Andy Lau, The Magic Man

Jennifer Young April 26, 2006

The Kabuki Theatre in San Francisco turned into a mosh pit at the Sunday evening screening of “All About Love” as fans of Andy Lau rushed the stage to greet him. Shouts of “I love you!” and “I miss you!” floated out from the balcony. Lau, sometimes referred to as the Chinese Tom Cruise, sported the latest in hip-hop gear, and effortlessly pleased the crowd with jokes, a little singing, and some magic. Asked on-stage about the upcoming Martin Scorsese remake of the film, with Matt Damon playing Lau’s role, Lau referred back to the audience: “Who’s better looking?”

For his feverish fans, there is no contest. Since his debut in 1981 Andy has released 116 albums, starred in 110 films, and, 15 years ago, began producing them. In his latest, “All About Love,” fans are given double their pleasure. Lau portrays not one, but two lovelorn characters. And what if one wants even more Andy Lau? He’s just completed a big-budget Chinese historical warfare spectacle based on a popular Japanese manga series, “Battle of Wits.” SF360 found Lau at the Hong Kong Economic Trade Office, where — after three straight days of fan mobbing — the actor retained his sense of humor.

SF360: You are an in-demand actor, a prolific singer; you write your own songs and music; you run a production company; you go on international tours, and probably do a lot more that I don’t know about. What is it that drives you?

Andy Lau: You know I make lots of movies and people have supported me for such a long time. So I want to get closer to the audience. While I’m doing the concerts I get closer to them and really can feel how much they love me. Movies are a way that I can gain money and a way that I can create my own art, create my own movie, but singing is a channel for me to communicate with the audience.

SF360: And how much sleep on average do you actually get?

Lau: Eight hours a day! But not before 1997. I got four hours a day. Once I get older, I need it.

SF360: You often play the romantic lead, and in ‘All About Love,’ you even play two, but Hong Kong films rarely show any romantic physical interaction — not even kissing. How do you feel about that?

Lau: You know, the kids, they all love Andy Lau as the role model. So I have to behave like a good role model for them — so I seldom take that kind of scene now.

SF360: Now that you have become such a mega-star and have basically conquered Hong Kong, do you have any interest in trying out international markets (like Japan, Korea, France, or the U.S.)? Lau: I can sing in Japan and I’ve got concerts there, and in Korea. I had one big song in English in Korea in 1990-something. And I also released a Japanese album. Actually I’m ready to do anything all over the world, but it’s whether I can get some support from different countries. I’m willing to do some projects in the States, but what I recognized — Chow Yun Fat and Jet Li didn’t have very good support in the States. So I think I can wait for this; I don’t think it’s the right time.

SF360: I know that Hong Kong stars often do their own stunts so did you hurt your head when you slipped on that water in ‘All About Love?’

Lau: Yes. I think you better ask Daniel about it. My best friend put me in the worst scenario!

SF360: How many magic tricks did you perform for guests yesterday? Did you learn to do magic for this film?

Lau: A lot! Yesterday I played some tricks with the ring but it’s easy once you know how to do it. It’s very easy. They all asked me to do them. Even while I’m doing a photo session the photographer said ‘Hey can you do some of those magic tricks?!’ I started to learn magic three years ago because I wanted to put some magic elements in my concerts. Actually I’m going to have a meeting with [magician David Copperfield’s] production in L.A. the day after tomorrow. I’m going to have a concert next year. From Vegas, we have a professional production house for doing magic shows. Last Christmas I was there (Vegas) and I contacted the magicians for advice. Now I can have some demonstrations. Magic is interesting. Magic is fun.

SF360: Can you tell us anything about the war epic, ‘Battle of Wits,’ which you just finished shooting?

Lau: It’s a comic book from Japan. It’s telling about Sanguo (the warring states period, the three kingdoms period). Directed by Jacob Cheung, best friend of mine. We were at the same TV cast together, 1980. We spent about three months doing some tests and Jacob cannot be an artist so he started to develop his career in making movies. His first film was 1987 ‘China’s Last Eunuch.’ ‘Battle of Wits’ is a large-scale spectacle. The way that he directed this movie is just like a documentary; it really makes you feel like the history is real. No colors, just earth tones. It’s really artistic. I love this movie but I don’t think it is commercial; it’s really an art. It will show next year at Cannes. The film stars Fan Bingbing, (famous Mainland actress and model), and Korean actor Ahn Sung-kee (‘Musa the Warrior’). He’s like an older version of Tony Leung Chiu Wai — they look the same!

SF360: So the international co-production is very big now and you were in ‘World Without Thieves.’ Was that something new for you?

Lau: ‘House of Flying Daggers’ was the first time I took part in a production of Mainland China, but it was a just a small part. Zhang Yimou is a more artistic producer and director and Feng Xiaogang (‘World Without Thieves’) is more commercial. I’m trying to do some commercial movies in Mainland China in order to know what is the next step. After that I feel that Feng Xiaogang and Zhang Yimou are both great directors. They can control the feeling of the audience and they have a very clear direction and they know where they want to go.

SF360: I like commercial movies.

Lau: Me too! My last movie, ‘Wait Til I’m Older,’ I loved it. It didn’t have any nominations in the Golden Horse Awards and I was really disappointed. It was a very good script but nothing.

SF360: Just like that little film ‘Dance of a Dream,’ a favorite of mine, with the great Anita Mui and wonderful Sandra Ng. Would you consider doing more musically oriented films? I know your music fans would love it.

Lau: It took a year to learn how to dance — ballroom dancing. I will try to make more, but Peter just finished one, ‘Perhaps Love,’ so I feel there needs to be some time in between — maybe two years later. I prefer ‘Chicago’ and ‘The Producers’ — to create that kind of musical movie. I can dance…I can sing….

SF360: One of my favorite directors is Sammo Hung, and one of my favorite films is ‘Moon Warriors’ (Zhan Shen). What was it like working with the big guy (Sammo)?

Lau: He was the one who discovered I could be a star. I just finished working with TVB, where I stayed for about 4 years. They put me in some period pieces. And after that I wanted to pick some movie projects. I started to talk with Hung Kam Bo (Sammo) and I signed the contract with his movie company. He taught me how to fight, and he spent lots of time on set to make me look like a fighter. So in ‘My Lucky Stars,’ I got the chance to fight in the same scene with Jackie [Chan] and Yuen Biao, and after that scene, I got praise because everybody except me was a martial artist. So Sammo Hung was just like a teacher for me.