Venice Film Festival Best Actress: Gang of three

Between competition from Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet and international actresses, A Simple Life’s female lead Deanie Ip came out top and won the Best Actress of this year’s Venice Film Festival. This is also director Ann Hui’s second Best Actress after her third international film festivals. In A Simple Life, Ann continued to revert from complication to simplicity and return to one’s true self of her 2008 film – The Way We Are. Andy Lau who is the male lead and also one of the film’s investor. He had collaborated with Deanie as mother and son in some 10 films which includes The Unwritten Law, the chemistry is still there. In this average 60 years old combination which presented a touching film in this year’s Venice Film Festival. Deanie Ip who won an award kept repeating: “Without Ann Hui, Andy Lau, I don’t have the chance to win the award.”

Deanie made had not been cast in a Hong Kong film for 10 years, in such a long time, Ann is the only director that asked her to make a comeback, Andy is the only one whom had read the script and prepared $6 million to invest in the film. Thus, wherever Deanie goes, she would repeat to reporters: “Without Ann Hui, Andy Lau, I don’t have the chance to win the award.”

Tao Jie who is 70 years old, she’s no longer agile and have difficulty walking. She became Roger’s family maid when she was 13 years old, she had served the family for five generations. Now, she’s old, suffered a stroke, unable to work and requested the master to sack her and sent her to a nursing home. A single Roger is the remaining member of the family in Hong Kong, the young master began to learn how to take care of others. This master-maid relationship started to have a magical changes.

The film is adapted from a true story, Tao Jie is actually Hong Kong Golden Harvest film producer Roger Lee. A few years ago, this maid passed away and Roger wrote a script from this story and hope that it could be shot into a film. Ann had feelings on the script after reading because she’s also an old woman as she could also face the same situation, meanwhile other than shooting films, she also need to take care of her elderly mother. Ann added many details from her own observation into the script. “I’m lucky to be able to shoot such a film, I loved this element, a realistic true story, narration, there’s humor and sadness, also involvement of some non-professional actors.” Ann said.

Shooting such a film, the difficulty is to look for an investor. This is basically a localized Hong Kong film, the market is small, few dare to invest. In her The Way We Are, Wong Jing used his own money, for A Simple Life, she approached Andy.

“If I don’t come out with the money, it’s expected that nobody would invest…especially when she told me that she had never had even budget when shooting a film, I feel sad for her and decided to invest in the film.” Andy told reporter that he took out $10 million and prepared to make a loss of $6 million.

In the eyes of Ann, Deanie is the number one choice to act Tao Jie. In order to persuade Deanie to make a comeback, she entrust Hong Kong director and film critic Kenneth Ip for help. Deanie think that she had not shoot a film for 10 years, thus Kenneth want to show her how much she had aged and if she could make it.

On the other side, Andy also brought the script to Mainland China’s Bona Film and its boss Yu Dong agreed to invest but he had one condition, “If you are in the film, I will invest another $10 million.” Thus, the Roger character belongs to Andy.

Andy and Deanie are a classic mother and son on the silver screen. They first collaborated in The Emissary, he was very nervous as it was first male lead in a film, Deanie who was his mother in the film took good care of this newcomer as she taught him acting tips, thus they became good friends. After that, both of them collaborated in 10 films which includes The Unwritten Law and one TV drama. Entertainment magazine Variety commented: “Deanie’s Tao Jie has a speciality, a confidence, full of energy despite her age, facing life with a happy mentality. The largest selling point of the film is the mother-son relationship of Andy and Deanie.”

Deanie is an actress being under estimated in Hong Kong. She entered showbiz as a singer, being in movie industry for a long time but always as a supporting character or mother, few chances to become the female lead. In her close to 40 years in acting, she’s always the supporting actress, nominated five times and six times as Best Supporting Actress in Taiwan Golden Horse Film Awards and Hong Kong Films Awards respectively. Ann Hui gave her the chance to be the female lead and she won an international Best Actress award. She loved acting, devoted her life to acting. When interviewed in Venice, she quoted an example that Andy love to show concern to people: There’s one day, she was chatting with Andy on the set, some elderly actors came into the room, without saying anything, despite still chatting, Andy naturally stood up and gave up his seat to them. When sharing the scenario, she repeated what Andy did that day while answering the reporter’s question.

B: Bund Magazine
L: Andy Lau
Y: Deanie Ip

B: Director Ann said that on the set you don’t give much comments on the set, controlling yourself, how do you switch between your role as boss and actor?

L: I’m not a bossy person. Before the shooting of the film, I will give a lot of comments, in charge of many things, for example the investment, script and the direction of the market…I will give my opinions and comments for the director as reference. On the first day of shooting, I’m an actor thus I’m at the set, I’m not there as a boss. At the set, the biggest shot is the director. If we are still discussing on the script at the set, it meant not enough preparation for the film.

B: So you requested the director to prepared all the details before shooting?

L: Yes, we actually tally the script many times.

B: Many Hong Kong directors loved to made changes to the script on the set.

L: Every director is different. I’m a person who want to make sure of how the film is going to be shot, must know what I expected. Because I’m not those bosses who would pump money when money is not enough. I only have that amount of money. Large companies have many productions each year, they could transfer their finance, whereas there is only one or two productions each year for my small company, therefore if I invested wrongly, it will be a wrong investment, no amendments to be made.

B: Do you have any worries of extras and non-professional actors not performing well?

L: We have rehearsed many times, thus on the set I’m already familiarize with them.

B: Miss Deanie, you had collaborated 10 films with Andy, you witness him from a newbie to the current heavenly king, boss, did you feel that he had changed?

Y: Yes, I need to please him.

L: Giving me 2 peanuts each day means pleasing me.

B: Tao Jie in the film is very different to the actual you. Tao Jie is very mentally strong, a lonely woman, how you manage this character?

Y: Yes, this is the Tao Jie we want. But I feel that it’s not difficult, the expectations that Tao Jie wants is similiar to me. She would choose even buying some vegetables, I’m also such a person.

B: Andy, you knew from the beginning that this will be Deanie’s acting?

L: I do not know in the beginning, but after reading the script, I knew it surely be her, but I did not make any suggestion.

B: Your character does not have much screen time when compared to Tao Jie, and also not much differences.

L: Maybe I didn’t acted well, actually there are changes. When Tao Jie admitted to the nursing home, I learnt to show concern to people. Maybe due to my poor acting, everybody didn’t notice the change.

Y: I think you acted well.

B: It’s because your character did not show much obvious changes when compared to Tao Jie, hard to get noticed.

Y: I feel that the development of this film is not so obvious. For example when Roger visited Tao Jie for the first time, she did not comb her hair and was still wearing pyjamas. When Tao Jie discovered that Roger will still visit her, she will dress up. Initially she’s depressed as she thought that Roger abandoned her at the nursing home, she don’t like the nursing home but she felt satisfied when Roger visited her, it slowly changed. Did you noticed this change? Tao Jie is delighted, Roger started to enter her life. Actually she had an exciting life, but all happening at the end of her life.

B: Because of this film, Andy learn to love others?

L: I loved you so much! Actually, you hurt me when you asked me this question, so you feel that I don’t love people?

B: Actors like you will be adore by people, onlookers looking at you, seldom have chances to show off your love.

L: I don’t understand. But I know about love, because I feel that if you don’t know how to love someone, nobody would love you. Furthermore if you don’t know how to love a person, maybe people will love you for a while, but not for long. I’m not saying that I know how to love someone, but whether one know how to love have no relationship with the person’s identity, status and financial status.

Y: Andy know how to take care of people. He know how to show concern to people.

B: I’m worried because you’re too famous, audience will not hint, this person is Andy Lau, very hard to get into your character.

L: I can only say that I’ll do my best when comes to acting. How people look at it, I cannot change that. If comments that I didn’t do well, then I’ll made changes next time. After this could made everyone feel, I can be in an art film, everybody also accept my presentation of a normal person.

B: Is it difficult to act?

L: Don’t feel that.

B: To you, it’s like changing clothes?

L: Actually the producer is the same as you, always thinking how to make me resemble Roger and not Andy Lau. Director has the same worries, every time gave me a new image, gave me a costume and will ask me: Do I like it? I will tell them: Will like it if you like it. When shooting a film and the media interviewing me had create an impression. Actually Ann is worried and asked me what will be my haircut and what should I wear which will be accepted by me. I told her: “You can cut whatever hairstyle and gave me any costume, I will do accordingly. This is the image required by the film, the director will make all the decisions.”

B: Being cast in such an art film, suddenly found out that people around like the director and reporters will worry for you. Do you feel such situation surprising?

L: I’m not surprised, this is normal, I just feel bad, because when the audience, media watch me in the cinema, they are not looking at the character but rather if Andy Lau had made the character looked bad. Why I don’t dare to accept such films is not to make people feel that I spend money to buy such character.

B: Actually you need not worry so much.

L: But you made me started to get worried. Because if I’m not cast in the film, I’m prepared to make a loss of $6 million, furthermore I did not force Ann Hui to cast me. I had knew Ann for many years, but my last collaboration in Zodiac Killers is a very bad experience, her first word to me was: “I want to shoot a commercialize film.” But after shooting, I feel “it’s not a commercialize film, you’re shooting an art film.” This sentence gave the director feel that this person does not follow the director’s direction. As I’m friends with her, being a director, she must be determine, other than her phrase of “I want to shoot a commercialize film” is false. If it’s real, I must do my best to make it a commercialize film, help her to fulfill the thought of shooting a commercialize film. But this film is not a commercialize film, effect not good, not doing well in box office, I would feel that I affected her films.

Therefore I think when a person is a bird, it has to fly; if is fish, it has to swim in the waters. A fish living in the waters should not think of flying in the sky. A Simple Life is an art film, it should be shot that way. I does not wish to lost so much money thus I walked so far, therefore your thinking just now made me feel bad.

B: Ann Hui asked you to join the cast, this shows that she is not worried.

L: I know that she’s very worried. In the past 4 years, all films I invested lost money, the company did not have any new production. In 2000, I met up with her. Then, I waited for 11 years till she came to see me. In 2000, she was doing some studies, she wish to shot something about Hong Kong and Taiwan, I asked her to shoot, maybe she’s afraid that I affected her, thus no replies. In 2002, I was did many children charities in Tin Shui Wai, I’m too familiarize with that area, would go there during every year’s summer holidays, but I never thought that she’s shooting Tin Shui Wai (The Way We Are), she never told me. Actually, if I’m the one managing the “Tin Shui Wai” films, she would have reached her status of today, but the films was finally invested by Wong Jing.

A person other than have intentions, should have contribution, it also require suitable to the surroundings. As in you gave birth to a child today, he’s very handsome, you wanted him to be a star, but you’re in Africa.

B: When location shooting in the nursing home, you have witness the bad living conditions of those elderly. From what you had seen, does it affect your integration to the film?

Y: Correct, the nursing home is very dirty, it’s very smelly, there’s all kind of smell. I don’t want to stay in a nursing home.

B: Haha, you have the same reactions as Tao Jie in the film.

L: This is the world of Tao Jie. For a normal person’s thinking, there’s no pride staying in a nursing home, nobody wanted to stay there. Initially, I suggested not to location shoot in an actual nursing home, because Deanie would not be able to stand the smell, but the director hope to be more realistic, if we asked some actors to sit there, it would not be realistic.

B: The condition of the nursing home in the film gave me a shock, all of you stayed there for two months, do you have any feelings for these elderly?

L: I would never put my parents in nursing home, I can’t accept that. Elderly should not think so much, even if you thought of whether your children would take good care of you, it’s useless, because this is decided by the children. During our premiere, some elderly were sitting at the front rows, after watching for 10 minutes, they were crying and exited. This film is not for mature audience, it’s for youngsters, for them to reflect how they are going to show love.

news and photos from: Sina.com, Bund Magazine