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Hong Kong legend Tony Leung required little-to-no direction for his scenes in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings because he made it a point to observe everything that occurred before the cameras were rolling.
In a profile on the iconic Asain actor published Tuesday in GQ, Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton marveled (no pun) at Leung’s preparation for his first starring role in an American film. On day one, Leung asked that his chair be placed near the camera. And he repeated the request every day, according to the profile.
“He would never be on his phone,” Cretton told GQ. “He would just come and sit all day, watching everything that we’re doing — what shot we’re setting up, what we’re doing with the stand-ins. And by the time it was ready to go, I’d literally have nothing to tell him. Initially, I’d be like, ‘Okay, here’s what we’re thinking,’ and he’d say, ‘Oh,’ very politely, ‘yeah, I know. I’ve been watching this whole time.’ ”
For one of his larger action scenes (which apparently did not make the final cut) Leung was so fantastic on the first take, Cretton was a bit flabbergasted, he told GQ. To producer Jonathan Schwartz the director said, “I don’t even know what to go tell him because we don’t have to do another take. There’s really no reason to.”
The award-winning Leung, an international superstar, rarely has played a villain, which is what made his Marvel character Wenwu, aka The Mandarin so intriguing to him, he told GQ.
“Frankly, I couldn’t imagine someone in the real world with superpowers,” he told the magazine. “But I can imagine someone like him who is an underdog, who is a failure of a father. On the one hand, he’s a bad father, but on the other, I just see him as someone who loves his family deeply. I don’t think he knows how to love himself.”
Leung explained how he drew from his personal life with his father to better understand the complexities of his Marvel character. “I didn’t know how to deal with people after my father left me,” he said. “When you’re a kid, everybody’s talking about their father, their family, how happy they are, how great their father is. I think from that time I stopped communicating with people. And I became very suppressed.”
Going to the cinema with his mother is where his worries would melt away and where he would be inspired to try acting years later.
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