Young And Dangerous: An Exclusive Interview With Co-Star Philip Ng
I started doing martial arts since I was very young. Traditional martial arts. I did Choy Li Fut with my father, who teaches in Chicago. And then in the summer, sometimes he would send me to Hong Kong to train Wing Chun with Wong Shun Leung. And... Which I really enjoyed, you know, I learned a lot from him. And when I was in America, actually it was funny, because I got my master's degree in art education. But I had this dream that I wanted to come to Hong Kong to do action movies, you know, like my heroes when I was young. And then I did, and through some introductions, I met some people, and I was very lucky. And I started off as a stunt choreographer for a movie called Star Runner. And then after that, I got signed to a management company and then started doing more acting and more different roles, you know. I started off really small then, you know, got lucky, got more and more stuff, and I'm here now.
Well, I was very lucky, because previously I did another movie... There was this all, like... It was a romantic comedy. It was all, like, acting. So... And I had a really good chance to kind of hone my acting skills more than just doing the stunt work. Then when it came to this movie, which was... I was very lucky, because Benny, the director, he was very cool. He didn't care if you were... You know, who you were or whatever. Long as you worked hard, he gave you a lot of direction. And he was very clear in his direction. So that was easy for me. So when I came in to do the role, I thought it was... He told me what I had to do. So the first thing I had to do to get into character was... I figured, you know, if I was kind of like this kind of cocky bad guy, right, I'd bleach my hair. So that's what I did, I bleached my hair blond. And then he came in, he saw it, and he liked it, so I kept it that way. And in terms of action... But I wasn't too worried about that, because I've done action previously before and did a lot of stunt work, so I wasn't worried too much about that. And I was working with people who were professionals, so it was okay.
The way I prepare for any film in terms of martial arts is, I think, because I have a good martial-arts background... I wouldn't say good, but I have a very solid martial-arts background. I've just been training for a long time, because I really enjoy it. I think it's just, work on your cardiovascular. Because, you know, you have to do a scene over and over and over again. You don't just... I mean, when the audience sees, like, maybe, like, a one-minute fight scene, it takes two days to film. You know, and those two days are non-stop, especially in Hong Kong. And so cardiovascular is a big deal. And flexibility is a big thing. Because you might have the moves, but if you're not warm... And sometimes you're called on to work when you're not warm. You're waiting around the set, like, "Blah, blah, blah." "Hey, Phil, it's your turn now." And you have to run and go do it. So I think being flexible is very important. So I think, as any athlete, and any kind of martial artist, you know, if you're thinking about getting in the industry, I think really cardiovascular and flexibility are the most important things. So that's what I would do. I do a lot of stretching, I do a lot of running. And I don't do so much forms anymore. You know, more so I would maybe, like, do a lot of boxing and stuff like that to get my rhythm better. Because I think, you know, when you're doing fighting for movies, it's more about rhythm rather than, like, you're doing a whole form.
Those more flashy movements was actually more wushu-ish kind of things. And back when I was training, martial-arts tricks was just starting to get popular. And I think it was more on the West Coast. I grew up in Chicago, so everything is a little... You know, it travels over a little bit slower, but thanks God for the Internet, right? So I guess what we did was, I trained with some whshu instructores, because my father is a kung fu teacher, and... Actually, he's an accountant, but he's a kung fu teacher on the side, right? But a lot of his friends were martial-arts teachers, and I was very lucky that I was able to get instruction from them. And instead of learning, like, maybe, like, a whole form or something, I would say, "Hey, can you work on my tornado kick, or my 360?" And stuff like that, and then I would go into... There's a local gymnastics center by my house which I would go to and just work on tricks with people who were martial artists and also who were gymnastics people. Just... I just did that.
Since being a martial-arts teacher, I think people like Nick and Andy, they might come to me for advice, but, I mean, obviously they have things that they know that I don't. Obviously, like, Nick has a lot more experience in movies, as well as Andy, right? So they bring that to me. But sometimes if they're doing a movie, like, for instance, like we're doing Wing Chun, even though Nick has a good background in Wing Chun, from another sifu that he's been training with, on the set, he might ask me a few questions, because, like, "Oh, Phil, should my Tan Sao be here, or should it be like this, like that?" And I would tell them. But I mean, on the side when we train... We do train together. You know, contrary to popular belief, we don't just play "Warcraft". When we train together, mainly what we do is just hit the mitts. Just boxing. Because I think boxing... If you can get a good boxing background and learning how to hit, the other... I mean, unless you're doing a specific form for a specific traditional movie, I think that's the kind of training that's the best. You know, we do a lot of flexibility training and punching. So a lot of kickboxing-type stuff. And... I think besides that, really, we don't do much. And we work on tricks too. Like, Andy... Andy is a... I have to say, he's also... I'm very lucky to meat all these geniuses, right, because he... Like, there's this move called 720. You turn twice and then you kick out. And he did that for Star Runner. I remember it took me, I don't know, like two months to get that move. I told him the basics of how to do it, and I think he figured it out in like three days. And he'd do it from a standing position. So, you know, we work on tricks too and stuff like that.
Nicholas, he's very athletic, and he's very smart. He's very smart guy I mean, he has no real formal training like a lot of martial-arts actors. Not like... When I say formal training, I mean, like, training since the age of 7 or something, like myself. He does a lot of other things like play guitar. I mean, he has a lot of other skills. But in terms of coming to martial arts, the thing that I was most impressed about him when I first met him was, first of all, his physique. He has this weird metabolism that keeps him fit no matter what he eats. And another thing is, he has this incredible memory. And if you tell him... If you, like, go through like 30 moves or something, he'll remember it. And then another thing is, he likes to interject his own ideas. Which makes it more his own kind of style. So I think, in that aspect, he's very good. I mean, if he had more, like, even more, like formal training, I think he'd be even more spectacular. But, I mean, I would rate him as one of the better action stars in Hong Kong right now.
But I did a TV series with Nick before we did this movie. So we were quite acquainted with each other and our skill levels in terms of martial arts and also choreography. And I was very lucky to be working with him, because we were such good friends. We didn't really... There was a lot of unspoken... we didn't have to talk and we knew what each other wanted. And we knew that we didn't have that much opportunity to fight in this movie. You know, we wanted to, but I mean, in terms of the story, there wasn't much opportunity for us to do it. So there was one where we were gonna fight each other in the cab. And I said, "Oh, it's such a small area. We can do kind of like a Wing Chun exchange, but a little bit more modern." Me and Nick were just kind of making up moves on the spot and kind of doing this whole long choreography. And Benny saw it, and he's like, "Oh, that's cool, why don't you do that?" And I remember the choreographer, and he's like, "Okey, you guys just take care of it." You know, whatever. And then so we did it, and... But I mean, I think in the end, it was cut a little bit shorter, just for time constraints, and, you know, maybe it didn't flow with the story too well, I'm not sure. But originally it was a lot longer. It was a lot longer. And... But I mean, I think whatever came out of it was fine. But of course I'd rather see the longer cut, of course, but I mean, at the end it was fine. I'm sure we'll have opportunities to fight again.
It was actually one of the first stunts that I actually have to do. In terms of stunts, it wasn't really a big stunt either. It involved, obviously, you know, if you see the movie, I jump off from the tram... I'm being chased by Nick's character. I jump off the tram, on top of the... I don't know what that's called, the canopy? That concrete canopy. And then from there I had to jump on the ground. And I was given there really thin Converse, like, shoes, and they're like, "Phil, one shot, do it. Just jump off and then run out of frame." And as soon as I did that I felt my ankle kind of twist a little bit, and they're like, "Are you okay?" "I'm okay." "Let's do it again." So I did it a few times, but after a few times I really hurt my ankle really bad. And that was like one of the first shots, so, I mean, the rest of the fight scenes and the chasing scenes that you see in the movie, regardless if they're, you know, sequentially before or after this scene, I was really hurt, like, during the whole thing. So that was a challenge for me because there was a lot of running. The whole rooftop scene... A lot of the jumps, you know, I did myself, like, from one story down. And of course there was a mat there, right, there's a tatami there, but still, you know, it was quite a challenge. But I mean, I did it. I think I pulled it off. And it was also... I was very lucky because my character wasn't supposed be really suave. In terms of action, like, he wasn't, like, a great parkour guy or anything. He was kind of clumsy. So it was easy to do because my leg was hurt.
There's a chase scene on the rooftop that I think was very memorable in the movie. I think a lot of people, when they see the movie, they remember it. And that scene was challenging and fun, because I know... What the martial-arts choreographer... What I was always... When I've seen his other movies, the most I was impressed about, like, his work, is a lot of the chase scenes that he does. And I was very excited to be part of that kind of scene. And the challenging part, obviously, was my ankle. You know, it was hurt and I told you about that. And in terms of being doubles and... We actually did all of our own stuff. There are certain times where... Because, you know, when you film a scene, you don't just film it once, you have to film it over and over and over again. So some of the times when you can't really tell was us, maybe there's doubles. But I mean, we... But all of us have done those motions as well. When the shots needed... When you can actually tell is us, we actually do those shots. But there's certain times, obviously, just to keep the actors from being fatigued and exhausted, they have doubles to do certain shots. So actually we've pretty much done everything ourselves.
People got hurt in this movie, not just myself. And obviously, Wu Jing, he had a lot more scenes than I did, and in one of the previous scenes that he did he hurt his knee. When he jumped... Even though we had a wire, obviously, from that height, when he landed, he had to put a lot of weight on the leg that wasn't hurt, so he always would lose his balance. And I remember the... There's also footage before that, he almost fell off and Nick grabbed him. Tse Ting-Fung grabbed him. And second time... Because we kind of know... I mean, I wanted to make sure... Maybe because of my background as a stunt coordinator, safety is very important for me, right, so I kind of paid attention to him as he was falling. So as he jumped it seemed like he was gonna fall off again. I mean, he had a wire on, he wouldn't have got hurt, but there's a chance. You son't want someone to fall off a building. So I rushed in to grab him before he fell off the building, after the jump, and there was a bunch of pipes on the side, I think they were sewage pipes, actually, and my foot aot caught and broke one and so sewage was flying everywhere. But I mean, as soon as that happened I just kind of walked away like, "It wasn't me, it was Ng Ging." You know, but I mean in the end it was okay. But we got the shot done and if you see the whole scene I think it turned out really well.
This is the first time I've worked with Wu Jing. He's a real cool guy. I mean, the first thing I noticed about him was he's pretty down to earth, right? I mean, I've worked with a lot of people, I mean, behind the scenes and in front of the camera and... And a lot of very skilled people, right? But I think the most important thing is it the person is a nice guy, you know, is easy to work with. And I thought he was very easy to work with. And he was very fun, we had a lot of fun on the set, a lot of things to talk about. And the thing I like about him was when he does the martial-arts fighting, he hits hard. I mean, he does it. I mean, he doesn't hit hard enough to kill you, but he dose it, and that's the way I like to do it, and I think that's the way that Nick likes to do it. And it's easier for me to act and it's easier for me to do a reaction. I don't have to always fake the reaction, because I actually feel it. So there's scene when... In the warehouse when they come in and they try to take my weapons, whatever, and whatnot, he slaps me, continuously. And actually, I said to him, I said, "Ng Ging. you're gonna hit me, right? Don't worry, just hit me." And he didn't say anything, he just smiled and I knew he was gonna smack me, because I was tide up like this, right? And so he just went off and he just kind of slapped and we did the whole scene and we only did it a few times, but I remember getting slapped, I don't know, like, to me seemed like 150 times, but I think it was just like 30 times. I'm not quite sure, but... And I think it ended up, after the cut, was only a few times in the scene. So he actually... We were talking afterwards, after we met, and he's like, "Wow, I feel bad for you, Phil. I slapped you so many times and only three or four slaps got into the movie." But that was cool. I think, like, mainly... I think... I like the way he fights because he's powerful. I mean, if you see, like a lot of the older masyers like Sammo, Sammo Hung, and Jackie and Yuen Biao, I mean, when they hit, I mean, they really... It seems like they're really making contact, you make sure those guys are tough. I think he has the same feeling, the same quality, and that's what I like about him.
Andy On is my best friend in Hong Kong, I have to say. Just because we have the same interests, we both do martial arts and we both like the same things. And basically we see each other every day, you know, because we hang out all the time. And it was a shame that we didn't get more scenes together, which is good because he kind of smells funny. No, I'm just kidding, obviously. But he's a... I don't know, he's... A lot of people might think of him as this kind of a musclebound kind of kung fu actor, right? But a lot of people... I think they're starting to know now... But he's a great actor. He's one of the best actors I know. And I think for him it's not so much preparation or training, it's just he's naturally a good actor. If you give him a scene, you get... Once the cam... I mean, during rehearsals... Because I've done more than one movie with him, and if you're doing rehearsals, maybe during the rehearsals he's not like... It seems like he's not putting his heart into it, but once the camera rolls, you know, he's... That's it. I mean, you... I mean, I... He can draw... You know the guy so well, and when you watch a movie and he's in it and he's doing, like, an emotional scene, it draws emotions out of me even though I know him so well. Then you can tell he's... You know, I'm sure if people who don't know him, like, personally, when they see him, they can draw those emotions out too. So I think the most... I think the thing that I want to say about that guy is he's a great actor. Not just a martial-arts actor, he's a great actor.
There's this Japanese full-contact fighting competition called Hero's, which is a MMA competition. And I brought some discs that I got to the set, and I remember showing Benny, you know, these discs. And I know Benny's a really good director, he's always trying to keep everything on time and everything. I remember one time he was like... We were watching this fight and he's watching it, he's watching it, and the assistant director comes by and he says, "Excuse me, sir, you know, it's ready for next shot." He's like "Hold on, let me finish watching this fight first." It was the first time I've seen him do that, which was kind of funny because, you know, he's so professional, you know, but he was so into this and... Which was really cool because, like, then we had something in common, you know? Not only did he, like, do cool martial-arts movies, he was actually into martial arts and full-contact fighting. So I think that's another funny story.
There's a funny story behind the whole hair thing too, because I was doing another movie at the time, which overlapped like this: Like, this is Invisible Target and this is the other movie. And in that movie, I had to have black hair. And I remember, like, I had to dye it... Bleach it and then dye it black again and come back to do Invisible Target one more day and then bleach it blond again and then go back to black again. So... But I'm very lucky, because I have really... I don't know, really coarse hair. Bad hair, I don't know. It's not... My hairstylist is always... You know, he's like, "Wow, your hair is very 'resilient'," right? So I was very lucky that it didn't... That my hair didn't fall off. But the thing is, like, I just dyed it black again after the movie. After the movie was done, I just kind of left it black and let it grow out. And my hair grows pretty quick, so I wasn't too worried about that.
The first time I saw the movie was during the premiere. And I was very impressed. Actually, It was a very well-produced film. The reason I say that is because there's so many characters in the film and there's a limited time. You know, there's what is it, an hour and a half, hour and 45 minutes? And every character's story... I mean, even, like, characters like mine and even Lee Chan-Sam, Sam, maybe is a little bit kind of like cameo roles. I mean stories out really well and everything flowed and the story worked out well. Which was... Is not easy to do, as you know. You know, doing a story with that many characters. I thought that was great. And another... One person that I was really, really impressed with... Besides everyone else I was impressed with. ... was Jaycee. Because I mean, we're all friends, right? You know, we all hang out and we all know how we are in real life. And, you know, we're all just like kids, you know, hanging around and everything. But he was really able to pull out some emotions out of me. Like, I actually wrote about this, you know, in my blog as soon as I saw that movie. And I said... Because the... You know, the ending scene with him getting beat up Ng Ging, I was really touched. You know, I was like, "Wow." I almost... You know, almost cried. If I didn't know him I probably would have. But I mean, I was really surprised by that. And in terms of my stuff, I think, you know, I was... Like I said, I would rather have seen the little longer fight scene with me and Nick in the cab. But besides that, I was just really, really happy that Benny kept it as one shot, when I was on the ground kind of crying and explaining the whole situation to Ng Ging. That was... I was really happy about that.
Being a Christian, I think it's just... It's also... I mean, of course, it's a very personal thing, and also it's... It's just... It's a faith that I have. And I think there's... I mean, it's not even rules that you have to abide by. When you say they're rules it becomes something you have to do. But it's something that I wanna do. Because I feel like there's certain things that I believe in. And in terms of not getting into trouble and doing a lot of things which might lead to bad press or anything, I don't think... I don't do certain things so I don't get bad press. I don't honestly really care, because I do what I do and I'll do what I do. And being an actor is just a job. It's just a job that I do. And I'm gonna continue having fun with my friends. If I'm gonna go out and grab a beer, I'm gonna grab a beer. If there's a reporter there, there's a reporter there. I don't care. I mean, long as if I can answer to myself and answer to God, then I'm fine. So I think that's... It doesn't really affect what I do at all. And sometime I guess with certain roles, would you take or not take? And I think it's like... It's a very... It's also a personal interpretation of things. Like, for instance, like, I think a lot of Christians are... They're very apprehensive about doing movies with ghosts and spirits and everything. And I had this explanation. I said I will do a movie if there are ghosts. I mean, if the movie... If the message is not completely crazy or whatever, if it's a job that I think is worth doing, I will do it, because... I just did a movie... Like in Dragon Squad, I killed like 80 people, you know? But it's all just make-believe, right? You're just making a movie. And when you know that in your heart and I can answer to myself, I'm fine. So there's no, like, certain roles that I won't take. as long as I feel the movie is good and is something I wanna do, so...
I guess, like, if I was... If I had the opportunity, if someone came up to me and said, "Here's a bunch of money, I want you do this project." What kind of project I would wanna do. I mean, I have so many ideas in my head, and I think a lot of actors do as well. I wanna do, like, a kind of... I want a mixed-genre kind of thing. Can I mention other movies? Like, I don't know if... Shaun of the Dead is a movie that I was very impressed with because, like, they mixed genres. But when they mixed it, it wasn't like a parody. It was a comedy, it was funny, it was a love story, it was a love story, and it was a scary zombie movie at the same time. So I thought maybe something like... There's two types of movies I wanna do. One is like an undead-zombie kung-fu-type movie. But I'm talking about, like, Western. Not the geung si, but the: You know, like the Western zombies and kung fu type of movie And maybe like... And also another type of movie I wanna do is, like, a romantic-comedy kung fu. But I mean, I want an amalgam of things, where it works out, rather than being like a parody. And it's very hard to do , but, you know, it would be something like that, I guess.
Not to be boastful, but I think in terms of kung fu movies and action movies, Hong Kong is the place. That's... You know, of course it started with the old Westerns, you know, with the old cowboys and whatever. And then Hong Kong took it and developed it, and made it into something else. But I think it has become an art here. And, you know, if you wanna study the best judo, where do you go? You go to Japan, right? And I think, you know... I think a lot of the really, really great stuntmen, I think they're a little bit... They're getting older now. And the new generation may not be as up to par as what... You know, maybe in the '80s and '90s. But I still think the art is still here. So I think you can get that from a lot of Hong Kong or Eastern-type of movies that you may not be able to get in the West. But, I mean, of course then I've seen a lot of Western movies and they're catching up very quickly and they'er doing very well. And they've hired a lot of people from Hong Kong to do their stunt work over there. And I think that's making that... You know, a lot of Western movies, you know, doing very well. But I think... I think most importantly... I mean, from what I've heard from different sources, that it's worked when both sides... I think the spontaneity of Hong Kong moviemaking is something you can't really find over in the West. I think that's a big thing.
When I went to the premiere, it was just like... It was like when you make a home movie, when you're having a party, you have a home movie, you look back at it, you're like, "That was a great time." So when I saw that, for me, personally, it was like, "Wow." It was just a reminder of how much fun we had the set, with all friends and everything. It was a really good atmosphere. something that's not always the case when you're making movies.
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