Last week, when I posted about Gemma Chan, The First Eternal, I wrote that it was thrilling to me that the MCU’s next two movies, expected to be blockbusters, were led by two East Asian performers. While Marvel’s Eternals, premiering in November, is an ensemble, Kevin Feige said that if there was a lead in the film, it’s Gemma. And then, of course, there’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, starring Simu Liu.
What I didn’t consciously realise, though, until I saw these pictures from the Shang-Chi premiere the other night, was that in addition to releasing two back-to-back movies with East Asian leads, both are also directed by directors of East Asian descent. Chloe Zhao, the reigning Oscar Best Director, directs Eternals and Destin Daniel Cretton directs Shang-Chi. Seeing them side-by-side on a night like this was thrilling.
But while Chloe showed up to support Destin and Shang-Chi, many of us were also hoping to see Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung, both of whom who were not in Hollywood on Monday night. Michelle has been booked and busy for the last several years on projects in the west, though, so she’s been much more accessible. It’s Tony Leung who is elusive, just like his character, The Mandarin.
Shang-Chi is Tony Leung’s first western project. But even though the mainstream western audience may not be familiar with him, in the film community, he’s a f-cking rock star. The fact that he accepted the role added a lot of gravitas to this movie. Because as he’s said in the past:
“I have many more choices on the character I can play (in Hong Kong). The role for Asian actors and actresses is very restrictive in Hollywood movies. They already have a lot of great actors and actresses, I have no idea why they need to write scripts for Chinese actors. I will have more space in Asia and I know my culture very well. I know everybody might have his reason for going to Hollywood; you want to be more famous, you want to make more money. You might have your reason, but I can’t find a reason for myself to go to Hollywood.
I don’t think I need to establish any career there. I want to share my movies with all the people around the world, some things that belong to my culture, my country. So I haven’t found a reason, but if there’s a right script or right character or interesting director, of course if you say “Scorsese wants to do a movie with you”, then why not! It would be a very good experience for me as an actor, but not just sitting there waiting for chances to make some Hollywood movies. For myself, I love acting, because I do movies for movies’ sake. From the first day I don’t do it for fame or money. I enjoy the process of making movies and acting, but not for fame or money, that doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Tony Leung didn’t say yes to Marvel because it’s Marvel. He said yes to Marvel because he thought he could get into The Mandarin, and clearly because the story met his desire to “share my movies with all the people around the world, some things that belong to my culture, my country”. I saw Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings yesterday. Reviews are embargoed until next week so I can’t say much yet, but I can tell you that Tony Leung is the best.
You will not be able to take your eyes off him. He is as committed to this performance as he is to his performances in his films with Wong Kar Wai. He says as much with his eyes and a subtle twist of his mouth without saying a word than you could with an entire page of dialogue. And MY GOD he is as beautiful as he ever was.
You know what the secret to that is? If you ask my ma, and I did, she says it’s soup. I saw my parents yesterday right after the screening. “I just watched a movie with Tony Leung Chiu Wai, he looks so good!”
Ma: of course he does. Because his ma makes him soup. Just like your ma makes you soup for your skin and your hair. Do you appreciate it?
I wonder if Tony’s ma, in addition to having the gift of soup, can also redirect every conversation into a compliment for herself.
Yours in gossip,