Ng See Yuen’s Interview on Bruce LeeJune 12 2016 at 8:51 AM
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Response to Ng See Yuen’s Memoir: “Remembering the legend – Bruce Lee”
Below is an excerpt of HK director Ng See-Yuen’s interview on Bruce Lee, titled, “Bruce Lee Became A Legend And A Future Saint Like Kwan Gong” dated 17th July 2013, published in Phoenix Entertainment News.
Q1: Mr. Ng, what’s your comment on Bruce Lee?
Ng: Bruce Lee actually was a Chinese legend. Many years later, he would become a Saint just like Kwan Gong. Bruce reflected how an ordinary Chinese who strived diligently towards his success. I understood him quite well not just because I knew him personally but I was the first person who looked for him to make a movie, of course, it was unsuccessful. Back then, I was very young and even though I had not enough financial capital but I still intended to get him to make a movie. Bruce had a good friend (note: probably Unicorn Chan) who was my movie’s choreography instructor and through him, I tried to hook Lee up in the U.S.
Q2: Any plans in commemorating Bruce Lee’s 40th anniversary?
Ng: Bruce was born in the U.S. but grew up in HK. Recently, I have made a documentary on Bruce (note: title – “The Brilliant Life of Bruce Lee”). HK originally wanted to build a “BL Movie Museum”, “BL’s Kowloon Residence Memorial Museum” backed by government’s financial support (note: Both were unsuccessful. Currently, the HK Heritage Museum took over to convene BL events and exhibitions). I’m now the chairman of the Federation of HK Filmmakers. Hence, I spent more than 2 years in making this Lee’s documentary which would be a valuable chapter in the HK movie history. It would be shown in the “Bruce Lee: Kung Fu‧ Art ‧ Life” exhibition.
Q3: Could you please tell us a bit more on this documentary?
Ng: In this documentary, I tried to include as many of the people related to Bruce as possible. This includes Bruce’s co-workers (HK and foreign actors/ actresses, action choreographers, stuntmen), childhood buddies, friends, relatives, his wife, daughter and even Betty Ting Pei. We have conducted a big volume of interviews in HK, Taiwan, in the U.S. etc. We have also interviewed many of Bruce’s students. In addition, we utilized a lot of materials, bought many movies’ copyrights, regardless of new or old. Finally, we completed it. We are indeed very proud of ourselves.
Q4: So, how did your experience help you in making this documentary?
Ng: Bruce was a miracle. He was a rebellious kid since his childhood days. His hobbies were fighting and dancing. Thus, we made use of many of his old childhood footage from the Cantonese films and merged them together with the dialogue of the interviewees. The effect was terrific. In the early days, I did have some experience while shooting “Bruce Lee - The Man & The Myth” (1976). It did very well in the box-office in many parts of the world. Before I shoot that film, I and my team did a lot of research of Bruce’s materials. Therefore, I was very familiar with Bruce’s background. Especially upon completion of this documentary, I’ve an in-depth understanding of Lee and would be able to relate things concerning Bruce from A to Z.
Q5: Were the stories told in the “BL – The Man & The Myth” based on real life accounts of Lee?
Ng: Part of it was fictional and part of it was real. That’s why it’s called “The Man & The Myth”. The story took into accounts of his fights against Thai stuntman, ETD stuntmen, 4 times HK Batam-Weight Boxing Champion - Lau Tat-Chuan etc. Other real accounts were his daily overdose of vitamin pills, using electro shock device, died in Betty Ting’s flat etc. Of course, some parts were a bit exaggerated for better dramatic effects/ purposes. Bruce Li was trained in Lee’s JKD and Wing Chun for several months before filming and he really did an excellent job portraying Bruce Lee. His acting and martial arts performance in this movie were at his peak. Credits also go to the choreography of Leung Siu Chung (Bruce Liang’s uncle) and his stunt team.
Q6: Bruce Lee had only finished four and a half movies yet after these years he not only impacted HK alone but also the world that included China mainland, the U.S., Europe, Middle-East and even Africa. He is now a cultural symbol not just a movie icon. Do you think it’s the magic of movies or his personal charisma?
Ng: I feel that Bruce’s charisma stands about 99%, the remainings were redundant. Why? As we know, Bruce studied philosophy and he liked to talk about it. He was a theorist of simplicity. He knew how to combine theory and reality very well. If you were with him, you would be influenced by his words, his thoughts and his imaginations. This was the reason why he was very charismatic. We made many martial arts movies in HK in the pasts but even if the actor could fight very well, you were not be able to spot his charisma. Bruce was different as he just shone when he stood out. This is charisma. Although Bruce hoped to make the “Kung Fu” TV series in the U.S. but due to racial discrimination, the TV station got a white man, David Carradine to play the role of a Chinese instead. Before Bruce, Chinese did not have any status in the Hollywood movie industry. The Americans also admitted that in their documentaries. Back then, most of the roles catered to them were villains, ugly Asians and prostitutes etc. Until Bruce returned to HK to film “The Big Boss,” the cinema history was then changed.
Q7: Was Bruce Lee more charismatic than other actors you have seen?
Ng: So far, I have yet to see an actor who is far more charismatic than Bruce. In TBB, he actually showed his charisma. In the beginning, Han Ying-Chieh choreographed the fight scenes. Hence, the audience could still see some traditional fighting stuff. But at the end, when Lee took full control, it was totally Bruce Lee’s unique style. When he fought, it would not take him half a day. He would create a very good atmosphere prior the fight and when he fought, he would beat the opponent within seconds. Firstly, he let the audience see that Asians can also have well-built bodies not just the Europeans and Americans. His body outlines and muscles made the audience convinced and believed in him, unlike those elderly Kung Fu masters in the old Chinese movies who were very old but their Kung Fu were still unbelievably superb. They were just like the “Arabian Nights.” Lee was not. When he kicked, there was gust of wind; when he punched and KO the opponents with how many punches, he all had the theory and logic to support his actions. People were totally convinced by his physique and stamina. Secondly, in the battle, he applied his simplicity’s theory. For instance, stay still if the opponent is static; Lee would look at the opponent’s steps because if the opponent were to attack, his legs must move. So, if the opponent moved, Lee would move faster and ahead of him. That was his theory of simplicity, directness and effectiveness.
Q8: Has Bruce Lee now become a GOD?
Ng: I personally think that he was more than just an actor. He was looked upon by many fans as an Asian icon. For instance, take the beating of the Japanese in FOF, this sort of nation’s insulting film, would definitely not be allowed to show in China. But in Japan, it was being shown, accepted and generated very good box-office record. This was the result of Bruce’s own charisma and real Kung Fu. He died young but left a very good image behind him. In our hearts, a hero like Bruce would forever be young, attractive and unbeatable in fighting. Hence, he had now become a legend and to some, a GOD maybe.
Q9: Could you tell us more about your first U.S production – “No Retreat, No Surrender”?
Ng: Oh yes. It did pretty well in the U.S. box-office. Corey Yuen was the director and I was the producer. It was made slightly more than a million U.S. dollars budget, in the U.S. The film talked about an American kid who loved martial arts but was not able to beat his opponents as he did not master the essence of the martial arts skills. He was a Bruce Lee’s fan and admirer. One day, the spirit of Lee (ghost) suddenly appeared in front of him and taught him some concepts about martial arts. Bruce’s spirit held a cup which was half filled with cola and said to him, “Only when you empty this cup, it’ll then be able to fill on new things completely.” I put Bruce’s concept into this movie and it performed well all over the world for almost 20 or 30 years. The last scene of that movie was shot at Bruce’s grave in Seattle cemetery. Bruce’s words which were inscribed on the black marble book – “Using No Way As Way, Having No Limitation As Limitation” were his famous philosophical quotes. I filmed all that. The kid was appreciative to Bruce and he went to his grave to pay his respect. I ordered the crew to secretly film that scene as the cemetery did not allow filming. So, we brought along 3 to 4 crews there and filmed it surreptitiously. It really had its value worth.
I believe I’m the first one who played Bruce’s ghost in a movie (note: in fact, Bruce Li and Bruce Liang had already made 2 movies about Bruce’s ghost in the 70s). You know there are still some movie companies who wanted to buy that idea from me, i.e. how Lee helped that kid by transforming him from a fragile kid to a strong person, not just physically but psychologically and mentally letting him learnt how to overcome obstacles. It is a very inspiring movie. This shows that Bruce has become the idol of world’s youth, especially to those who practice martial arts. Also, Bruce’s experience tells us that any problems can be solved. His life in the U.S. was not easy. When he failed to get the role he desired in a movie, he was utterly disappointed and finally returned to HK. HK gave him a platform to display his talent. Then the Americans came to look for him to make movies. If he had not died so young, he would surely play another 2 to 3 or even more classic movies.
Q10: What other significant contribution you have made for HK movie industry and Bruce Lee?
Ng: When I was the chairman of the HK film festival, I first suggested to the committee that we should build a Star Boulevard in HK just like the Hollywood’s Star Boulevard. I designed the whole thing but left the details to others to complete it. It has become a tourist attraction and a place that HK people are proud of. Nowadays, when I see so many tourists standing in front of the Bruce’s bronze statue to take pictures, I feel very happy and would tell my daughter, “I designed this, see, it’s packed with a huge crowd.”
Photos of Ng See-Yuen & his related BL’s projects: http://postimg.org/image/np7kpcs01/
Thanks LJF great interviews!! Nt - Leon on Jun 12, 2016, 10:07 AM
Ng See Yuen's movies - jkdragon on Jun 12, 2016, 3:35 PM
"4 times HK Batam-Weight Boxing Champion - Lau Tat-Chuan" - Shaolinguy on Jun 13, 2016, 5:19 PM