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Interview with Tony Lau-Wing

February 8 2015 at 4:25 AM
LJF  (Login LJF)

Tony Lau Wing (born Feb 7th, 1952), is a veteran HK actor and martial artist. He starred in many HK martial arts movies in the 70s and 80s. He made his debut as the son of the villain in the 1971 film “The Big Boss”, which starred Bruce Lee in his first major role. He also appeared in another three of Bruce Lee's films - as a martial arts student in “Fist of Fury (1972)”; as a restaurant worker who practises Karate in “Way of the Dragon (1972)”; and as a tournament fighter who fights with John Saxon's character in “Enter the Dragon (1973)”. Tony told the HK press that Bruce was discussing his role in G.O.D. with him weeks before Bruce’s passed away. Besides being an actor, Tony is also a master in both Karate and Judo and a teacher of Chinese martial arts. Also, he learnt JKD from Bruce Lee until Lee's death in July 20th, 1973.

Below are the excerpts of Tony’s interview article published in the 2011 Nov. issue of the “Chinese Wu Shu” magazine.

Q1:When did you meet Bruce?
A: Like Bruce’s father, Lee Hoi Chuen, My mother, Lai Man, also played in many Cantonese movies in the 50s. Thus, they knew each other. When I was a kid, my parents would bring me to the studio and played. I got to know Bruce then. He was sort of 10 years older than me, like a big brother. I always followed behind him, running here and there for fun. Bruce was very mischievous. He often brought iron chain with him and used it in the fights. Later, he went to America. When I grew up, I joined GH. Initially, I was working behind the scenes, then followed Lo Wei and Ricky Chih Yao-Chang, and worked as their assistant director. When Bruce returned to HK and began shooting “The Big Boss” in Pak-Chong, Thailand, I came into contact with him again. It was my movie debut. Together with Maria Yi and Nora Miao, we signed contracts with GH. The 2 actresses also played in this movie. As for me, I have played in almost all of the Bruce Lee’s movies.

Q2: From your observation, what was the relationship between Bruce and Lo Wei?
A: You know, Bruce was not only a martial arts fanatic but he also understood cinema. He knew how to handle expressions in front of the camera. So, he raised a lot of suggestions during the shooting. For instance, there was a scene where his uncle was chit-chatting with the fellow workers, he was unable to get a word in edgeways, so, he breathe out drum mouth which was discovered by Maria Yi who laughed at his funny expression, Bruce then smiled back to her embarrassingly. This was added in by Bruce. He knew exactly how to stereoscopically present one’s personality through some detailed expression in the movie. Lo Wei was a well-known director then and in the movies which he directed, many actors/actresses had propelled to stardom, such as Ti Lung and David Chiang. Based on his status and personality, Bruce should address him as Uncle Lo. But Bruce always called his name directly instead. This might be due to the fact that he had been living in the States for too long and got the habit of calling elderly by their names directly, plus, he was a very straightforward person. Hence, in the process of exchanging ideas, it is inevitable to cause friction and conflict between them. Later, both worked hand in hand again in Bruce’s second movie, “Fist of Fury” which was directed by Lo Wei.

Q3: How did Bruce treated you?
A: Bruce took really good care of me and the other stuntmen. He was very caring and polite towards us. I remember he used to bring us to the Han Palace Restaurant for tea-chat. He liked to talk and brag a lot and we liked to listen to him, haha… He was telling us that he wanted to break into Hollywood using Kung Fu, and then everyone in the world would know what is Chinese Kung Fu, and it was because of him, all these dreams had turned into reality.

Q4: During Bruce’s stay in HK, you could be considered as a very good witness because you have played in his first movie, “The Big Boss” till the last, “Enter The Dragon”. Have you notice the changes in him during this period of time? For example, his way of treating people, his look or appearance etc.?
A: With every success in his movie, his pressure increased tremendously as well. Some people said that he got angry easily during the last stage of his life. Do think, how could a person with enormous amount of pressure be his usual self? Bruce was a perfectionist. He wanted every movie to surpass the former in terms of breakthrough and also, enhance the production quality, content’s interpretation and the box office earnings. In addition, he had to give consideration to his personal training. His physical fitness was constantly improving as you could see from his body. At the point of filming “Enter The Dragon”, his facial expression had become a lot different from the earlier movie, “The Big Boss”. His body fat had also reduced to almost none. This was the result of him trying to achieve perfection too much.

Q5: Have you seen Bruce’s training?
A: A whole lot of us would go to his house after shooting. His house was full of fitness equipment. I remembered one day, Cheh Yuen who held the title of “Mr. Hong Kong” (bodybuilding champion) was also present at Bruce’s house. He saw this heavy barbell, picked it up and did as many reps as he could to show off his enormous strength in front of us. Then, Bruce came down from upstairs. He saw what happened, went over with a smile and then added a lot more weight onto the barbell which Cheh Yuen’s lifted. He then did it even more reps with total ease to our amazement. We really admired him. His body is extremely strong. He could also do one thumb push-up many times. This showed that he could converge all his body energy onto one focus point, it’s really awesome!
Sometimes, we would jog together. An ordinary martial arts practitioner would usually throw a punch as he runs. Bruce was different, he kicked as he ran and it looked totally easy for him. He said, “Punching must be as powerful as kicking and kicking must be as agile as punching.” It is easy said than done but Bruce did it. He could easily jump-kicked the opponent’s head at a very close range. He could even kick at any angles inside the lift with people around. His fist was like an iron ball attached to an iron chain, it looked completely relaxed before striking. However, once struck, it would clench instantly and generated the most powerful force before resuming to a state of relaxation again. Unlike most Karate practitioners and bodybuilders, before hitting the opponents, had already consumed a lot of energy due to tenseness, thus, at the time of hitting the opponent, the force had become very weak.

Q6: Have Bruce ever discuss about his JKD with you?
A: Of course. He frequently spoke about free sparring, kickboxing, combat. He said at the moment of engaging in a fight, try to seize the opportunity of the gaps and hit the opponent in a nick of time. Every motion which he made not only looked good but carried with practical value. JKD means, I do not block the opponent but I avoid his strike and at the same time hit him through the gaps. It is easier said than done. In fact, it requires plenty of time to practice in order to achieve the desired result.
Bruce had seen a lot of materials and information on free combat. As he was browsing the materials, he could point out the gaps between the fighters. It looks easy but seizing the gaps requires the cooperation of a very fast rhythm. The real fighter knows the importance of controlling the distance. When he wants to hit you, he’ll hit the mark but when you try to retaliate and hit him, you’re not able to do so.
JKD also emphasised on waist strength, it is different from Karate. A Karate kick is just a kick. JKD, on the other hand, utilises the waist and with the cooperation of the footwork, fully mobilises the waist strength to execute the kick vehemently. This is called waist and footwork in unity (Tony demonstrated as he said, just like Bruce in WOTD).

Q7: In the blockbuster “The Big Boss”, audiences were impressed by the concise and fast motion way of fighting. Did Bruce involved in many of the action designs?
A: Many! The way which Bruce handled the fighting scene was 1 punch or 1 kick to K.O. the bandits and if against stronger opponents, add 2 more punches. But then, GH hesitated for quite some time and dared not film this way of fighting. Just look at Jimmy Wang’s “One Armed Swordsman”, he was not dead after being stabbed for more than 50 times and could even stood up and carried on fighting, it was so thrilling. Thus, how could GH invest in a movie whereby 8 punches K.O. 8 persons, what to watch? But Bruce insisted, “Change, need to educate them how to watch, understand what can be considered as real martial arts movie. Forget about Ti Lung, David Chiang, nobody will want to see them again, they’d watch me.” He was that kind of person. Finally, GH was fully convinced by Bruce. When Bruce thought it was a right thing to do, he would try all ways to convince the people around him by finding a lot of evidence to support his idea. He was a person with tremendous confidence. This was the reason why GH specially invited Lo Wei to replace the initial director, Ng Gaa Soeng.

Q8: What was the relationship between Bruce and Han Ying Chieh? Was Bruce really being allegedly hit by him?
A: It is very common to hit each other accidentally during filming. But one thing which Bruce did very well was he would only touch you and not really hurt you badly. If you followed his instructions, there would not be any problem. He was very good in controlling the degree of the force and accuracy.

Q9: Did Bruce fight against the Thai boxers during the shooting in Thailand?
A: During filming, there were many local extras that were trained in Thai boxing. When Bruce was choreographing the fight scenes, initially, they were very uncooperative, but after being subdued by Bruce in the fight, they never misbehaved again.

((Note: According to the documentary, “The Intercepting Fist (1998)”, Tony Lau, revealed in details that one day during shooting, Bruce was challenged by a group of Thai extras, who happened to be Thai boxers. (As a matter of fact, the Thai boxers usually train in Muay Thai at a very young age and have numerous actual sparring and fighting experience which make them totally capable of handling any fight practically, be it on the street or in any other circumstances. Muay Thai is well-known for its simple, direct yet ruthless strike and hit from the elbow and kneecap. It became famous in the world during the 70s and 80s when Muay Thai boxers won many matches against fighters from Kung Fu, Karate, Taekwondo, Hapkido etc. Then, Tony-Jaa brought Muay Thai to world fame through his series of action movies from 2003 onwards.)

Meanwhile, the Thai fighters did not believe Bruce was as good as them or the actual fight choreographer, Han Ying-Chieh, and kept teasing Bruce until Bruce decided to spar with one of the best Thai boxers in front of the crew team, which consisted of Lam Ching-Ying, Tony Lau, Bee Chan, Lee Kun etc. The fight happened so fast and lasted only a couple of seconds. Bruce won this battle. However, the defeated boxer might not be a Thai boxing champion as some rumored to be. Even it was a champion, many believe Bruce would not hesitate to take him on. A quote from the HK kickboxing champion cum actor, Chan Wai-Man (who defeated several Thai boxing Champions in the 70s), “No doubt Bruce should be the best in Southeast Asia then. If fighting in the ring with the Muay Thai fighter, it is hard to say who will win because of the rules and regulations but if it is on the street with no rules and all out, I’ll bet on Bruce, Bruce will definitely win for sure!”

Here is a link to the screen capture of Tony Lau’s interview from the “Intercepting Fist”: ))

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  • Re: Interview with Tony Lau-Wing - Chris Richards on Feb 8, 2015, 8:51 AM
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