A fistful of challenges

A fistful of challenges

Interview conducted via email in August 2009.

After making his directional debut in "Seed Of Darkness," an atmospheric horror that was released in 2006, Malaysian filmmaker Michael Chuah Ghiap Hun has snapped up the opportunity to direct a martial arts film called "Fist Of Dragon." Not only directing it, he also plays the lead role! Fate had its means as Chuah is a seasoned martial arts practitioner who started training at the age of nine and was a state representative in KL Wushu. "Fist Of Dragon" tells the story of a man named Li (Chuah), who travels from China to a small town in Malaysia to help his financially-imperilled uncle. Li discovers that his uncle is in trouble with local mobsters. When he decides to teach them a lesson, Li incurs the wrath of the triads who threaten the entire town. The film will be set in Malacca and China, and is scheduled to release in China, Singapore and Malaysia in March 2010.

Michael began his martial arts training since he was nine years old!

Do share with us your inspiration behind "Fist Of Dragon."
When I was younger, I love action films. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li were my childhood heroes. They have always made films that portray a very heroic character amid a simple storyline. I can still recall looking forward to Chinese New Year during the 1990s as there is always such by Jackie Chan or Jet Li. Nowadays those movies are getting fewer, therefore I wanted to make a film that I'd like to watch such as those back in the 80s and 90s.

What is the background setting for this movie?
The movie is set in a small town in the current year. There are people who live a life of simplicity in the town, and there are those who are total opposites.

How would you best describe your version of martial arts in "Fist Of Dragon"?
Our version of martial arts is based more on the southern kind of wushu, where there are more hand and fist choreography compared to kicks.

Why did you decide to take up an acting role?
It was suggested by my producer to take up the role when the actor pulled out at the last moment. I decided to take up the role as we have a very limited time left before the film starts, since I also spent a lot of time rehearsing and training with the actors. Hopefully the number of years I spent in martial art training would have been put to good use in the film.

Michael (right) battling it out during his fight scene in Malacca.

What was the hardest obstacle you had to face so far and how did you overcome it?
The hardest obstacle was allocating my time for the physical training and rehearsal that is required for an actor, and at the same time, working on the film's pre-production. Being a director is very hectic, what more taking up the lead role? Taking up both roles is very tough for me, but I did have a lot of help and support from my team along the way.

What is the biggest scene from "Fist Of Dragon" you look forward to filming (or have filmed it already)?
The biggest scene was a scene with hundreds of extras. It's definitely one of the biggest fight scenes in the movie. It has been shot partially and we'll complete the scene during our next shoot in China.

After Malacca, which part of China will you be heading to in September?
We'll be heading to Tianjin.

Hong Kong blockbuster "Ip Man" was a big hit in the box office and the sequel is scheduled to release mid-2010. Aside from that, Bruce Lee's new biopic film was announced to release late 2010. How do you feel about these upcoming films? Perhaps, would you like to do a biopic in future or just stay close to fictional stories?
As an audience, I am definitely looking forward to such movies as I'm really into martial art films. At the moment, we'll stay close to fictional stories, but it may change if new opportunity exists.

"Fist Of Dragon" has more hand/fist than leg movements.

Who is your favourite martial artist in the filming industry?
I do not have one, but a few. My idol includes Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. And most recently, Donnie Yen!

What do you want to achieve through this movie?
I am very inspired by people like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan and the movies they made so far. Since young, I've always wanted to be involved in martial art films. I hope that I can continue to make more of them in future and hopefully will have the opportunity to work with some of my idols if our film is successful.

Thank you for your time Michael!
Thanks! Keep in touch.