Anthony Wong surprised he's becoming an action star even though he's over 50

15 January 2014 / 2 years 9 months ago

(PHOTO: Encore Films)

Most actors start out doing physically demanding martial arts movies before moving away from action-heavy projects in their later years. It makes perfect sense, physically speaking.

But veteran Hong Kong actor Anthony Wong has done it the other way around.

The 51-year-old, who has long been known as a reliable character actor in dramas, has in the past two years been getting jiggy with his gongfu moves on film, reported The Straits Times.

He took on the role of legendary martial artist Ip Man in the film Ip Man: The Final Fight (2013), a fight-heavy role first popularised by top martial arts star Donnie Yen in the action flicks Ip Man (2008) and Ip Man 2 (2010).

Then there is his role as the head of a crime- fighting unit in the fantasy action film The Four (2012) and, now, its sequel The Four 2, which is showing in cinemas.

Wong, too, confesses that he finds this turn of events in his career peculiar.

"I've always liked gongfu and would have loved to do martial arts movies when I was younger, but no one came to look for me to do them. I don't know why people are suddenly interested in getting me to do gongfu now. It's strange," he tells Life! in a telephone interview from his home in Hong Kong.

Better late than never, since he is relishing the opportunity to do gongfu movies.

"I've always had an interest in gongfu and, sometimes, I will practise some moves on my own at home. So doing these gongfu moves in movies now - it's still fun."

In The Four 2, he plays Zhuge Zhengwo, the boss of the Divine Constabulary, an independent unit of crime busters. His character ends up becoming the main suspect in a mass murder case from 15 years ago when new clues emerge.

While the martial arts action required of him in the role might be fresh for him, the dubiousness of his character is something that the actor is well familiar with. For years, he has been known to play villains in cult movie favourites, from the serial killer who targets cabbies in Taxi Hunter (1993) to the mass murderer who turns his victims into food in the films Ebola Syndrome (1996) and The Untold Story (1993), for which he won a Best Actor award at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

The apparent stereotyping does not bother Wong, who is nothing if not rational about show business.

He says in a straightforward manner: "Studios always look for good-looking people to play the good guys. For the ones who are not so good-looking, like me, we play the villains.

"But what can we do? We're just actors, so we accept what is given to us. Otherwise, we'll be out of a job."

That Wong, who is married with two sons, comes across as frank throughout the interview is unsurprising - he has a reputation for shooting his mouth off in public, after all. Whether they are about social issues or digs at fellow celebrities, he has on many occasions blabbed at public events or taken to his personal account on social media site Weibo to air his often controversial views.

Early last year, he infuriated fans of Taiwanese singer Show Lo, 34, when he wrote "Who is Show Lo?" on his Weibo, insinuating that the singer is not of significance. When Lo's fans took to the Internet to blast Wong, the outspoken actor responded that those fans are like "flies attracted to poop".

At the TVB Anniversary Awards in Hong Kong last month, Wong, who had been a presenter, riled fans of actress Linda Chung when he said about her, "How old are you, still calling yourself BB?"

Chung's nickname is BB, which means baby.

Wong clearly does not care about the brickbats that fly his way.

He tells Life!: "I'm just giving my own opinions, and I don't care what people think about them. I don't say them for people to like or dislike hearing them. Some people like to eat beef, some like mutton and others like seafood. I cannot force other people to all eat the same thing, right?"

After having done more than 180 films over a three-decade career, and won multiple awards along the way - including three Golden Horse awards for Best Supporting Actor (Princess-D, 2002; Infernal Affairs, 2003; Initial D, 2005), he is still plugging away at his craft because he enjoys it.

"Ever since I started acting, I knew that I would want to do this for as long as I can, because I enjoy it. I can't think of anything else I want to do.

"And since I want to continue doing this, then I will only put in my best in every role that I get."

Two factors influence which parts he chooses to take on. "One is whether I think I can embody the character well. For example, if the role is that of Monkey King, then I don't think I'll be able to do it," he says, referring to the mischievous mythological character from Journey To The West.

"And my second factor? My second factor is the money."

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