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Kuo Chui Interview
From
Eastern Heroes Special Edition #5

KWOK CHOY (KUO CHUI - pronounced "quo choy" -- or "kwo choi.") Interview
by Toby Russell

Without doubt one of the most gifted performers working in Hong Kong
today would have to be Kwok Choy.  Whatever your preference -- modern day
fantasy, kung fu, Heroic Bloodshed, or even drama -- he has dished out
fine performances in the genre.  I managed to hook up with Kwok Choy in
October '95 in Hong Kong to get more insight into what makes this Venom
so deadly.  Read on for an Eastern Heroes exclusive interview . . .

Eastern Heroes: When were you born?
Kwok Choy: I was born on October 21st 1951, Year of the Rabbit.

EH: How did you lose your fingers?
KC: It was in 1964, I was working with some heavy machinery and I slipped
up and they got cut off.

EH: When did you begin your study in the martial arts?
KC: When I was fourteen my parents sent me to the Lu Kwan Peking Opera
school which was sponsored by the army.

EH: What did you learn there?
KC: Because I am of ethnic Taiwanese descent I studied Taiwanese Opera.
The basic training is the same as Peking Opera but the plays are sung in
Hokien dialect rather than Mandarin.  Also make-up and costume differ
slightly.

EH: What about martial arts?
KC: I learned what is called Northern Style, like Jackie Chan, which is a
combination of kicks, acrobatics and juggling.

EH: What about a combat art like Mantis?
KC: No, I've only ever learnt real martial arts on the movie sets of
people like Liu Chia Liang and Leung Ting.  Peking Opera or Northern
Style is the best basis for any martial art.  I can pick up any style
just by watching it for a few minutes.

EH: A lot of the other Venom boys like Cheng Tien Chee, Chiang Sheng and
Lu Feng studied opera; did you hang out with them in your opera years?

KC: Yes, Lu Feng and Tien Chee were in my school although they were
studying Peking Opera since they were of mainland Chinese descent, but
we lived under the same roof.  On weekends we used to go to Taipei Bridge
and hang out with the other opera kids from the other schools.  Everyone
who's in movies now used to go there: Lee Yi Min, Jack Long, Robert Tai,
Chu Ker, everyone.  We used to practice acrobatics and find out where
some shooting was going on so we could go and earn some pocket money.

EH: When did you break into movies?
KC: In the mid '70s I was doing some stunt work for Chang Cheh, who was
shooting a lot of pictures in Taiwan at the time with Fu Sheng.  We were
shooting a film with Fu Sheng called SHAOLIN AVENGERS (aka INVINCIBLE
KUNG FU BROTHERS) when the action director Liu Chia Liang told Chang
Cheh, "See that kid there, he has a lot of potential.  He's got a good
look and he's a good acrobat."  So Chang Cheh gave me my first big break
in his next film, MARCO POLO.  I played the light skill exponent.

EH: How did the Five Venoms team concept originate?
KC: We had been working with Chang Cheh for a number of films but only in
supporting roles, mostly to Fu Sheng or Lee Yi Min, so Chang Cheh devised
a script with the help of Leung Ting and Ngai Hong that would star us
five.  People were a bit reluctant at first since no big stars were in
the picture but Chang Cheh was a god at Shaw Brothers and the picture got
the green light, and it was a hit so he stuck with the formula for many
more films.

EH: Which is your personal favourite film?
KC: That would have to be SHAOLIN RESCUERS.  I got to show my whole
repertoire of techniques and I could do some zany acting as well.

EH: The end fight of that film is really long and intricate.  I notice
that in all the Venoms films the final confrontation is really between
yourself, Lu Feng and Chiang Sheng.  Why is this?

KC: Quite simply it's because we three are all Peking Opera trained so
our timing is better suited to each other.  Lo Meng and Sun Chien are
both great fighters and good actors but they can never perform the
number of moves per take that we three can do.

EH: On screen you seem to be very matey with Chiang Sheng.  Did this
friendship spill over to off screen as well?

KC: Yes, he was my best friend during our time at Shaw Brothers.  He was
like my brother, we used to do everything together.  We could do two man
fighting routines with over two hundred moves in them.  I was sad when
we disbanded in 1982.  I told him to stay in Hong Kong and work with me
but his wife wanted him to return to Taiwan, and from there he really
went downhill.  He wasn't getting the movie roles like at Shaw Brothers.
This made him sad, he divorced from his wife and he started to drink
heavily, and he eventually died of a heart attack but I think it was more
of a broken heart.  It was very sad, you know he lay dead for three days
before anyone knew.

EH: I heard your relationship with Lu Feng was not so good.
KC: No, that's not true, but there was a time shortly after REBEL
INTRUDERS that me and Lu Feng fell out.  It was over who would be the
main choreographer on TWO CHAMPIONS OF SHAOLIN.  I got so mad that I
didn't appear in the picture.  It was funny because to make things smooth
Chang Cheh dropped Lu Feng from the next film, ODE TO GALLANTRY, to even
things out.  We patched things up after that.

EH: What happened after the disbanding of the Venoms?
KC: Well originally I left with the rest of them back to Taiwan, where I
directed and starred in a film called NINJA IN THE DEADLY TRAP.  It was
an exhausting experience and I didn't care much for directing and I
missed Hong Kong and Shaw Brothers so I left Lu Feng and Chiang Sheng in
Taiwan and headed back for Shaw Brothers.  I made a few films there until
the studio closed in 1984.

EH: What did you do then?
KC: I worked as a freelance choreographer, mostly at TVB.  Sometimes the
odd feature.  Whatever came along.

EH: You had a supporting part in THE BIG HEAT, very different from your
Shaw Brothers characters.

KC: Yeah, that was a good film.  I love acting any role, it doesn't
matter.

EH: Tell us how you landed the part of Mad Dog in HARD BOILED.
KC: Well originally I was only supposed to have a small role in the film
but the lead bad guy Anthony Wong wasn't too hot at handling firearms and
he couldn't do any of the dangerous stunts like running through fire and
glass.  So John gave all his action over to my character.

EH: What's it like working with John Woo?
KC: He's a very good director.  We both have the same teacher.  I first
started working with John when he asked me to be stunt coordinator on
ONCE A THIEF.  He liked my work on that and called me back for HARD
BOILED.

EH: Is it true that he wanted you to work on HARD TARGET?
KC: Yes, I was all scheduled to go and be his stunt coordinator but there
was a problem with the stunt union saying that as I was a non union man I
couldn't work on the picture.

EH: Their loss.  I was told you were asked to play a similar character to
Mad Dog on the new James Bond picture GOLDENEYE.

KC: That's right.  I got this call and I couldn't understand it since I
can't speak any English.  The only words I could decipher were 'James
Bond 007'.  I thought they wanted me to play Bond so I had an English guy
ring up the 007 production office and they told him that the director had
seen HARD BOILED and really wanted me to play one of Bond's nemeses in
the new movie.  I was honoured to be chosen but I declined the role since
I couldn't speak English and communication would have been impossible.

EH: I was told by Mike Leeder that you were originally in POLICE STORY 3,
and choreographing as well.

KC: True, I was, but I walked off the picture after a punch up with
Stanley Tong.  I was getting pissed off with them, all this great footage
I was getting wasn't being used so I said what's the point of this
exercise, and walked off.

EH: That must have been great stuff, you and Jackie Chan fighting.
KC: Yeah, he's like me, he can do anything.

EH: What other stuff have you done recently?
KC: THE CAT, which I was in, which was terrible, ZEN OF SWORD, and THE
BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR.

EH: So who is your movie idol?
KC: Charles Bronson.

EH: Which type of movie do you most like to make?
KC: Mun Chor (this means Republic Period, 1920's).  This genre gives me
the most scope for acting and fighting.

EH: What about a remake of the FIVE VENOMS?
KC: Great idea.  I'd love to do that but nowadays the audience is very
young and you need to have some singing stars or well known actors to
open the film.  Kung fu actors are nearly all finished except for Jackie
Chan and Jet Li.

EH: What are you doing at the moment?
KC: I'm choreographing at ATV. (conversation interrupted by Rainer Czech)

Rainer: Ask him what car he drives. (Toby translates)
KC: Toyota Celeca.

Rainer: Mmmm, good!  So, let's take some photos.
EH: Good idea





 

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