Tony Leung talks choosing six films for Busan and plans to star in a US TV drama

Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai walks on the red carpet during the opening ceremony of the 27th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) at the Busan Cinema Center in Busan on October 5, 2022. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP)
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Tony Leung Chiu-wai was given a tough task ahead of this year’s Busan International Film Festival (BIFF).

The respected Hong Kong actor was asked to select six of his own films for a special BIFF showcase titled ‘In The Mood For Tony Leung’. So how did he choose from a career that spans four decades and more than 80 films?

“Many films are memorable and important to me,” Leung tells Screen of his first foray into curation for BIFF, where he is due to receive the Asian Filmmaker of the Year award on opening night.

There are some standout choices that immediately made the cut: In The Mood For Love, for which he won the best actor award at Cannes in 2000; its loose sequel 2046; and gay romance Happy Together, all directed by his frequent collaborator Wong Kar Wai. Then there is crime thriller Infernal Affairs, which spawned two sequels (and Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning remake The Departed).

Completing the showcase was more difficult. “I was looking for a comedy to create a more diverse selection,” he says of 1993 martial-arts feature ­The Eagle Shooting Heroes, produced by Wong and directed by Jeffrey Lau — “a comedy director that I admire”.

Rounding out the titles is 1998 Macau-set cop thriller ­The Longest Nite, produced by Johnnie To and directed by Patrick Yau. “Johnnie To was the first director who inspired me the most,” Leung recalls. “Not long after I started out, we worked on a TV series.” To was one of the directors on ­The Duke Of Mount Deer, a popular Hong Kong period comedy drama that aired in 1984, with Leung in an anti-hero role.

Clearly many titles could not make the cut from a career that started out on TV in 1982 and more recently saw his Hollywood debut in Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings.

Leung says he felt disappointed that A City Of Sadness, the historical epic by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien, did not make the programme as it was unavailable to screen at BIFF.

“I was still doing TV at that time,” he recalls of starring in the film that own the Golden Lion at Venice in 1989. “It was my first time working with a director from outside Hong Kong. I learned a lot from the production team.”

Leung also considered 1995 crime drama Cyclo, another Golden Lion winner, directed by Vietnamese-French filmmaker Tran Anh Hung. It did not make the final list as Leung wanted to strike a balance of arthouse and commercial titles.

But with the selection complete, Leung is looking forward to meeting his Korean fans at BIFF for the first time in nearly 20 years. The actor was last at the festival in 2004 with 2046, which opened that year’s edition.

Upcoming films and move into TV

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Leung did not slow down, making three films back to back, beginning with Shang-Chi… in 2020.

He then joined The Goldfinger, a Hong Kong crime drama that reunites him with Infernal Affairs co-star Andy Lau for the first time since Infernal Affairs III in 2003 and with director Felix Chong, co-writer of the Infernal Affairs trilogy.

The third film was spy thriller Anonymous from mainland China director Cheng Er, who had impressed Leung with 2016 crime drama The Wasted Times.

But it is a planned return to TV that will see the actor come “full circle” from his first small-screen roles in 1982, and Leung reveals he is in advanced talks to a US drama series. “The script was passed to me last year and I like it very much,” he says. “It’s an action drama, similar to one I wanted to make in the early 2000s that didn’t materialise.”

Leung will take the lead in an English-speaking role, with plans to shoot in Canada, but probably not until 2024 as he is taking a break from filming.

“I spent the first 20 years learning the ropes and finding my footing, and the next 20 years putting what I’ve learnt into practice,” Leung says. “I’m now in the final stage of career as an actor.”

Source: Screen Daily