of a grandmaster but
also truly to master the moves of the schools they would represent.
'They didn't just have to be appropriate for the role,' says the director,
'they needed to be tough.'
Ziyi Zhang, Tony Leung, Chang Chen and Zhang Jin were up to
the challenge. Ziyi Zhang, with her background in dance and exquisite
physical grace, would represent Bagua. Tony Leung would play Wing
Chun grandmaster Ip Man. Zhang Jin would play Ma San, a master of
Xingyi and Chang Chen as The Razor would take on the explosive form
In fact, under the tutelage of the Baji master Wang Shiquan,
Chang Chen became so talented at Baji that he took first place in a
national Baji competition in 2012 -- an accomplishment that become a
Wang Shiquan was among the veritable army of kung fu masters
and grandmasters who contributed their expertise and time to the
training of THE GRANDMASTER's stars. Others included Wing Chun
master Duncan Leung, a disciple of Ip Man who studied alongside
Bruce Lee and who is the leading proponent and teacher of the form.
Duncan Leung's son, the Wing Chun master Darren Leung (who
appears in the film as Brother Hung), also spent countless hours training
Tony Leung. The goal was that the fights in the film -- choreographed by
internationally renowned action director Yuen Wo Ping (Drunken
Master, The Matrix, Kill Bill) -- would display an unprecedented
Wong Kar Wai's long-term collaborators William Chang Suk Ping
and Alfred Yau Wai Ming designed the production. It took Chang two
years to search out and collect the beads, ribbons, lace, and materials
for the costumes alone; he collected a library of photographic books
of the era for visual references. Among the sets they built in southern
Kaiping, a town near Foshan in Guangdong Province where the
production was based, were a full-scale replica of a train station in
Japanese-occupied Manchuria, the magnificent bordello known as
the Gold Pavilion, as well as the boarding houses and kung fu schools
of 1950s Hong Kong.
Those fans Wong Kar Wai films such as In the Mood for Love and
2046 will not be disappointed by THE GRANDMASTER, which is every bit
as stylish, sensual and elegant as anything else he has ever done; this is
kung fu as only Wong Kar Wai could present it.
After eight years of preparation, principle photography under
the direction of Philippe Le Sourd began in November 2009 in Kaiping.
From January 2010 to May 2010 the shooting moved to Northeast China, where they shot under blisteringly cold conditions that took cast,
crew and equipment to the very limits of endurance. Shooting resumed
in September 2010 and continued through November 2012 in Kaiping;
post-production took place in Bangkok in late 2012-13 at Oriental Post.
The international crew (China, Hong Kong, France, Singapore,
Australia, U.S.A.) worked round the clock by the director's side, often
going for days without sleep to achieve the level of perfection he
demands and which has put him on every serious film critic's list of top
film directors in the world today.
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