Already one of Asia’s most popular stars, Chow Yun Fat has become increasingly popular around the globe because of his talent, wealth of experience and wry humor. All three qualities are used to great effect in the actor’s role as the wise Master Roshi, who guides and instructs his young protégée, Goku, in the upcoming, “Dragonball Evolution,” based on the Japanese Manga.
The story revolves around Goku, a humanoid alien living on earth who discovers at 18 that he has a daunting destiny: to save the planet from an alien invasion. In order to succeed, he has to find seven sacred dragon balls. The film mixes a strong, exciting plot with plenty of action and great visual effects, including a dragon.
Chow Yun Fat plays the wise sage, Master Roshi, who steers his protégée Goku and joins the young man on his quest to collect seven mystical dragon balls, which he needs in order to save the world from impending danger. Justin Chatwin stars as the hero of this fantastic tale, based on the Japanese Manga, (comic books). The new movie combines action and dazzling visual effects with an inspiring story and strong, interesting characters of both sexes.
“Chow Yun Fat is central to the film as Master Roshi. For the character, we needed a presence and an icon,” says director James Wong, “and Chow Yun Fat is incredible. I feel so lucky to have him in the movie. He gives us a really wonderful, quirky performance and his character is really good fun.”
In the following Q&A, Chow Yun Fat cheerfully talks about the movie and his life in and out of L.A.
Q: What was the appeal of DRAGONBALL?
A: “I had not seen the original Dragon Ball and was not a big fan but I was so excited about doing this film because the character is so interesting. James Wong was directing and I found the script very entertaining too. I have never played this kind of character before in a Hollywood movie. Back in Hong Kong during the ‘70s and ‘80s I did a lot of comedies and a lot of crazy stuff but this is the first time I have been really crazy and even more ‘over the top’. This is even more crazy than anything Jackie Chan does. ”
Q: Can you talk about the action from your perspective and how much you do in the film?
A: “It is simple and easy because I have the superpower to kill all the aliens. I do not get involved in any real action though, I don’t have to do a lot physically (laughs). That is all CGI. Thanks to the CGI (effects) I can become a fantastic super power. I don’t have to do anything challenging really as an actor either because the CGI is so great.”
Q: What would you say is the biggest difference between these kind of movies and Asian cinema?
A: “American cinema is more high tech with more CGI and much better equipment. In Hong Kong, we work at a great speed. Everything is much faster. We do have a lot of talented filmmakers and crews but we lack the financial resources to make a big, huge blockbuster so we cannot make big budget movies. We don’t have a big enough worldwide network and audience. So that’s one of our problems. The films are not usually seen in the majority of mainstream theaters.”
Q: Your wife is your manager. Does that make the whole process of doing your job much easier?
A: “There is no doubt about that. She is my love, my partner, everything. She’s my angel. She’s my guardian. I just lean on her and we do everything together and try to laugh a lot. I leave everything in her control in my career. She is so good, I am just like a puppy.”
Q: Do you do a lot of martial arts now on a regular basis? How do you stay fit?
A: “You know, I’m 53 now. I still have to work very hard to do my physical training three times a week. It’s hard to keep your body in perfect condition when you’re over 50. So I ask my wife to look for characters that don’t have too much movement (laughs) so I can just sit there, say the lines, then that’s it. I want to save my energy.”
Q: How easy is it for you to walk around Hong Kong now? Is it difficult?
A: “It is wonderful living in Hong Kong. Everybody treats me like a big brother. I can take the subway and the buses; I am free to go wherever I please. I always take public transport, even in big cities - New York City, Paris, London. I go everywhere on the subway or the bus. And it is no big deal. It is important for me to meet my audience.”
Q: How fulfilled are you?
A: “I am very happy living in the country. That gives me peace of mind. I am not that comfortable with big cities, with luxury and city culture, but unfortunately in some ways, I chose a career which has made me very rich and famous. That is the nature of the job. Underneath all that, I like to live a quiet life.”
Q: Is your career still as enjoyable after all these years?
A: “Honestly, at the very beginning of my career in 1973, that was the first time I got a job with a TV station and after a year of training I signed a contract with that TV station for 14 years. Acting seemed very glamorous. We had great hotels and good food but we had to work hard and it was not easy. I had to learn a lot and put in a lot of effort, plus hire a dialect coach. Really it is just a job like any other. Then going to Hollywood to make American films is another kind of new job, you know, starting again – a lot of work – but the pay is good so I cannot complain!“
“Dragonball Evolution” opens April 11 in theaters from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.