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A Conversation with Andy On
By François (20/10/2003)
Transcription and translation by François, Xia Bing and Vincent


After having the difficult task to replace Jet Li as Black Mask, and to be Mr Perfect in Ringo Lam's Looking for Mr Perfect , Andy On is now facing Vanness Wu in Daniel Lee's Star Runner or fighting against his all time idol Jackie Chan in New Police Story. That's quite a decent beginning for a career. François had a pleasant chat with this very modest and hard working actor.

 




François: could you please introduce yourself and tell us what you did before Black Mask 2?

Andy: My name is Andy On, I was born in 1977, May 11, I'm a taurus. Before Black Mask 2, I was actually bar tending in Rhode Island at this local trendy restaurant. And I have been working there for about 4 months, and one day and one day out of the blue one of my customers told me, it's a quote which goes: "You should go and do movies". At this time I was pretty flattered, and I thought about it. I said "Why not, let's go and try it". At that time, my boss was a prick you know, he was not a very nice person, so I left the job and I came to Asia.

F: How did you get involved in Black Mask 2?

A: Everything happened so fast. All I can say is that I was very very lucky. I was at the right place at the right time. What happened was before I met with Chinastar, they were already planning to film Black Mask 2. And the guy they were originally going to use, I guess he didn't have time, or he was too busy. So when I met with Chinastar, they saw me and they said "this guy looks like Black Mask". So I was very fortunate to get this job actually.

F: Wasn't it difficult to replace Jet Li ? You know, no Jet Li, Andy On, "who is this guy" ? People had high expectations about you.

A: You know I realized that after the movie. Ever since I was young, I was more a Jackie Chan fan. When I was growing up in the States, there was not that many asian people, so I cannot watch chinese movies that much. All I knew was Jackie Chan. So when they told me I have to do Black Mask 2, they said the original one was Jet Li. All I knew was that he was a super super kung-fu star. So of course I was like a little bit nervous. But Jet Li has been learning kung-fu since he was young. And when I was young, the only way I would learn kung-fu is by watching Jackie Chan's movies. So I'm pretty sure people had a high expectation, but I hope I fullfilled it. I mean I don't think anyone can be as good as Jet Li.

F: Was it hard to fight against professional wrestlers? I guess you don't have the same kind of skills for fighting as those people. Was it difficult to mix the two styles?

A: Actually it was not. I wouldn't say it was hard, I would say it was kind of fun actually. I like wrestling since I was a kid, I know how they do all their stuff. But you know of course, wrestlers are much taller and much heavier than me, and fortunately, they were very nice to me (laughs), they didn't throw me around too much. I can adjust a bit, we both had to adjust to each other. Coz they were wrestling with me, and I had to do my stuff, it's not really quick kung-fu, not too shabby either. It guess we had a good match, everything was good.

F: What about the special effects. Was it difficult also to work with wires and CGI?

A: CGI were all right. Wires, I had never delt with them before. And it was really hard at first, because you are not in control of your body. The wire is in control. It just pulls you up and you have to adjust to it. First it was really hard. I didn't like to put on the harness and then you have to be swung around. But after they send you up like a hundred times, and you get used to it. So now I'd say I'm fairly good at it.

F: Did you have some kind of training sessions before the movie, with Yuen Woo-Ping and the stunt guys?

A: Yes, they actually sent me to Shaolin Temple for a month. Basically I went there to learn the basic stuff. I stretched a lot, I got more flexible. And kind of just learn some wu-shu. But mainly I was just stretching, because I was not flexible enough. After one month of stretching in Shaolin, I came back here, and I finally took some lessons with Yuen Woo-Ping to prepare for this movie.

F: But before Black Mask 2, what was your training in martial arts?

A: Before? Just Shaolin. I never took lessons for kung-fu. Or any fighting or any martial arts. The only way I learn was from watching TV. All alone.

F: Really? In Black mask 2 and Looking for Mr Perfect, you look like a martial artist.

A: I fooled you guys! (laughs) I was so fond of Jackie Chan and his style. So everytime I watched his movie, after it finished, I went outside, I flipped around and I did some kicks. I have a lot of scars on my body from after watching his movies. So my grandma never let me watch Jackie Chan movies when I was young. I had to watch them, you know, A: on the down low (smile).

F: Still about Black Mask 2, there are gossips about a much longer version. Did you see it ?

A: I saw the first cut. It was really long. I don't think you are supposed to have a three hours film or so in theatres. So it was very long, so I guess they have edited a lot of things out to make it better, I suppose. But the director and the studio were always fighting.

F: And how was it to work with Tsui Hark? He has a big reputation.

A: He is a very unique guy. I enjoyed working with him. he is actually the first director I worked with. So I learned a lot from him. Hopefully I will work with him again.

F: Now about Looking for Mr Perfect, the director is very famous for his dramas and dark movies, and this one is more like vacations. How did he present the project to you?

Andy On and Hsu Chi
in Looking for Mr Perfect

A: After filming Black Mask 2, I start getting familiar with the asian directors and how they work, and how the movie works. And I found out Mr Ringo Lam was a very talented for his dark movies. But this time I heard it was his first time doing an action comedy. So what he told me was he wanted me to play the action part, and let the other people do the comedy. So it was kind of a good mixture. I just did my job.

F: On the contrary of Black Mask 2, you were playing with experienced actors, like Simon Yam, Hiu Siu-Hung, Hsu Chi. Was it stressful for you to play with such famous and experienced actors?

A: Yes, very very nervous I had this kind of star struck kind of feeling. But actually they helped me. Because I never had any experience in acting. So when you work with good actors, they actually bring the best out of you. I was very fortunate to work with Hsu Chi and Simon and the others, they just helped me a lot.

F: The fight scenes in the movie are quite interesting, that's not only about fight, there is a lot of comedy, especially when you are fighting against Simon. Was it easy for you to know that you have to fight, and at the same time you must have fun.

A: It was very easy. It was a very comfortable atmosphere to work with Simon and the whole crew. So actually, i didn't know I was doing comedy until I was fighting with Simon. Because he was goofing of, and I had to really fight him. But I was just reacting from him and it turned out to be like I was doing comedy without even knowing it. That's how good Simon is.

 
F: How did you meet Daniel Lee and get involved in Star Runner?

A: Actually, I heard this project was in progress for a long time, they just kind of delayed it back, coz I guess they were not able to find the right people for the characters. So they found everyone they needed, except for one character, who is the one I play, Tank. Finally, they were not able to find anyone else I guess, so they asked for me. And when the director met me, you could see this expression on this face. It's like "That's my guy!". I was all excited too, because I read the script, I loved the character, that's what I wanted to play.

F: Can you tell us more about this character?

A: Tank is probably the best character I have played so far. He is actually a very famous Thai boxer, like a champion everybody wants to have a piece of. So in this story, Tank is very tough on the outside, but when he gets strained by his brother, he is like a little kid. However when he fights, he is just fierce. So the relationship between Tank and his brother, it's like a very love-and-hate relationship. Then you see that in the film. Actually after the director met me, he added more scenes for this character. So it's going to be interesting.

Vanness Wu and Andy On in Star Runner

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F: So it's not a movie only about fights?

A: It's actually a movie about everything. It's something that I always wanted to do. It makes you want to fight, want to laugh, there is a lot of heartfelt scenes, a lot of components to make a good movie I think.

F: You are playing a character doing thai boxing. That's another style again for you. Did you have to follow a special training for this movie?

A: Yes, before I did it, I actually trained at a Thai Boxing Gym in Hong-Kong, for a little bit over a month. It was Billy Chow's Gym. I have to thank him for teaching me the ropes. I had a great time.

F: Thai boxing is known as a very tough martial art, and the trailer is quite violent, that's more "let's fight" than beautiful choreographies. Was it tough during the shooting?

A: That's very raw. What the director wanted was a realistic kind of fight, not anything like choregraphed. He didn't want the people to see it was choregraphed. So that's what we did. We would fight like boxers do. We watched videos of boxers, and of K1 fighting, we watched that a lot. And we learned a lot from it. What I like about this movie is that it's just raw. And some many times I got hit, so many times I hit somebody. But that's good also, because when you see someone getting punched, people are like "Oh that was good choreographies", but actually we just got punched (laughs). I have a lot of scars, and stuff, but that was all right. That's what I like, I like action movies to be like that, realistic.

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F: Now you are working on the new Jackie Chan's movie, New Police Story, right? Playing a bad guy with Daniel Wu?

A: Yes! He is actually the team leader, I play one of his team members. This movie, it's a dream come true. Because Jackie Chan, he is my idol, ever since I was like this tall, I was watching him, and now I'm in a movie with him. They could have given me like an extra-role, just to be like walking by, and I would have been happy. And this time I actually get to fight him.

F: So you will have a fight with him? Is it done yet, or soon ?

A: No, I haven't yet. I'm really looking forward to it, I have been really training hard, I go work out in the morning, and I would do a couple of rounds at night, just to get ready for him. I know he is tough.

F: You are working with Jackie, you have worked with Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam, Simon Yam, Daniel Lee... How do you feel about the beginning of your career? After working in a restaurant for a prick, now you are working with Jackie Chan...

E: Yes, it's a dream come true. So I will go back to the restaurant, and just laugh at him (laughs). Just kidding... I'm really grateful, there are so many people I have to thank, I could go on and on and on... All I can do in return is to do my best.

F: Do you have already some other movies after New Police Story?

A: Right now, I don't know yet. After the Jackie's movie, the promotion for Star Runner will come up, so we will be doing the promotion. And then in December I want to go back to the States to celebrate Christmas. I haven't been back in a long time.

F: During the recent years, there weren't so many martial arts movies made in Asia. But it seems that the genre could be trendy again soon. Do you think you will have an opportunity to become a major martial art actor? Or you just want to be an actor?

A: I would like to try different roles. Variety is just what keeps me going. Right now I know my focus is on action movies. Not just martial arts. When you think of martial arts, it's more like just fighting style. I like action movies. Jackie, he did the stunts, he fought, he used guns, it's action, that's what I want to do. Hopefully, that's good that all those action movies come back out. It's more room for me to show off my talent, I think.

F: So you see your career first as an action actor?

A: Yes, I would like to focus on that first, because that's what I'm the best at. And then I will keep learning and get experienced.

F: When you will have some broken bones like Jackie, you can switch to dramatic movie ? : )
A: Hopefully I won't have broken bones (laughs), I don't want to go as hard as him. I mean I like to do stunts, but I always watch out what I'm doing. If I can't do it, I will tell the director I can't. But I have a pretty big range. If you tell me to jump of the second floor of a building I will do it. If it's like third floor, I will think about it (smile).
F: Do you think you are in this business mainly because of what Jackie inspired to you?

A: Yes. The stunts that he did were just amazing. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who can say that. The things he has done, its just "wow". And that's what made me want to do action movies. I want to follow his footsteps.

F: Thanks a lot Andy, and good luck!

A: Thank you so much.

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