At 64, legendary Hong Kong action star Sammo Hung is still a force to be reckoned with in the action genre. Effortlessly agile, swift and flexible despite an expansive girth and a huge frame, Hung continues to command loads of respect as a classy martial arts icon of Chinese action cinema.
Since he made his film debut in 1961, Hung has churned out more than 230 movies, from the hardcore martial arts films of the 1970s and the action comedies of the 1980s, to the kung fu epics of the 1990s and modern action cinema of the new millennium.
This year, Hung is also back in the director’s chair for the first time in 19 years since his 1997 releases – Jackie Chan’s Mr Nice Guy and Jet Li’s Once Upon A Time In China And America.
Hung’s latest action flick is The Bodyguard, in which he plays a retired bodyguard who has settled in a remote corner of the world at the border where China, Russia and North Korea meet.
He meets a young girl (Chen Pei Yan) whose life is threatened when her gambling-addict father (played by Andy Lau) gets into trouble with the local crime underworld. Things take a turn for the worse, when the girl and her father disappear, forcing the bodyguard to call on his skills to find and protect them.
Apart from being the star, Hung also slips back easily into the roles of the film director and action choreographer in The Bodyguard. As a veteran filmmaker whose grandfather (Hung Chung Ho) was a film director and grandmother (Chin Tsi Ang) was Chinese martial arts cinema’s first female action star, Hung says he does not find it too difficult to balance his workload.
“I started taking on multiple roles when I was 27, ranging from a mix of scriptwriting, directing, acting, and I have been doing them for the past 20 to 30 years. I took a 10-year break in between, and now I’m just picking up where I left off. I find that taking on multiple roles isn’t that difficult. Even more so while shooting a good film!” responded Hung, whose is best known for his award-winning action choreography in recent martial arts movies like Ip Man (2008) and Ip Man 2 (2010).
In a recent email interview, Hung describes the character he plays as “someone who was part of the special forces when he was younger”.
“Due to an unexpected turn of events, he was relocated to the outskirts upon retirement. Circumstances cause him to once again put his special forces skills into good use, while he struggles with everyday life as he begins to suffer from Alzheimer’s.
“Though my character used to be part of the special forces, I didn’t focus on the experience of being a soldier. I instead chose to focus on his life after leaving the military – from how he would act, to how he would think and how he would try to cope with Alzheimer’s. We might not be talking about his military days, but we want to understand how the man copes with his circumstances, and the path he chooses to follow instead,” said the veteran actor.
Hung is also the action director for 2016 releases such as Aaron Kwok’s The Monkey King 2 and Benny Chan’s The Deadly Reclaim.
Another reason that is making movie fans excited are the star-studded supporting roles by multiple generations of top names and distinguished heavyweights in Chinese cinema. Among those making special appearances are Hong Kong’s Andy Lau (who replaced Jackie Chan, who pulled out due to his son Jaycee Chan’s drug scandal), Tsui Hark, Karl Maka, Dean Shek, Taiwan’s Eddie Peng and Jack Kao, China’s Hu Jun, Feng Shaofeng and Song Jia, as well as Hung’s childhood friends from the 7 Little Fortunes such as Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah, Yuen Qiu, Yuen Ting, and Yuen Po.
How did his friends react when he invited them to be part of the film? “I don’t actually know what they say about me behind my back! I think they have a degree of confidence in my film. They probably didn’t expect that I would invite them to be part of the film, and I’m very thankful to have such great friends that they showed up without hesitation. Shooting a film surrounded by good friends is a joy, and doesn’t come by often enough,” said Hung.
The Bodyguard opens April 1.