It took director Richard Linklater more than a decade to complete the filming of Boyhood, a coming-of-age drama that was finally released late last year. Linklater came up with a novel approach: shooting in short instalments over 12 consecutive years. Ellar Coltrane played the maturing boy, with the cast reuniting to shoot scenes for a few days every 12 months.
Linklater’s unorthodox approach may strike a chord with Wong Kar-wai. The Hong Kong-based director also works to his own rhythms (usually very slow ones). As WiC reported in issue 175, it took Wong 10 years to complete his last feature The Grandmaster (2013). Similarly, 2046 (made in 2004) suffered from so many delays that the studio was worried that it wouldn’t be completed until the year of its title. Actors who have worked on projects with Wong have also complained that he rarely gave them scripts. Instead, scenes are written on set as he seeks inspiration from one day to the next.
Given Wong’s unpredictable timekeeping, it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that his debut message online was a little tardy too. “Hello everyone, Happy New Year in 2015. I am very happy to meet with you on weibo,” he announced.
Even though his felicitation was a few weeks late, Wong’s simple message, his first since joining Sina Weibo in 2008, received over 22,000 ‘likes’ and generated thousands of responses from his fans. Overnight he added over 100,000 followers on his weibo account.
“I will never forget the day January 13, 2015. From this day on, you (Wong) and I are friends. You can’t change it because it is now a fact. I will come back tomorrow,” one admirer gushed.
“With your tendency for procrastination, the next time you post another message Weibo may have been closed down already,” a more concerned fan responded.
But surprisingly, Wong’s fans didn’t have to wait so long for his next post. The very next day Wong initiated a live chat on weibo, during which they could send in questions.
Southern Metropolis Daily reckons the art-house director answered 25 queries in just 65 minutes.
Like his films, Wong’s answers were often lyrical and hard to fathom. One fan asks which of Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung was his favourite actor. Wong replied: “The night should be spent getting drunk. Drunken snow at night has a different taste. To be able to encounter is my luck.”
Wong’s sudden awakening on weibo is probably an effort to drum up interest in The Ferryman. Last week, Alibaba Pictures, the film studio owned by the e-commerce giant, announced that Wong will produce the film, the first to be released by the studio since it was established last year. Based on one of the most popular tales from Zhang Jiajia’s I Belonged to You – a collection of short stories – it is expected to premiere at the end of the year.
Zhang’s collection of stories has garnered over 4 billion views online since it was first released in July 2013. The book, which was published at the end of that year, also went on to sell more than 2 million copies within six months, says the Global Times. This helped the author top the rankings last year in the annual list known as China’s Richest Writers.
The Ferryman is considered one of the most dramatic stories in the collection, telling the tale of a young girl named Xiao Yu who has an unrequited crush on a middle-aged artist in Changchun. Heavily rumoured to play Xiao Yu is Zhang’s real-life girlfriend, the actress Wang Luodan.
Wong’s long-time collaborator Tony Leung, will play the lead male role.
Zhang, meanwhile, will write the screenplay and also direct the film with the help of Wong. He is now the third writer-turned-director getting national prominence, following in the footsteps of Guo Jingming (of the Tiny Times franchise) and Han Han (who made The Continent). Similarly, another writer called Luoluo announced this week that she will direct the film Queen Stain, based on her own book of the same title, starring Shu Qi in the lead role.
Wong says that being a writer will actually help Zhang’s directing. “Even though Zhang Jiajia is not a film school graduate, he has been a screenwriter and is really good at telling stories. In my experience, only he can give the film the best narrative,” Wong told Kaifeng Evening News.
“Of course, I will make sure he doesn’t fall behind the production schedule,” he added, jokingly.
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