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Interview Gordon Chan, from The Big Heat to A-1
Comedies and Stephen Chow 2/2 - Page 4
Author(s) : Thomas Podvin
David Vivier
Date : 13/1/2005
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Sharla Cheung Man
Dante Lam Chiu Yin
Ringo Lam Ling Tung
Ng Man Tat
Barry Wong Ping Yiu
Wong Jing
Movies :
Fight Back To School
Prison On Fire
School On Fire
The Yuppie Fantasia
Companies :
Win's Entertainment Ltd
< Previous
Page 3 : Comedies
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Page 5 : John Woo & Hard Boiled

HKCinemagic: How did you meet Stephen Chow?
Gordon Chan: Actually, that was the first time I shot for the Wins [company]. And I didn’t make a lot of decisions, even though I delayed the project for almost a year on the basis that I still couldn’t find the way to shoot that film, the right way to tell the story. Because the only thing the company gave me was a name --“Fight Back to School”. That’s all. And they didn’t know what to do with it. Me and Barry Wong [co-script writer and actor] thought of a lot of options. And we still thought it wasn’t going to work because a film about school life never ever make any box office success. Not ever. There was the “don’t touch school” kind of feeling [from the audience].
HKCinemagic: There was Ringo Lam’s School on Fire though...
Gordon Chan: Yes, that was that, it was like “stay away from school.”
HKCinemagic: Lam’s film was a huge polemic at the time.
Gordon Chan: Yes.
HKCinemagic: Fight Back to School reminds me of the US TV-series 21 Jump Street with Johnny Depp, an undercover in high school.
Gordon Chan: Oh, right. You know undercover cops in school is kind of crazy. But that was the ‘silly idea’ that really attracted me. I still remember after almost nine months I still refused to shoot the film. I said I didn’t think we had a script yet. And Wong Jing, Barry Wong and I sat together to think about what we should do. Suddenly I said, I have a vision, I know what to do. Everybody looked at me and I said I will shoot it like Prison on Fire! And that was the whole idea; for us it’s a school, for that undercover guy,  it’s a prison. I took that idea and I said “OK, we can start shooting then.” The original lead wasn’t Stephen Chow at all, but someone else. But I am not going to say who. It was very disappointing for him.

Investors all thought I was the kind of Woody Allen type director, they always thought I do very light comedies, like The Yuppie Fantasia. (Actually I really like this stuff). So they were expecting me to shoot Fight Back to School with somebody very light, to do a romantic comedy. I said: “No. I am going to make you laugh for 90 minutes. That’s my goal.” So I picked up Stephen Chow. I said he should be the right guy. He’s the funniest guy around town. He should be doing that. So they got Stephen and we started shooting. It was fun. It was one of the most enjoyable films I worked on. We were laughing every day.

HKCinemagic: I guess Chow and Ng Man Tat helped a lot in the laughing department.
Gordon Chan: Yes, there was that scene when Chow invited Sharla Cheung Man to come to their house and the hall was like a trash. And Chow was pushing Ng Man Tat to clean up. What I did is I just put down my camera and told them to clean it up, “I don’t know how you clean it, but my camera is still there ready to shoot. So just do it!” Chow and Ng looked at each others and walked to opposite directions and started thinking and came back together and they improvised the whole scene. The best shot was a NG [a no good cut] because the guys in the crew simply couldn’t stand it anymore. Everybody was sitting on the floor and laughing and a guy [sitting under the camera] couldn’t bear it any longer and just stand up [to laugh even more] and he broke the camera. That was the best shot I got. I almost killed that guy afterwards.

That how we did it. We were laughing everyday. At that time we still didn’t have any monitor, we had to see the rushes everyday. I still remember after 10 days of shooting, I came out from the lab with my assistant director, Dante Lam. I said: “I think I have a box office hit,” and Dante said: “What? It’s only been 10 days.” “You know what,” I said, “how many times have you laughed? Have you seen a lot of films where you can laugh to death for 10 times? Everyday when we were going to see the rushes in the small projection room, the projectionist, everybody were bursting out laughing. I think we are safe.” And then he said, “What then?” I said: “Let’s go crazy.” So I just did it my way.

You know the background of Wins, a company founded by the Heung brothers? They were supposedly in the Triad business for such a long time, and it was a time they needed to change and went to the film business. And everybody was so scared of them. When we did the script, the boss of Wins gave a lot of input. I juts binned the ideas one after the other. Barry Wong was so scared, he came to see me on the set asking: “Are you sure you want to throw that line away? That was Heung’s line.” I said: “But it’s not funny.” He said: “Hey, that’s Heung.” I said: “OK, let’s put it this way, I am trying very hard to make this film fun. If he thinks that’s bad, he shouldn’t let me do it. And if I got beat up because of this that’d be fine because I won’t have to do it for them anymore.” So I kept on shooting the whole thing without any of his stuff. But that was fun, that was really fun.

HKCinemagic: Barry Wong had also a little role in the film series.
Gordon Chan: Yes, as the chief inspector (laughing).
HKCinemagic: Was it meant as a private joke?
Gordon Chan: Yes, and that was the first time I worked with him. He was already huge in the industry, but that was the first time I ever worked with him and we became such good friends. We talked about films everyday. He was on the set everyday. Him, me and Stephen became close friends. It was such a shame that after that film he died so soon [Ed.: Wong passed away in 1992].
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Page 5 : John Woo & Hard Boiled

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