Dialogue: Josie Ho
EmptyHONG KONG -- Screening in competition at Sundance, Kenneth Bi's "The Drummer" stars Josie Ho, daughter of billionaire gambling mogul Stanley Ho. It's the first Hong Kong film to make it to Park City, and is a chance for the audience there a chance to view cinema outside the typical Hong Kong gangster-comedy-art house troika embodied by directors Johnnie To ("Exiled"), Stephen Chow ("Kung Fu Hustle") and Wong Kar-wai ("My Blueberry Nights"). Ho followed her dream into the world of singing, then acting from an early age. After a slew of bit parts playing bad girls, Ho shined in "Exiled" and later found herself on Forbes list of "20 Most Intriguing Billionaire Heiresses" after gaining attention through such antics as calling Chinese film industry execs "cock-faces" on her blog. Ho was too busy working to get to Sundance but took time to chat with The Hollywood Reporter's Saul Symonds in her trendy cafe in Hong Kong's Causeway Bay.
The Hollywood Reporter: What attracted you to "The Drummer"?
Josie Ho: What fascinated me about the whole concept of "The Drummer" was that someone could write a story out of these musicians. When I first heard the story from the director, he was so enthusiastic telling me what these bands where about and that kind of interested me.
THR: What about your particular role attracted you?
Ho: I always seem to have been approached to play bad girls or negative roles with twisted morals, and suddenly here was such a positive vibe. I guess it was the character's positive vibe that attracted me, because no one asked me to do such roles before. She's a rebel with a cause, and it's a whole different mindset.
THR: How do you feel about "Drummer" being the first Hong Kong production to compete at Sundance?
Ho: I feel very proud that they invited me to do this role, and I think it will inspire many filmmakers in Hong Kong, including myself.
THR: What is Bi's directing like compared to other directors with whom you've worked, such as Johnnie To?
Ho: Bi is very different from To, who directs in the opposite way. Johnnie doesn't like to show you a script and he wants you to jam with him, whereas Bi has a full script and is very precise about what he wants you to do, about the personality of the character. The biggest difference between Bi and all the other directors I've met in town in that he has no temper at all, you can't piss him off.
THR: Who has the worst temper?
Ho: Johnnie! I like to play little mind games with him as much as he likes to play mind games with all of us, he gives you no clue.
THR: What was it like working with Leung Ka-fai (who plays her father) in "The Drummer"?
Ho: Leung Ka-fai is a very kind person, he has a lot of patience and is willing to teach. He's more organized than the director. I'm really glad that we had him rather than someone else. We have a lot of good actors in Hong Kong but not everyone is willing to teach, and some get angry when you can't do certain things and will just yell at you.
THR: "Drummer" is not a typical gangster film is it?
Ho: I think it's a film that will suit everyone, a big family film that people would go to watch during Christmas. It's a very ethnic concept and it's not brutal or violent or very stylish, but I think it's genuine enough for everyone to come in and see because it's heartwarming and leaves you with a bit of thought. Chinese film is pretty limited to gangster films and local comedy but this is neither.
THR: What attracted you to acting in the first place?
Ho: I was only into singing when I was a teenager and then my dream came true and I became a singer. One day, I bumped into a director friend of mine who was shooting a volleyball movie, I had been a volleyball player in high school and he needed people to help out. After I worked behind the camera I got the feeling that I liked to perform, rather than just singing. And you get more chance to perform behind the camera, rather than on stage.
THR: Hong Kong cinema is very male-dominated. How do you find strong starring roles?
Ho: You either become very passive and wait for the right script -- and that could take years and years -- or you take the initiative, which is what I'm going to do. I don't think it's because there's better male than female actors, it's just that Hong Kong is a very male-dominated world. But I think there will be a revolution here because people will get bored of watching just one thing.
THR: Would you look overseas for roles?
Ho: I would do anything that's good, and I've been slowly receiving some scripts over there, going to casting. If we want better female roles faster we have to try abroad.
THR: What's your dream role?
Ho: Psychotic bitch! (laughs)