East Meets West:
Hong Kong Superstars Vol. 1 #7
In London! Exclusive Lo Mang Interview!
by Stuart Cutler
Stuart Cutler reports on the recent, and first UK visit of Shaw
Brothers legend, Lo Mang . . .
- Chris Ducker and I
were invited along to the set of Dru Hill's new music video for
their single "You Are Everything." So far, so good. The main reason
for us going, however, was because Robert "Don't Give a Damn"
Samuels, stunt co-ordinator for this project, had called up Chris
asking if the HKS would like to meet a Shaw Brothers legend in
the flesh. Naturally, all plans were dropped, and the next day,
your intrepid (and lucky!) reporters were off to West London to
hang with the Hill! For this video, Dru Hill were meant to be
playing a group of Vampires with superhuman strength and Kung
Fu skills. After getting Bobby Samuels on board along with his
partner in crime, Rick Hopkins, they in turn recommmended some
Hong Kong talent be brought in to add authenticity to the overall
effect. Enter Lo Mang, ex-Venom and Shaw Brothers favourite, as
Dru Hill's personal coach. Others such as Kwok Choy and 'Little
Jackie' were also here in a professional capacity, but didn't
have as much time on their hands in between shots to sit and chat.
Upon entering the prestigious Brown's night-club, we were
introduced to Sifu Mang by Bobby and Rick, and two things immediately
sprang to mind. One, he had hardly aged since those late 70's
classics. He still looked the same!
- Two, sitting down
dressed in a shining gold Kung Fu uniform, he looked every bit
the master of his domain. He rose to shake hands and offer his
thanks for our trip. As you can tell from the following interview
(conducted via an interpreter), he is a humble and highly respectful
man, and this, by the way, was his FIRST EVER interview outside
of Hong Kong. Do we get you the exclusives or what?!!
Stuart Cutler: So, what have you been up to since your days
working for Shaw Brothers?
Lo Mang: Mainly Chinese TV dramas for T.V.B., which is part of
the Shaw Brothers empire, because they are not making movies anymore.
I haven't left Shaws, just moved into a different side of their
business. I still make the odd movie appearances, too, for other
companies and independents, but these are aimed more at the family
audience and usually comedies rather than serious action dramas.
(At this point I have to state that Lo Mang is actually a very
funny guy in person, very relaxed and armed with a quick and ready
sense of humour.)
Stuart Cutler: Which of your own films is your personal favourite?
Lo Mang: "Five Venoms". I am very proud of this film.
Stuart Cutler: Who, of all the people you've worked with, do
you admire the most?
Lo Mang: All of them; they each have their own attributes that
Stuart Cutler: How is the current state of the Hong Kong film
industry, in your opinion?
Lo Mang: It is suffering because of the pirate VCD's. They are
so cheap to produce that they come out within the first week of
a film's release and kill the profit. However, to a certain degree,
they are also an advantage, as they are also seen in America and
overseas, which means more people get to see the film than would
normally happen with all the copyright laws.
Stuart Cutler: You are reknowned for your muscular physique.
Do you still train or practice regularly?
Lo Mang: I do not use weights. I practice Kung Fu every day to
stay in shape and go to the park where I flex the branches of
trees as a substitute for weights. I believe in training naturally
instead of letting weights turn me into a great big monster.
Stuart Cutler: Do you still keep in touch with any of the other
original Venom gang? If so, how are they and what are they doing
Lo Mang: Chiang Sheng passed away, Kwok Choy is working with me
on this project, and nobody knows where Sun Chien or Lu Feng are
or what they are doing. Nobody can find them.
Stuart Cutler: Is this the first music video you've worked
Lo Meng: Yes, it's the first either Chinese or Western music video
I've worked on. Chinese music videos are very rare, so this is
my first time.
Stuart Cutler: What's your role in this project?
Lo Mang: I'm here to train Dru Hill how to move in an East meets
West style, I'm not actually in the video itself. (Bobby Samuels
adds that after talking to the director, Lo Mang will be appearing
in the video.)
Stuart Cutler: What future projects do you currently have in
Lo Mang: I have a contract for five projects of which this is the
first, and also my mentor Chang Cheh wants
to make a film starring Andy Lau and myself. Andy Lau is one of
the big superstars in Hong Kong, so it would be a very big film.
Chang Cheh has been watching recent movies and he thinks they are
very poor, so even he is no longer physically mobile, he wants to
come out of retirement and set his spirit free on film.
Stuart Cutler: Are you aware of the avid cult following that
Shaw Brothers films attract in the West?
Lo Mang: I am aware of the following these movies have and I am
also honoured. I thank you for coming along to interview me to
let people know about me again, and to see what they've been missing!
Chris Ducker: of all the movies you've made, have you got any
good stories to tell?
Lo Mang: There were good times, there were bad times, but it's
the Five Venoms that I will always remember. As a group, we had
the best director/master to guide us along.
Stuart Cutler: Were you paid a standard performer's wage whilst
with Shaws like all the actors, or were you able to ask for a
Lo Mang: Chang Cheh was my manager as well as director and so
he paid each of us what he thought was a fair wage for our performances
and we respected him for that. Some got more than others, but
I wouldn't know any more about that. We could haggle if we wanted,
but I was more interested in the film than the wage.
Chris Ducker: Would you like to tell us how you got started
in the Martial Arts?
Lo Mang: I started when I was 13 and learnt new things and new
styles until I was 30 and have maintained that standard ever since
with my physique, my training and improving on the basics.
Chris Ducker: At what age did your big break come?
Lo Mang: 1978 with "The Five Venoms".
Stuart Cutler: Have you ever been doubled for stunts or acrobatics?
Lo Mang: I have always done everything myself. I've never needed
a double and I hope I never will. [This is something
Jackie Chan and Jet Li can't claim. -- Steven Feldman]
Stuart Cutler: Is there anyone left who you want to work with
on an action movie?
Lo Mang: Yes, Jackie Chan. I feel it would be a good combination
of styles as Jackie is very flexible and agile whereas I am more
rigid and use more force.
Stuart Cutler: Who do you prefer, Jackie or Jet?
Lo Mang: It's hard to say, as they are both very different and
have different qualities that audiences admire. Jackie is more
realistic, but Jet is very stylish. I don't really want to choose
between them, but if I had to, it would be Jackie.
Stuart Cutler: Do you keep your own films at home in a collection?
Lo Mang: No, because if I kept watching my old movies, I couldn't
make any new ones, as I would be too easily satisfied with what
I've already done. I feel I am as good now as I was then, and
I want to move on and improve, not just live in the past.
- As if to demonstrate
this exact quote, he then gladly performed an intense and ground
shaking display of techniques and forms, followed by a few poses
for the camera which you can see here. We sat and relaxed for
a few more hours and talked about anything and everything in the
good company of the U.S. and Hong Kong stunt group, and were invited
back to witness some filming at St. Albans Church in Teddington
Lock that weekend. When we returned on the Sunday, Dru Hill were
hard at it, filming a scene inside the church where they are being
preyed on by a group of female vampires. We watched the camera
crew setting up shots, the riggers setting up wires for an elaborate
"flying" sequence, Lo Mang prowling the set constantly performing
wrist strengthing exercises, and the band coming and going throughout
it all all occasionally stopping for a chat.
- We spent virtually
the entire day watching, learning, talking, eating and hanging
out with the stunt crew, and felt so much at home with them, that
at one point Chris and Sifu Mang had a private competition going
on, using a video game on Sifu Mang's mobile phone, whilst I was
trading Kung Fu film forms with Rick "Hong Kong Movie Buff" Hopkins.
- Later, when everyone
was at lunch, we all broke into song as Sifu Mang would often
walk around singing classic tunes from the sixties and seventies!
Anyone that was there on the set will never forget the howling
that was the Mang and Ducker duo screaming out the classic Motown
tune "Under the Boardwalk"!!
- He (Lo Mang) really
is a genuinely happy and humourous sort of guy. We went behind
closed doors to witness him teaching the band their moves and
they picked it up surprisingly quickly, especially Sisqo and Nokio.
And so ends our memorable meeting with a kung fu legend.
- I still haven't seen
the finished video yet, but I reckon it'll be a good one when
it gets released. Thanks to the entire stunt group for being so
welcoming, and Sifu Mang for being so inspiring. Long live the
© Hong Kong Superstars 1999