In his sixth collaboration with director Wong Kar-wai, Tony Leung plays Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, most famous in the West for training Bruce Lee.
by Ada Tseng
Tony Leung has shaved his head for the summer. Why? “It’s hot,” he says. A reporter asks if it’s for a new role, and he shakes his head. After four years of training and shooting Wong Kar-wai’s latest film, The Grandmaster, Leung wants a vacation.
The Grandmaster opens in New York and Los Angeles today, August 23, and it will expand nationwide next week. The film, which premiered to box office success in China back in January, stars Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Song Hye-kyo and Cung Le. But it’s Leung who carries the film as the titular character Ip Man, a martial artist who didn’t have to work until he was 40 and then saw his world turned upside down during the Sino-Japanese War. Exiled to Hong Kong, he would eventually begin teaching Wing Chun and establish his legacy.
Wong Kar-wai wanted Leung to create a character that combined Ip Man and his most famous student, Bruce Lee. “These two people are connected,” explains Leung. “We don’t have any information about Ip Man before he settled down in Hong Kong, and no one knew how he lived his life in China, so why not have Ip Man be a young, charismatic Bruce Lee? A very playful, confident Bruce Lee. So that’s how I merged Bruce Lee into the life of Ip Man before he settled down in Hong Kong.”
A week before the American release, Tony Leung was at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills talking to journalists about his latest film.