'I'll Keep Doing Whatever I Think is Entertaining'
Web-only interview with Taiwanese rocker Wu Bai
By STEPHEN SHORT
October 24, 2000
Web posted at 3:30 p.m. Hong Kong time, 3:30 a.m. EDT
Asia's Storymaster: Hong Kong director Tsui Hark encapsulates two decades worth of technique and worldview into Time and Tide
'You Have to Touch People with Film': Q&A with Tsui Hark from the TIMEasia.com archives
Taiwanese rock star Wu Bai landed his first lead film role in director Tsui Hark's gangster flick 'Time and Tide' -- and steals the show with his performance. The rocker talks with TIME Asia entertainment reporter Stephen Short. Edited excerpts:
TIME: What was it like working with Tsui Hark?
Bai: Three months of getting up at 4 a.m., then finally getting home about 4 a.m....It was tough.
TIME: How did he discover you?
Bai: He saw a previous film of mine [The Personals] and thought I couldn't act in it, but it left him with a very strong impression. We'd never met before. When we did meet, he was very friendly and very strange, in a good way. I think he's a very serious man.
TIME: So what were you up to when he contacted you?
Bai: I was recording my last album, White Dove, and doing some post-production stuff. I flew to Hong Kong to meet him, and simultaneously I had to release the album, go touring, and start filming.
Bai: The script was already in place, but when Tsui began talking to me, he began to change it. He made the character more like me. I have little acting experience so I just did things my own way. But he definitely got the best out of me.
TIME: What does "more like me" mean? What is the Wu Bai persona?
Bai: Lonely. Sad. Mysterious. Dark. I like my songs, my acting, to be downbeat. That's my style.
TIME: What was the hardest scene you had to act in this film?
Bai: It was when I had to talk to my wife. It was like talking stone to stone, not like husband and wife. Tsui Hark cut many scenes because he didn't like the acting. He thought it was too repressed, so he ended up with just a long single shot of my eyes. It was very simple, and was meant to show the relationship between my wife and I, and that I love her very much.
TIME: What was working with Nick Tse like?
Bai: He is very cool when he works. He sleeps when he's not doing anything on camera and just gets up and does his scenes very quickly. I don't know how he does that. He has such talent. He reads the script...then sleeps, then shoots. It was an educational experience for me.
TIME: And what did you learn from Tsui Hark?
Bai: He's wild. I feel that with him I have a lot of space to move. He makes me think I can accomplish more things. He's fantastic in that way. But when he was making the movie, the process was chaotic. Fortunately that was O.K. with me because it's just like my music.
TIME: What was the last concert you saw?
Bai: Sting. It was a long time ago, about four years. I'm too busy doing my own stuff to watch others in concert but sometimes I'm the warm-up act for people. I'd like to do a tour in mainland China. They know me there [because] lots of my CD's are pirated [there]. I'd probably go to Shanghai, Beijing, Xian, Guangdong.
TIME: What's the audience reaction like in different parts of Asia?
Bai: I think the craziest audience is mainland Chinese, because I come from far away, and they've only seen me on TV. In Taiwan audiences have passion. Hong Kong audiences just clap. It's all very polite. Everyone is dressed well and they all behave very well. I think people in Hong Kong are just not used to music with such power. It's fine in the West, but not here.
TIME: Does it matter that I don't understand the Chinese message in your songs?
Bai: I don't think so. It's all entertainment. My music is crazy, and it's what I care about. I used to listen to a lot of '70s rock -- Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix etc. So I was surprised when I picked up a guitar. I thought, 'My god, I'm Chinese and I'm picking up a guitar.' I was 19 when I got my first guitar. Anyway the guitar is just a tool. Writing songs is the most difficult part.
TIME: Do you write love songs?
Bai: Writing love songs is the easiest way to make contact with an audience. I'll keep doing whatever I think is entertaining.
TIME: What are you doing right now?
Bai: I'm helping [actress and singer] Karen Mok. I've produced a single of hers and now we're working on an album.
TIME: What do you like about Mok?
Bai: She's sexy and healthy. She smiles and sunshine comes out of her. But I want to give her more attitude, more twist.
TIME: Have you had more offers since 'Time and Tide?'
Bai: I've received some scripts but I don't like them. I like to [play] a killer, a professional killer. [Bai plays a hit man in 'Time and Tide.'] There are crazy killers, romantic killers...
TIME: Are you a romantic killer in real life? Do girls go nuts for you?
Bai: What can I say. Maybe.
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