Interview with Director Soi Cheang

Director Soi Cheang is making his first appearance at Midnight Madness this year with SPL: A Time For Consequences. But he’s had other films at TIFF. Accident (2009), starring MM Alumnus Louis Koo, and Motorway (2013), starrring MM Alumni Anthony Wong Chau-sang and Josie Ho, screened in the Vanguard Program. This year Soi Cheang brings a follow-up to Wilson Yip’s SPL / Sha Po Long / Killzone. SPL blew the roof off Midnight Madness in 2005–with Sammo Hung in the house. In taking on the sequel, Cheang brings new characters and locations to the series, with characters played by MM Alumni, Wu Jing, Jony Jaa, Louis Koo and Simon Yam. And Cheang maintains some of the original’s sensibility. There will be fights. There will be fights in a Thai prison. Simon Yam might be in peril.

Like many Hong Kong directors, Soi Cheang got his start on Hong Kong’s iconic television station, TVB. He went on to become an assistant director for Johnnie To and Accident and Motorway were both produced by To’s Milkway Image Ltd. Cheang even did some shooting for Wilson Yip on the first SPL. Cheang’s filmography is pretty diverse now, ranging from grimmer films like Dog Bite Dog  (2006) to the family friendly Monkey King 3D (2014).

Tony Jaa and Wu Jing throw down.

Director Cheang was kind enough to answer some questions for us in advance of the premiere of SPL2. Since he sent his answers back in Chinese and English, we’re posting his answers in both languages.

SPL 2: A Time for Consequences isn’t a traditional sequel to SPL. How did you come up with the new story and how does it keep some of the themes and feel of SPL?

已經係一個好完整的故事,無需要延續,如果拍SPL2的話,我同監製都決定重新開展一個故事,當然要保留一點SPL的感覺,我地選擇左保留他的宿命,他的命運這個主題,重新創作所有人物,係一個屬於的自己版本的SPL,今次我們有很多地方的演員,有泰國,香港,要將2個地方係一個主題下拉埋一齊好似幾好,我同監製決定用命運將2個地方的演員結合在故事中

At first, I told him that I wouldn’t want to make an SPL movie unless we had a feasible story. And somehow we managed to put together all the characters and the story framework that you see in the current movie.

Unda Kunteera Yhordchanng

You work with many amazing and talented performers in SPL 2. How was it working with them and how did you cast the film? 

 其實每個地方的演員都好好,係好出色的動作片演員,當然我們會抽取每個演員特質,或我對每個演員的感覺,如Tony Jaa我不希望他演殺手,但我好希望他似他第一部作品《拳霸》中,單純直接的性格,另外吳京我希望他成為一個未見過的吳京,他以前經常很威風打人的,今次在命運的谷底裡慢慢掙扎上去,今次每個演員我都盡量有一點不同和鮮明的風格放在他們身上,希望每個人都特出

In fact, they are all good action movie actors. We were grounded in the characteristics of each actor or how I feel about each actor. For example, I don’t want Tony Jaa be a killer. I would like him to be a simple and headlong man, just like in Ong-Bak. Besides, I want the audience can see the other side of Wu Jing. He is always power and prestige in the past. This time, I want him down in the dumps and struggling. This time, I have tried a different and distinctive style on every actor, I hoped everyone could be outstanding.

Wu Jing, struggling. (Simon Yam in peril)

How was working with action choreographer Li Chung-chi?  

一開始我們討論每一場戲的動作和我的要求,當然我們在現場會作出很多修改,有些想法一起創造,有一些場口是我決定氣氛,李忠志在我給我框框下發揮

We started to discuss the operation of each scene and my demands. We have made many adjustments on site. There were some ideas we created together. And there are some scenes were I decided to do for atmosphere, then he developed it.

I’ve read you started in the film industry as an assistant director for Wilson Yip Wai-shun, Ringo Lam, Andrew Lau and Johnnie To. How have they influenced your filmmaking? What other filmmakers or films have influenced you?  

每個跟我合作過的導演對我有很大影響,因為在他們身上學到很多,好似你們提到的Wilson Yip, Ringo Lam, Johnnie To 他們都對我很大影響

Those directors that I’ve worked with are a great influence on me. I learned a lot from them. As you mentioned, directors like Wilson Yip, Ringo Lam, Andrew Lau and Johnnie To. They have a great influence on me.

Zhang Jin and Tony Jaa.

There are three languages in SPL2: Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai. What were some of the challenges and benefits of shooting in so many languages?  

拍攝時,語言上都係一個挑戰,但對於我們來說都是要克服的,我想最大的難題是張晉,因為他根本不是泰國人,他要完全講泰文的對白,對他來說是一個幾大的挑戰,我覺得他學得很快,很有語言的天份,令到拍攝很順利

Language is challenge for us during shooting. But we have to overcome it. I think there was a big challenge for Zhang Jin. Although he is not Thai, he had to speak in Thai during shooting. I think he is very talented in language. So it made the shooting very smooth.

Thank you so much, Director Cheang! 

This interview was originally published on the official program blog of the Midnight Madness program

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