Legendary Director Wong Kar Wai was born in Shanghai and moved to Hong Kong with his parents when he was five. He joined the film industry as a scriptwriter and became a film director in 1989. He soon established himself as an extraordinary talent.“Sometimes the tangible distance between two persons can be quite small but the emotional one can be miles.
My Blueberry Nights is a look at those distances, from various angles.
I wanted to explore these expanses, both figuratively and literally, and the lengths it takes to overcome them.”
– Wong Kar Wai
Legendary Director Wong Kar Wai was born in Shanghai and moved to Hong Kong with his parents when he was five. He joined the film industry as a scriptwriter and became a film director in 1989. He soon established himself as an extraordinary talent.
His first film, As Tears Go By was screened as part of the “Critics Week at the 1989 Cannes International Film Festival. His second film, Days of Being Wild was set in a vividly imagined 1960s. This film featured several of Hong Kong’s popular young stars of the time and won five Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Film and Best Director.
In his film Ashes of Time, Director Wong went against all the standards of the genre to successfully make a period martial arts drama shot in remote regions in China. During post-production of Ashes of Time, Wong created Chungking Express, which later became a cult hit in many countries. His next film Fallen Angels soon follow continuing some of the themes which he started in Chungking Express.
In 1997, his film Happy Together premiered at Cannes and won the festival’s Best Director Award. In 2000, In the Mood for Love also premiere at Cannes and won the Best Actor award for Tony Leung. And let’s not forgot the film 2046 which followed the life of Tony Leung’s character Chow Mo-wen from In the Mood for Love.
Wong also shot a few short films, including a BMW online project, The Hire, as part of a series commissioned by the car company from directors like Ang Lee, John Woo and John Frankenheimer. He worked on DJ Shadow’s music video Six Days and he directed one part of the film Eros.
His segment starred Gong Li and Chang Chen.
In May 2006, Wong serves as the President of the Jury at the 59th Cannes Film Festival. A month later, he began shooting his first English-language film My Blueberry Nights throughout the Unites States of America.
Wong Kar Wai’s films are so distinct in cinematographic excellence that his films are studied at the top film schools all over the world. His latest film My Blueberry Nights is his first English film.
We had an opportunity to ask Director Wong a few film questions and some personal questions that show a different side to the “mysterious” director. Read on to find out more.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with people who appreciate my method of filmmaking. I also warn everyone in advance.
ASIANCE: I hear that you don’t really work with scripts – is that true. If so, how and when does a story come to you? During the shoot, editing? Do you start with a story or feeling that you want to evoke in your mind, then create the story through improvisation or is there another method you go about?
Wong Kar Wai: I began my career as a screenwriter, so I have a high regard for the writing process. However, as a director, I can’t help but be intrigued by the details and nuances that filmmaking brings to the written word. I guess you can say I write my scripts with sounds and images.
ASIANCE: Are there any reasons not to have a complete script before you start shooting?
Wong Kar Wai: Unlike a novel, a screenplay is not a final product. It still needs to be visualized by images and performances. I also don’t like limiting my actors or myself with a script that’s written in stone. I prefer to work organically.
ASIANCE: Do you think that having a complete story or at least a certain structure of a story is a better way to make a film?
Wong Kar Wai: I don’t believe there is a definitive way to make a film. It depends on the director, actors and the type of story you want to tell.
ASIANCE: Since you didn’t use a script for My Blueberry Nights where did you pull the “emotional distance” between the characters from?
Wong Kar Wai: We did have a script for My Blueberry Nights before shooting, it was sort of a framework for the film. Inevitably, we made a lot of changes during the shoot as is often the case. I believe the combination of talent and trust among the cast and crew allowed for magic to happen on the set.
Click here to see the My Blueberry Nights trailer
ASIANCE: Why did you cast Norah Jones? Especially since she never acted before and you didn’t want her to take acting lessons?
Wong Kar Wai: When I first met Norah, I was immediately impressed by her confidence and spontaneity. I wanted to capture her natural charm and spirit in My Blueberry Nights. I advised her not to take acting lessons simply because I didn’t think she needed them. Besides, since our film went into production fairly quickly, I doubt she would have had much time to learn anything beyond a couple of breathing exercises.
ASIANCE: What do you want audiences to take away when they leave My Blueberry Nights?
Wong Kar Wai: I hope they’ll see pieces of themselves among the different characters and situations.
ASIANCE: How do you deal with other people like actors, producers, crew when they don’t fully trust your way of filmmaking? Simply what do you do when they don’t trust you, they have doubts?
Wong Kar Wai: I’ve been lucky enough to work with people who appreciate my method of filmmaking. I also warn everyone in advance.
ASIANCE: Gives us 3 words to describe Norah Jones?
Wong Kar Wai: Talented. Talented. Talented.
ASIANCE: Is there a major difference working with Asian actors as opposed to western actors?
Wong Kar Wai: The only difference is the languages they speak.
Click to watch Wong Kar Wai, Norah Jones and Jude Law promote My Blueberry Nights at Cannes
ASIANCE: Is there a major difference working in the United States opposed to Asia?
Wong Kar Wai: More or less the same. Except in America, I was constantly reminded by my producer to break for lunch on time.
ASIANCE: What actors/actresses that you haven’t worked with would you like to work with in the future?
Wong Kar Wai: There are too many to name.
ASIANCE: Why do you make films?
Wong Kar Wai: It allows me to travel – “ not only through space, but also time.
ASIANCE: Do you have any plans to use other mediums to express than film? For example, animation, play, or even shooting digital video instead of film?
Wong Kar Wai: Not at the moment.
ASIANCE: How do you think you differ from other directors?
Wong Kar Wai: I couldn’t really tell you. That’s probably a question for the actors I’ve worked with.
ASIANCE: How do you get a budget or a fund for your film?
Wong Kar Wai: That’s why God created producers.
ASIANCE: What kind of films do you see yourself making in 20 years?
Wong Kar Wai: If I already knew, I wouldn’t wait 20 years to make them.
ASIANCE: What was the best meal you ever had?
Wong Kar Wai: Anything cooked by my mom.
ASIANCE: Will you ever cast Asian-Americans in your films?
Wong Kar Wai: Didn’t I do that with Norah?
ASIANCE: Do you know that your short film for “Eros” is one of the most perfect films ever made?
Wong Kar Wai: Thanks, but that’s just a rumor.
ASIANCE: What’s your favorite time of day?
Wong Kar Wai: That depends if night is considered a time of day.
ASIANCE: Where was the most nostalgic place you ever visited?
Wong Kar Wai: A bar in Ushuaia, Argentina. People call it “the bar at the end of the world”
ASIANCE: Do you cry at least once a year? What was the silliest thing you ever cried about in your adult life?
Wong Kar Wai:I don’t keep track of those things. I’d find it a little disturbing if I did.
My Blueberry Nights opens in New York City April 4th
Thanks to the Asian American Film Lab for your questions! www.aafl.org