[The following is a translation of a recent interview with the actress Shu Qi (舒淇) by the online news service TianjinNet, published October 5, 2010. In the interview Shu Qi discusses making her latest film, her co-star Donnie Yen, and her own insights into acting. Comments in brackets, like this one, are the translator's, added for clarification. The original article, in Chinese, is online. Any further use of this article should cite that original, as well as The Chinese Mirror as the source of the translation. The interviewer was Xie Yunshen 谢云深]
During this year's Mid-Autumn Festival [September 22 in 2010], the biggest box office draw, and the most worth viewing, was "Legend of the Fist: the Return of Chen Zhen (Jing wu feng yun: Chen Zhen)《精武风云·陈真》[hereinafter shortened to "Legend"] In this star-studded, macho movie, Shu Qi plays a nightclub entertainer who is also a Japanese spy. Recently, she accepted this newspaper's interview. In the interview, she singled out some of the film's other actors for praise, especially co-star Donnie Yen, of whom she said, half-jokingly, "Donnie Yen is such a good man both on and off screen, but fortunately he's already married, otherwise I wouldn't know how to restrain myself. "
From her debut in Category III films to her present status as star actress and box office queen, Shu Qi's acting life can be said to have taken a sharp turn. But in discussing that early phase of her experience she says, "From that debut to the present, I've never taken offense. I've never experienced anything which affects me now."
Loves watching mainland spy films; learned Japanese lines phonetically
Reporter: In "Legend" you play a Japanese spy masquerading as a dancer, and the movie also includes many elements of other spy war movies. Starting with "Lurk"《Qianfu 潜伏》[popular, award-winning 2009 TV series], there have been quite a few outstanding mainland spy war movies. Have you paid much attention to these?
Shu Qi: While I was making this film, I watched ["Lurk"] with Yao Chen [the TV series female lead], and after that I saw other TV series with spy wars as the theme. Most of them didn't leave much of an impression, the one I liked most was "The Message"《Feng Sheng 风声》. It was very well done, and suspenseful, and although I kept guessing as I watched, I didn't learn who the real villain was until the very end. The outcome was completely unexpected, actually there were two villiains, and showed what a good writer the original author is.
Reporter: Do you think "Legend of the Fist" updates the spy war theme in some areas?
Shu Qi: It falls a bit short of that. [My character] in the film is not a professional, and this is explained very clearly in the film. My character is an intelligence agent, that is, she's not at the level of a professional spy. While each does similar work, I think the main job of a spy is the direct destruction of a country, but an intelligence agent's responsibility is to gather intelligence, such as salt prices, tobacco prices, then forward these intelligence reports to higher authorities and let them handle it, then work them into military planning, so it's an indirect attack. But because her work involves national and ethnic conflicts of interests, Kiki, my character, finds she is inwardly conflicted. She doesn't want to hurt anyone, and she all along thought her work was very simple. So if I was to say in what ways this spy war movie is different, I would say that first, it is a bit more literary, and second, it has a psychological emphasis.
Reporter: You have a lot of Japanese dialogue in the film; is it entirely you speaking?
Shu Qi: It's all my own speaking. I often go to Japan, and I can grasp pretty well what the Japanese are saying if they don't talk too fast. But naturally I don't really know the Japanese language yet, so I learned and spoke all my lines phonetically. It's like "The Traveler's Song"《Luren zhi Ge 旅人之歌》, the first Japanese song in the movie: it's simpler, all in a level tone, very easy to learn.
Not a breakthrough role; admires Donnie Yen's dedication
Reporter: You played a dancer before, in "Blood Brothers"《Tian Tang Kou 天堂口》. Did you have any sense of that role while you were filming "Legend"?
Shu Qi: No, none at all. Although these two dancing girls were from the same era, their lives were different, their circumstances much different. Kiki has a dual identity, so her life adds a great deal more to the story. And the movie shows more of her ordinary girl's life, for example Kiki often drinks heavily, using alcohol to numb herself. She is tired of her double life, she longs for the life of an ordinary woman. But in reality she can't have this, so she drinks as a means of escape.
Reporter: While filming "Legend" this time, did you feel there was something there that was fresh and new, or a breakthrough?
Shu Qi: Actually, I am such a familiar face I don't think of any breakthroughs. It's often been said that the more one acts, the greater the chance of making breakthroughs, but I think that the more one acts, the greater the possibility the actor becomes like himself. I don't talk about breakthroughs, I think the best thing for an actor is to really get into the role, no matter what type of role it is, and if that's done smoothly, then that's responsible acting. Take "Legend" as an example: if I can give a conscientious performance in what is very much a man's movie, then I'm happy. Also, I've never done much movie work with [director/cinematographer] Andrew Lau, but he really understands giving his actors maximum space, so my space for creating my role was pretty substantial, and I could usually do the part the way I wanted to, he never laid down any rules for it. Also, he used the lens so well I really looked beautiful.
Reporter: You have powerful scenes [in "Legend"] with three major screen actors; in what ways do you feel they are different?
Shu Qi: Actually, Huang Bo and I had almost no scenes together, but from watching him on the set I felt he was very good. Anthony Wong is a superior actor, he just has to dress for a scene and he becomes the character, totally changed, and it was a joy working with him. Donnie Yen gave a different impression this time, adding many new elements to the role of Chen Zhen, no longer just a heroic figure, but adding some touches of humor as well as playing the piano, which surprised me. In addition, he's an especially serious actor: there was one scene which had to be shot at night in the rain, and when it was finished he fell ill, and had go to the hospital. But he was back at work the next day even though he was sick, and also directed the scene's martial arts. He originally suffered a waist injury, but he still insisted on on-site supervision, which resulted in his directing the scene seated in a chair, while at the same time letting medical personnel treat his injury. It was very admirable.
Singing is just done for fun; doesn't care about having made Cat III films
Reporter: You've done very little singing in movies or TV; why do you sing in "Legend"?
Shu Qi: The most important reason is that my character is a singer, so I had to sing. Actually, I had originally wanted another singer to dub the songs, but Andrew Lau said he would prefer that I try doing it myself. I have no confidence in my singing, singing for me is just a natural way of having fun. I'm not going to make an album, I'm an actor. My voice is not as powerful as Faye Wong's, and if I'm going to do this part well, it's no good wasting time trying to be something I'm not. Everyone gave me face by saying my four songs in the film sounded OK, but our music director at first said he couldn't stand it, and told Andrew Lau he wanted to quit. But after Andrew Lau pressured him a bit, he agreed to continue, lowered the sound an octave, and that made it easier for me to sing.
Reporter: Many people say you are sexy, do you see yourself as sexy?
Shu Qi: Sex appeal is both internal and external, especially if it comes from the inside out, and sometimes it can be intellectual, not just external appearance. I feel a person's temperament and what's inside are very important.
Reporter: Does it bother you now if someone brings up that you started out in Category III films?
Shu Qi: From that debut till now, it hasn't bothered me at all. Of course, I would not be very pleased if that was the only experience someone had of today's Shu Qi, because that was a necessary part of my life, I can't deny it, or change it, just face it.
Reporter: You have repeatedly expressed a longing for love, but your current love life is blank.
Shu Qi: There are a variety of reasons for why I'm still single. On one hand is time: being an actor is really hard, you're busy both day and night, never in control of your own time, and when I finally get some down time all I think of is relaxing, and looking for romance never crosses my mind. Another reason is the work itself: people in entertainment all have an aura of instability, so how can they talk of love when everyone is looking for a woman who can settle down in a household.
Reporter: Finally: many actresses later choose to marry into wealth. Would you?
Shu Qi: I personally have no such intention, but I know a lot of people have this sort of thought in mind. If someone has been seeking true love, they will often find a love match. But what one wants now will not always be fulfilled, and what one doesn't want right now might not happen in the future either, it's very difficult to say.