YOUTH entered the shortlist of the “Best Film from Mainland and Taiwan” of the 37th Hong Kong Film Awards. And in the 2nd Asian Brilliant Stars held during the 68th Belin Film Festival, YOUTH became the biggest winner with three major awards. Feng Xiaogang attended the event and talked about key considerations in selecting actors and in performance when receiving an interview.
Journalist: Mr. Feng, recently some TV programs in China focus on the acting skill of actors, such as THE MAKING OF AN ACTOR and THE SOUND. Are you aware of these programs? And, do you have some basic rules in selecting actors?
Feng Xiaogang: This is, of course, a good thing. Actors are supposed to have acting skills, and audiences increasingly hope that actors have the right acting skill and ability to play the roles. When I select actors, I pay attention to the personality of the actor to see whether he/she fits the script. In addition, the performance of the actor should have “explosive power” and charm.
For example, I used to work with Ge You in the past, and he has got such charm of performance. The same play, or the same paragraph of script, would be totally dull if acted or read by someone else. Good actors may not necessarily fit all the roles. That’s why there are different roles in China’s Peking Opera – Sheng (male role), Dan (female role), Jing (painted-face), Mo (supporting male role with striking character) and Chou (clown), which are further divided into roles like Lao Sheng, Xiao Sheng, Chou, Xiao Hualian, Qing Yi, Cai Dan, Cai Pozi and Lao Dan. This applies well to films. Again, when selecting actors among good actors, one key consideration is whether he/she fits the role well.
Journalist: It is said that you are interested in shooting the sequel of CELL PHONE and the English version of A WORLD WITHOUT THIEVES. Can you share your plan with us?
Feng Xiaogang: I am not very satisfied with the script of the English version of A WORLD WITHOUT THIEVES. This film cannot be turned into an action movie, as its focus is still on the way of the world and the heart of human beings. I read the script and felt it was like a B-level action movie, so it may not be a good fit. Before the script of CELL PHONE II is completed, Liu Zhenyun and I do not want make it sound like a done deal. But Liu Zhenyun is indeed writing the story of CELL PHONE II. I told him what I want the story to be like. If everything goes well, the script will be finished by the end of February. Then we will decide whether we want to shoot the film or not.
Journalist: The leading actors of YOUTH have received very positive feedback. Do you plan to work with them again?
Feng Xiaogang: It depends on whether there are suitable roles. Of course, I would like to work more with different new actors and to discover more new actors. This time, many directors including Director Peter Chan and Director Lu Chuan are interested in these new actors. I am happy to be able to introduce some new blood for the film industry and directors, and I hope that these new actors are given more opportunities. Nowadays audiences attach more importance to the film itself, and many films casting big-name actors also fail to do well in the box office. As long as the film is good, even it is casted by new actors, audiences will still like it.
Journalist: In your recent films, many actors did not ask for compensation, like Huang Xuan and Fan Bingbing. Will this become a rule for your films?
Feng Xiaogang: First of all, the films I have made recently are not commercial films, for example, I AM NOT MADAME BOVARY. We thought it would be an interesting film. Similar with YOUTH. The actors understand this is not a high budget film. I really appreciate the sincerity of these established actors who are willing to cooperate with me. But this cannot always be the case. After all, the time and effort of actors should be duly compensated. However, in my films, I tend not to build in a high compensation percentage in the budget, but put more money into production. My films are all low budget ones, as I don’t want to pressure myself that much. Perhaps a box office of RMB200-300 million can already cover my cost. This way I don’t have to listen to others. Currently, I don’t need investment from others. I can make my own investment. Therefore I can afford not to be influenced by other people’s opinions, and can insist on what I want. To me, the best freedom is that I make the money, I use this money to shoot films I want to shoot, and I am in total control of my own creation.