Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Collin Chou Takes On A Different Role In "The Mural"

Chinese movie fans would definitely be familiar with action actor Collin Chou (邹兆龙). He has showed off his sleek martial arts moves in about 50 movies in the span of over 20 years in the film business.

To-date, Collin has traded blows with many popular action Asian movie stars like Sammo Hung, Donnie Yen.. and yes, even both Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

For the rest of the world, one would most likely remember him as Seraph the protector of the Oracle, in the scifi films "Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions". Red Dot Diva recalled that a shiver ran up her spine when that "Matrix Reloaded" trailer showing the snippet of Seraph battling with Neo was released. Yes!! An awesome Asian represent!

When it was announced that Collin was to be at Screen Singapore to promote the highly anticipated Chinese movie called "The Mural", Red Dot Diva just had to secure an interview with him.

Arriving at the interview room in a fedora hat and geeky glasses and dressed in a simple white shirt/ dark pants/ skinny tie ensemble, Collin was a stylish vision of some kind of zen-like calm. In contrast to his mostly violent or baddie roles he tends to play on screen, Collin was easy and soft-spoken in person. A total gentleman.

After pinching herself (a few times) to make sure she was actually in the same room as the action star, Red Dot Diva started off the interview to find out what makes him tick.

Red Dot Diva: When was the moment you knew that you were going to get into stuntwork and movies, and do it as a full-time career?
Collin: When I was 12 years old. I had been working with a baker for about 3 years. One day, my colleague and friend knew that I knew martial arts and asked me if I wanted to be a stunt double. And I said Yes. It was a one-day job and the next day, I went back to the bakery and I told them I was quitting. And I was going to change my career.

Red Dot Diva: And then after that, for quite awhile you were working with Sammo Hung...
Collin: 6 years later, Sammo was producing a karate movie in Taiwan and was choosing a bunch of kids for the movie. And I got chosen. That was the first time I worked with Sammo Hung as an actor.

Red Dot Diva: What would you consider as one of the main things you learnt from working with Sammo?
Collin: (in a solemn note) Honour. And respect. And to be responsible.

Red Dot Diva: When you were working in the Matrix movies, what were the major differences between acting in a Hollywood movie and a movie produced in Asia?
Collin: Actually it is not so different. The major difference is the budget. The Matrix movies were allocated millions for their budget and they could afford to do many things and film sequels. In a sense, Asian movies producers have to get more creative because they have to entertain the audience with a far smaller budget.

Red Dot Diva: Did the Wachowski brothers give your character Seraph a back-story? (thanks to Ian Austin for this question)
Collin: Of course. Seraph - his name was originated from the Bible with reference to 'a wingless angel'. Almost anyone could portray this character - male or female, black or white or yellow.

I happened to do a pre-production for them before the movie began filming. Six months later, they couldn't find a right actor to portray Seraph. Someone said, 'I want a guy like Collin Chou.' And one of the producers said, 'Why don't we just ask Collin Chou to play Seraph?' And the Wachowski brothers said 'That's exactly what we want.'

They had been casting for actors in the USA and Canada and couldn't find a right person and so, they called me for the role of Seraph and said, 'We have the script. Would you like to read it and respond to us? And then we'll send you a contract.' And somehow I blurted out, 'Don't send me the script. Just send me the contract."

Red Dot Diva: The "Matrix Reloaded" trailer showing the battle between Neo and Seraph was certainly a memorable scene. How cool was Keanu? (thanks to Aravind Menon for this question)
Collin: He was very cool. He had been in training for more than half a year. And in my scene with him, we were training for one or two months before shooting the scene.

From an actor's point of view, I think he did great because he was able to portray the character (Neo) and able to learn martial arts to some degree that would look good on film.

Red Dot Diva: With the success of the Matrix films which is related to the scifi genre, have you been invited to some conventions or events?
Collin: Yes. Mostly in the States. For Asian film festivals, this (Screen Singapore) is my second time. The first time was in Korea.

Red Dot Diva: And how has it been like meeting the fans?
Collin: Oh, they get very excited. I was walking down one of the halls just now, one fan came up and said to me, 'I can't believe you are here! Are you really Collin Chou?' And I said, 'yes.'

With Yan Ni and Liu Tan

Red Dot Diva: Let's talk about "The Mural". Based on what have been discussed during the press conference, the movie seems to be very CGI-driven. How has your experience filming this movie been like?
Collin: This movie was difficult to make because it was mostly shot with blue screen. That is why they couldn't show too much of the actual footage to the media or buyers.

It is so different from what most Asian movie-goers have seen before. And on set, we had to really work as a team because of the heavy amount of special effects required.

Red Dot Diva: Is there a lot of action in "The Mural"?
Collin: I am feeling a little nervous about that. I am afraid the audience may assume that just because I'm in the movie, it is going to be another action movie. It is actually drama-romance-fantasy. There isn't a lot of action in this movie. Instead, the drama leads the action.

Red Dot Diva: Tell us a little about your character in "The Mural"?
Collin: I really love this character in "The Mural" because I have never played this type of characters before. Compared to many others, Gordon Chan (the director) sees something very different in me, And because of this role in "The Mural", he is going to get me involved with another movie called "The Four".

In actual fact, I will not be portraying someone who has the best martial arts in the movie. There are other characters who have better skills than my character.

I really do hope that this role will be a life-changing one for me.

Red Dot Diva: Was it very difficult to act mostly with blue screen?
Collin: I am not new to blue screens and I have done that before. So what I do is, I will try to go to the set for a couple of hours before filming, and let my imagination flow.

Red Dot Diva: What do you think about Hollywood being more open to 'Asian faces' in recent years?
Collin: Culturally, in Hollywood, the stories are still mainly about white or black characters because this is their main market. Asians are still probably "a niche market" right now.

If you look at it in another way, a major actor from Hollywood may not be able to be as equally successful in the Asian film market due to culture differences. For example, we have stories from The Three Kingdoms, and a popular Hollywood actor who is white, will not be able to get the role of Cao Cao.

So, if there are any Asian film makers who knock on my door about a project, I will answer. I will try to make at least one film a year in Asia.

Red Dot Diva: Which movies did you enjoy your own performance best?
Collin: So far, it's this one ("The Mural") and before that, the Matrix movies. I was doing the two Matrix movies back to back for an entire year. It almost felt like a vacation.

Diva's squee moment that day
Red Dot Diva: Have you been to Singapore before?
Collin: I was here 20 years ago in 1991. I was a leader of a HK entertainment soccer team. It is so different now. I still haven't seen much of Singapore yet. But it's good - it's been really nice staying here (Capella hotel) for Screen Singapore.

Red Dot Diva: One last question that's a fun question - which superhero/ supervillain would you love to be?
Collin: Of course, I want to be a superhero. Not someone dark and unreachable like Batman. Probably a character who is a common person or an underdog, someone people can really identify with and feel for, who then later becomes a superhero.

For more scoop on "The Mural", Red Dot Diva says to check out the following:
- Screen Singapore : Chinese Movie “The Mural” Enters Fantasy Genre (End of Show website)
- Abe Kwang And Gordon Chan Chat About "The Mural" at Screen Singapore

And do visit Collin Chou's Official website too!

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