Kung Fu Jungle

A Dose of Suspense, Mystery and Kung Fu at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Starring iconic action super star Donnie Yen, and directed by Teddy Chen, the world premiere of Kung Fu Jungle (Yi Ge Ren de Wu Lin) was shown as a new addition to the official Thrill section of the 58th BFI London Film Festival at Empire Leicester Square Cinema.

The electrifying film follows the story of Hahou (Donnie Yen), a former martial arts instructor imprisoned after accidentally slaying an opponent. Hahou helps the police to catch vicious killer Fung (Wang Baoqiang), in return for his freedom. Suspense builds as Hahou realises he will have to go against the martial code in order to uphold it.

We had the chance to chat with actor and actress Donnie Yen and Michelle Bai, and director Teddy Chen:

The Plus: You’ve turned down a few big blockbuster movies, what made you chose to do Kun Fu Jungle?
Donnie Yen:
We all have choices, and as an actor we try to take advantage of every opportunity. Sometimes you’ve just got to make choices that are from the heart. I turn films down for various reasons, not always from a business point of view. Just having that feeling of wanting to do a project.

TP: So why this film in particular?
I know Teddy, he is a good friend- we did a movie together five years ago. When he told me about the story, I thought it was a really refreshing idea to combine Kung Fu, with a Mystery and Suspense, and its something that I’ve never done before, so I thought, why not. I spent a lot of time thinking, how can I action direct my colleagues. That was the most motivating element of me wanting to do this film, action directing Wang Baoqiang.

TP: What’s the most memorable scene for you in the film?
The ending scene, we shot that scene, in the beginning of the process. The movie was built around the finale of these two people meeting. As you know Wang Baoqiang is a very famous as a comedic actor in China, he’s not know to do action movies, so it was quite challenging and daring for him to take this role, and for me to take the responsibility of trying to make that scene work. I believe that scene worked.

TP: How do you see the future of Kung Fu in Hong Kung going?
I think Kung Fu was a mystery decades ago, it was something we looked at as a novelty, like food. We may have less people in Hong Kung practising Kung fu, but I think the audience understands Kung Fu a lot more. Everybody knows what Kung Fu is. I feel Kung Fu as a common ingredient in any action movie is just going to get better.

TP: You fight in this movie, do you have previous martial arts training?
Bai Bing:
I have absolutely no martial art training at all, and this is the first time I’ve done proper martial arts.

TP: Would you like to do more martial arts films in the future?
I’m willing to try everything and everything, as long as its a good script and a good story comes along. To be quite honest, this martial arts film has been quite tough on me and it’s hard work.

TP: How did you prepare for it?
I spent 2-3 months training, mainly training for the sword-fight scenes. For me it was physically tiring, and involved a lot of physical training, to boost up my strength. In that two months I did nothing but practising sword work.

TP: How long did it take to shoot the fight with Wang Baoqiang?
That took roughly three days to do. And it was particularly difficult because the weather was so hot and humid in Hong Kong. And that scene was shot in a makeshift metal thing. Within half an hour we’d get heat stroke, it was so hot and humid in there.
I’ve got a scar, where part of my skin got scraped off. And also I got a minor fracture in my ankles. But compared with Donny Yen that’s nothing. Donny Yen has suffered so many injuries.

TP: Who would you love to work with, in China or anywhere in the world?
I never even dreamed this film would come to London, so now I feel like anything is possible. I’d love to work with Angelina Jolie.

TP: The name was originally The Best of the last, and has had several names- why did you settle on Kong Fu Jungle?
Teddy Chen: Fist of all, Donnie and I didn’t like The Last of the Best. We thought it was too soft. Then it was Kong Fu killer, which is very straight and to the point, but we aren’t allowed to use the word Killer, we would have been censored as its too violent.

TP: Wang Baoqiang is known for his comedy roles, what was the story behind choosing him for this role?
TC: I was looking for a new face. I first saw Wang Baoqiang 10 years ago, he had a new movie out. I spoke to him at the film premier. He told me he knew Kong Fu, and he starts every morning by practicing Kong Fu. In my mind I was thinking ‘he’s a comedy actor’.
After 10 years, I met him again. I asked him how his Kong fu was doing, he said he might give up because people prefer him in comedy films. So I showed him the script, and he liked it. He said ‘This is my last chance to show people I can fight.’

TP: Have you got any plans to continue doing action films like this?
TC: I have two choices. I want to make a short Chinese film set in the 1890s, in Hong Kung. Secondly I want to do some comedy. I have a very good writer in China who has a very good and touching story. Do you remember when Tom Hanks made a movie in the airport? It’ll be something like that.