It is a great honor for Movie Chaser to have invited Wu Jing as film director to receive our interview. Meanwhile, with insightful talks with his close friends in the industry, we explore Wu Jing’s authenticity and originality to present to the audience his unique style and artistic pursuit in filmmaking. From entering in the athlete’s school at the age of 6 to shooting the record-breaking Wolf Warriors 2 at the age of 43, Wu Jing spent the first half of his life on Kung Fu and filmmaking. In the latter half of his life, Wu Jing will continue to walk down this path. Holding on to one belief and one attitude to do one thing is the simplest lifestyle yet the most difficult process. But we have seen such a touching story and perseverance in Wu Jing. Wu Jing has fought his own world in the industry. We believe that he will make more wonderful legends in the future.
When Wu Jing agreed to have an interview with us, he had just come back from Japan after having an operation. Although he walked into the interview room with a crutch, he was as strong and forceful as usual. After directing Wolf Warriors 2, Wu Jing is still unyielding, but also more mature. It’s a pleasure for Movie Chaser to interview this new Chinese director who has created a number of Chinese film records.
The glorious record of ￥5.6 billion box office is not a burden for Wu Jing and he takes it easy the path ahead. He says: “The record is always broken by others, don’t try to break your own record by yourself. Don’t be silly, it’s a slippery slope, don’t slide down. If I never break the record, won’t I live? If you manage to figure that out, you’ll feel good about everything.”
Wu Jing is mature, though equally straight and tough. Wolf Warriors 2 is not only a successful work for him, but also a ladder for his director career and even for his personal growth.
From injuries of more than 60 times to ￥5.6 billion box office, it is nothing but one word – “effort”
The success of Wolf Warriors 2 was instant and brutal. The film has earned ￥0.2 billion, ￥1.1 billion and ￥3.4 billion within 2, 5 and 10 days of its release, respectively. So far, the box office has accumulated to ￥5.6 billion, which not only won the box office champion of the domestic film, but also created a number of records such as the fastest record of “earning ￥1.0 billion” in the Chinese film history and a new record of one-day box office in the Chinese film history. With the fame and wealth pouring in, Wu Jing, the creator of the film, said briefly and lightly about the history he had made, “I think things have happened so fast until now. The film went into shooting in summer, we worked in the summer, edited in the summer, and it became a hot shot in the summer too. Everything seems to be happening all at once. ”
However, that wasn’t entirely true. The things that Wu Jing called “fast” have gone through four years. He was developing Wolf Warriors 2 when Wolf Warriors was released in 2015. He spent almost a year in Africa. During the 10-month shooting, Wu Jing suffered more than 60 injuries and weight loss of 15kg.
Liang Ying, the executive producer of “Wolf Warriors” franchise, told us, “He was really fighting because he was shooting his own film and took it with all his heart. When we found the stunt divers for the opening scene of jumping into the sea, he refused because the effect created by stunt was not exactly what he wanted. But we thought it was too difficult for him to jump as it was all jellyfish below. ”But Wu Jing jumped 26 times for this one shot with the shooting period of nearly half a month. He spent 13 hours in the sea at the first attempt, and voila, a magnificent water fighting scene for as long as six minutes was presented at the start of the film.
More than one person said that Wu Jing put the life to wrestle when he was filming. Shen Qing, executive director of Wolf Warriors 2, also told a story. “For the scene that Wu Jing was chased by a tank, he was going to run ahead, and the tank was chasing behind him. But the tank driver could not see anything in front of him when driving, except that I used the walkie-talkie to communicate with him.” Tank scenes were important in the film, and Wu Jing took all the extreme shots of the tank. For example, the unprecedented “tank drift” in the film was made by Wu Jing who personally learned the tank driving, he also looked for the veteran tank soldier and drove the tank with him. When shooting, the photographer was less than two meters away from the tank in the drift. Said Sam Hargrave, the film action director, “It’s like The Fast and The Furious of tank version.”
Wu Jing dares to dream and also dares to do. Doing solid work is one of his greatest characteristics, which perhaps has something to do with his personality and habits. He never talks nonsense when he can do it, and never relies on others when he can personally practice. From Wolf Warriors to Wolf Warriors 2, Wu Jing worked harder. He said, “I’d like to express my values as a director through my film. So be it victory or failure, I take it in my own hands. I can control my own destiny, and I am that kind of person. ”
From the Kung Fu boy to the king of Chinese film box office, his ups and downs honed him into a “Wolf”
With a long-established reputation as a Kung Fu boy and a champion of the Chinese film box office with a self-directed military action film, Wu Jing was destined to be born for Kung Fu.
Wu Jing’s family has had several generations in martial arts, and martial arts studying has become a family tradition. Wu Jing, who entered Beijing ShiChaHai Sports School at the age of 6, was the junior fellow apprentice of Jet Li. He began to win the martial arts titles at the age of 8 and entered Beijing Wushu Team at the age of 13. At 21, he starred in his first film Tai Chi Boxer, and began to be recognized in the circle. Four years later, his popularity came to the zenith when he starred in the TV series The Tai Chi Master and became a A-list Kung Fu boy at that time. After Knife Man, Wu Jing left the mainland and developed his career in Hong Kong. After several films such as Kill Zone and Invisible Target later, Wu Jing shifted his career back to the mainland. In 2008, he received a neutral response with his directorial debut of Legendary Assassin (directed with Li Zhongzhi). After that he kept it low-profile for seven years. In 2015, he released a military war film Wolf Warriors, which did well box-office-wise.
Of course, there must be ups and downs before success. As glorious as today, Wu Jing has experienced many painful moments: He was paralyzed in lower limb after deterioration of sprained back at the age of 14, and then stood up after lying in bed for two months. After graduation, he laid a stall in the street, and worked as a small peddler. Back at the time when he was “a migrant worker in Hong Kong”, he has been out of work for one year during which he listened to crosstalk in the evening and fell asleep. He broke his fingers when he starred in The Tai Chi Master and wounded in the right eye when he starred in Knife Man. He broke four sticks when shooting Kill Zone, and took out most of his family property to fund the filming of Wolf Warriors… The turn after a desperate death was even more stunning when he launched the second film of Wolf Warriors franchise. With￥5.6 billion box office and the national film-watching hype, Wu Jing was regarded as a god-level figure. Wu Jing not only achieved his personal label, but also marked the birth and success of a new Chinese film genre.
In prosperity or in adversity, Wu Jing is wild and candid, bold of vision and courageous in action. After Wolf Warriors 2, there was endless offers to invest in Wolf Warriors III or ask for a share of Wolf Warriors III. In response, Wu Jing said, “Suddenly, face turned out to be the least valuable thing. There is no losing face in our generation, in this material world.”
“Wolf Warriors” belongs to Wu Jing, because he is a “war wolf” himself. After twenty years of arduous training and soaking in the film industry, he kept his true heart and he knows what he is doing. He said about Wolf Warriors 2, “I just think that I should make such a film, and I should fight my way out with the mindset of a loser. To be a hero, to die a martyr, just do it.”
He does the job, he stays true—he is the willing victim of films
Wu Jing had three teachers in his acting career. Wu bin, the martial arts instructor, also his master; director Zhang Xinyan, also his mentor; Woo Ping Yuen, the director and martial arts instructor.
Wu Jing always remembered that his master Wu Bin once said to himself, “do not pretend to be a big tail hawk, as the pretty tail is useless in flying.” He also always remembered that the first time he saw director Zhang Xinyan on the set, when a rocking chair was broken, Zhang Xinyan’s first reaction was to hold the camera. He fell on the ground but the camera remained in his arms. His first sentence after falling was, “Check the machine. Is there something wrong with it?” For Wu Jing, his spiritual legacy of the older generation is a great treasure for today. Now Wu Jing also carries forward this tradition. He does not talk big data or big feelings and he refuses to play along with publicities. The only thing that matters is what he has done and what he is doing.
Wu Jing, who also has an insightful view of the current industry, said, “The Chinese people are not short of imagination, it’s the executive force that’s missing. “Before the filming of Wolf Warriors, he was thwarted at every turn, but he wasn’t discouraged. In his mind, when your own abilities were not shown and recognized, rejection was a very normal thing. And after the two Wolf Warriors,, everyone saw his executive force and money and resources were pouring in, he could finally say, “Why am I here? Because I take actions, and everyone else has just words.”
Wu Jing is honest and modest. He acknowledged his hard work on Wolf Warriors 2, but he did not take all the credits for himself. “The success of Wolf Warriors 2 comes from the audience and their patriotic feelings.” This was what he most often talked about in the interview. Indeed, the Wolf Warriors 2 tornado that swept across the whole country was inseparable from the core values of patriotism delivered in the film, and Wu Jing introduced the story in a timely manner – “This dry wood is already burning, and I have merely fueled it up. What really burned up was the patriotic feeling of all Chinese people.” Wu Jing made it.
The future ahead of Wu Jing is simple and pure, making a film that is all about the film itself has always been his greatest pursuit and plan from the beginning. Everyone is looking forward to Wolf Warriors 3, but Wu Jing plans to study and recharge himself before going back to work. Also, he’s thinking of starting a new franchise of different film genres. From his “pure gold is tempered in a blazing fire” attitude, it looks like Wolf Warriors III will have to wait a few years.
For the director career, he said, “A good director does it the hard way. Being a responsible director in China is a very difficult thing, especially when the overall Chinese film industry is undergoing a transition and development. Only the person who stays true to the original self and touches the hearts with the utmost sincerity will succeed”. Wu Jing is a willing victim of the Chinese films and will continue to “be a man who is willingly tormented”.
MC: Do you feel your whole life has become completely different after Wolf Warriors 2?
Wu Jing: I think the things have happened so fast until now. The film began shooting in the summer, we worked in the summer, edited in the summer, and it became a hot shot in the summer. Everything seems to be happening all at once. Maybe the heat that gives the delusion. We went into shooting prep on June 16 and the actual shooting began on June 19. After wrapping up the Chinese part, we went to Africa in the summer, and then went to New Zealand also in the summer, and the film was released in summer, too. I felt a lot going on in a very short period of time. There was a time when I especially hoped I could hop off this momentum. But when I did come off the excitement from the movie, I would have to hop back in there to deal with the criticism and commentary from the public. Whether it was confrontation, compromise or adjustment, I faced a new world that required a new way of thinking. But luckily, I survived.
MC: Are you worried?
Wu Jing: I didn’t have any anxiety. I spent 7 years on Wolf Warriors I and 3 years on Wolf Warriors 2. You do it with or without the anxiety. It only matters as long as you still have the heart. As a filmmaker, your record is always there to be broken. Don’t try to break your own record by yourself. Don’t be silly. It’s a slippery slope, don’t slide down. If I never break the record, won’t I live? If you manage to figure that out, you’ll feel good about everything.
MC: Do you think the success of Wolf Warriors 2 today is a destiny in life?
Wu Jing: A lot of people said that Wu Jing succeeded by thirty percent earned, sixty percent predestined and ten percent helped. I say it is not right, because at that time we didn’t have this. In what way is help accounted for? Would it be box office performance or the spiritual reward as a measurement criteria? I think I am lucky in a way that there is a solid foundation laid by my predecessors. Had it not been like that, I could never be who I am today. Many may say that my luck comes from my followers or a customized film, but I think I don’t fit in any of those measurements. My good luck is that I have three good teachers and mentors, who led me on a path and future not oriented by money. For me, this is the real fortune.
MC: In your opinion, are there rules to observe for the ￥5.6 billion box office, or are there any necessary conditions to create this miracle?
Wu Jing: The success of Wolf Warriors was lucky in that we live in a peaceful country. With the rise of China and the Belt and Road Initiative, our prowess is establishing. Given the fact that we have been pressed for so many years, we are in need of an outlet, in need of a stronger country to protect our hard-earnings, and thus in need of a national hero, an iconic figure. Every audience has the patriotic spark in his heart, and has been looking forward to someone to ignite it. I simply threw in a small fire into it. What really burned up was the patriotic feeling of all Chinese people. We should thank this timing. Only a strong country can protect us, so to be truly patriotic is to love yourself, and to love yourself is to be more patriotic. A better self and a better country goes hand in hand.
MC: Why did you choose to shoot Wolf Warriors in the first place?
Wu Jing: I just think that I should make such a film, and I should fight our way out with the mindset of a loser. To be a hero, to die a martyr, just do it. So I didn’t overthink. There is no use to dwell on what spiritual support I need, or what I should pour into my soul. I do not think of that. And I really didn’t want to be the director, but I can’t afford a director. Which director can work with you for seven years? It’s not possible, and it’s your work, you have to invest, write, star and sing, so I guess the best thing out of it is that I didn’t need to work in capital’s favor. Wolf Warriors 2 is the same. I’d like to express my values as a director through my film. So be it victory or failure, I take it in my own hands. I want to control my own destiny. I am that kind of person.
MC: A tough guy like you, didn’t you feel bad when you are repeatedly rejected? Didn’t you feel losing face?
Wu Jing: If you don’t get what you want, what’s the point saving face? One thing I say all the time is that the Chinese are not short of imagination, it’s the executive force that’s missing. Where does the respect between people come from? Executive force. What are the chances all these lurking forces are all at the right place and right time to work to our favor on a military-genre film that normally the market wouldn’t have much faith in? So I didn’t complain about the rejection really. It was no surprise to say no to me, and I would feel guilty if they came reluctantly, so I think it was a good thing.
MC: A pure and simple lifestyle in this world is a very difficult thing, or sometimes a thing that is easy to suffer losses.
Wu Jing: Actually, I did suffer many losses, but if you asked me to pretend, I can’t do it. But sometimes I have to pretend. Don’t you feel tired if you do not live purely?
MC: How would you describe the career as a film director?
Wu Jing: A good director does it the hard way. Being a responsible director in China is a very difficult thing, especially when the overall Chinese film industry is undergoing a transition and development. Only the person who stays true to the original self and touches the hearts with the utmost sincerity will succeed. I am a willing victim of the Chinese films and will continue to be willingly tormented.