RT’s "Rogue" set visit culminated with a candid sit-down with the pic’s star, Jet Li. Read on to hear what he says about his upcoming "Fearless," ticket prices in China, and getting a director for "Monk in New York."
Since the early 1980s, Jet Li has cultivated a virtual library of Hong Kong-action starring vehicles utilizing his background as a child prodigy in the martial art of wushu. Despite having over thirty star turns in Chinese-language films by the mid-90s, it wasn’t until he played a menacing Triad member in 1998’s "Lethal Weapon 4" that English-speaking audiences really took notice, and since then Jet has launched himself into Hollywood with his own brand of action (see "Romeo Must Die," "The One," "Unleashed").
With the recent North American successes of action-packed foreign films like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and Li’s own "Hero," the former wushu world champion will soon be bringing another Chinese-language martial arts epic to Western markets, though he’s promised that August opener "Fearless" — a period biopic of a turn-of-the-century fighting master — will be his last epic martial arts hero flick. After that, Li hopes to make his long-in-development, light-on-action project, "Monk in New York" (see interview below). But first, he’s got "Rogue" to finish — and, as Senh and Phu witnessed, there’s still plenty of action left in him.
Senh’s Scene Breakdown: As promised in yesterday’s Corey Yuen set interview, Jet filmed a fight sequence on the ‘Yanagawa Motors’ set of "Rogue" that left more than a few blood spatters on the floor (fake blood, of course).
The sequence took place in the mirrored section of the dealership, underneath the elevated offices in which two other scenes had previously been shot — one with Jet opposite a stern, femme fatale Devon Aoki, and another between Jet and Ryo Ishibashi.
As in the other fight we saw being shot, Jet was battling a few of Ryo Ishibashi’s goons downstairs. Before the shot, prop people gave one stuntman a mouthful of liquid right before rolling. Once action began, Jet appeared to land a high kick to one goon’s throat, with enough force that the goon was propelled backwards into one of the wall mirrors. The stuntman took Jet’s monster kick very convincingly, hitting the wall, causing him to projectile-spew blood.
Red liquid got everywhere, including a few splatters on Jet himself. Once cameras stopped, PAs mopped up the mess, cleaned off Jet, and they did another take! And another! And another! We left the set and they were still shooting the same scene.
Rotten Tomatoes: Can you describe your role in the movie?
Jet Li: I cannot say too much. If you know, it’s not fun anymore.
RT: But you are playing a bad guy?
JL: It really depends on your point of view.
RT: Since the movie pits you against Jason [Statham], who do you think the audience will root for?
JL: I don’t know. Ask them! (laughs)
RT: How is it working with Jason?
JL: We worked together before on "The One." But on this film, we haven’t met yet because the two characters haven’t been in the same scene. In maybe another two weeks we will work together a lot.
RT: You have worked with Corey Yuen for over a decade. What is it about him that made your relationship special?
JL: When you have a friend you work with for 15 years, you become like brothers.
RT: Why do you think of all the Asian actors, you and Jackie are the more successful?
JL: I should ask you (laughs). You know the American audience better than me, why they watch Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies. The audience makes the decision of what kind of actor they want to watch. I always have said in the last 20 years, the real boss is the audience.
RT: You said you no longer want to do epic martial art movies. Do you want to focus more on action or more on drama?
JL: I really want to retire. (laughs) I think "Fearless" is the last one. I won’t do martial arts movies anymore. But in my mind, martial arts movies are martial arts movies and action is action. It’s quite different, because martial arts doesn’t just have physical form; you have a philosophy, internal and external. A lot of it involves your life. How you see the world. An action film I think is just about the movement. I think it’s different.
RT: Why did you decide not to do any more martial arts movies, is it because you’ve done so many?
JL: I put a lot of energy into "Fearless." I’ve said what I wanted to say about martial arts in that film; why I learned martial arts, what is martial arts, martial arts in life.
Jet Li as a rogue assassin named, er, Rogue, in "Rogue"
RT: What do you think of the current state of movies in Hong Kong. When you did "Once Upon A Time In China," they were producing 300 movies a year, and now they’re doing 30-40 movies a year. What do you think of the current state?
JL: The market is smaller and smaller in Asia.
RT: Even with China?
JL: The last few years have been better, but before there was no market.
RT: Why do you think that is?
JL: We can have a three day discussion about it (laughs). It’s too expensive for people to watch a movie in theaters. It costs ten percent of one’s salary to watch one movie, how can anyone afford that?
RT: You’ve been talking about making "Monk In New York" for a while. What is the status on that?
JL: I’m still trying to make it, even with no studio involved. I talk about making a movie with a story about heart, without a lot of violent action in it. Not many studios want to make it. I’m still working on it.
RT: What kind of movies would you like to make in the future after "Rogue"?
JL: I really don’t know. "Monk In New York" you already know about. I want to make that. I already found a director, Wayne Wang. He’s a wonderful director, and I really appreciate his work. Two years already and we’re still putting the pieces together.