Getting top Hong Kong/Taiwan actors like Richie Jen, Jordan Chan and Gordon Lam to collaborate in the same movie is already a major achievement.
But, crime thriller Trivisa made bigger waves in Hong Kong recently when word got out that the three male leads did not charge any fee at all for their starring roles in the movie.
When queried during a recent phone interview, the gallant trio confirmed what was reported by the Hong Kong paparazzi.
“We did get a travelling allowance,” revealed Lam, who took the call during the movie’s gala premiere in Hong Kong recently.
Asked whether it was true that they only accepted red packets to compensate for the expenses incurred, Chan replied: “Definitely! We want to welcome new friends into the business. Just treat it as part of our effort to foster support for the movie industry. Moreover, it does not pay to offend this ‘organisation’.”
He is referring to filmmaker Johnnie To’s bid to groom the young crop of Fresh Wave film directors. The movie marks the directorial debut of Fresh Wave directors Frank Hui, Jevons Au and Vicky Wong – who helmed separate units for the film.
Trivisa tells the tale of three crime lords, modelled after Hong Kong’s most notorious criminals. According to Buddhist teaching, Trivisa is the Sanskrit term for the three poisons – greed, anger and delusion – that give rise to suffering.
In the movie, these three poisons are manifested by the three top baddies: Cheuk Tze Keung, Yip Kwok Foon, and Kwai Ching Hung.
Chan plays Cheuk Tze Keung, who is based on the flamboyant kidnapper Cheung Tze Keung. Cheung was nicknamed The Big Spender for his lavish lifestyle, financed by the kidnapping of Hong Kong tycoons, namely Li Ka Shing’s eldest son Victor Li and Walter Kwok.
Jen plays Yip Kwok Foon, who is based on the ruthless robber Yip Kai Foon. Yip gained notoriety by pulling off a string of heists with big guns blazing, and made headlines firing an AK-47 to keep the police at bay.
Lam plays Kwai Ching Hung, who is based on chameleon criminal Kwai Ping Hung. Kwai was a notoriously low-key criminal who changed his identity after every heist, so that few ever knew what he looked like.
The biggest challenge for Lam was working with a little girl in the movie. “Working with a child means taking the time and patience to gain her trust, so that our scenes look natural.”
Jen had more space to play with as his character Yip had to switch from being a rugged robber to a business-like smuggler. “Yip decided to change when he found that it was easier to make money by smuggling than by robbing. But all the bootlicking and kowtowing he had to do as a businessman was too much for a big-time felon like him.”
For Chan, the challenge was to portray the adrenaline-junkie Cheuk who gets high on crime. “I had to be always on a high. It was very tiring to maintain that sort of high. By the time I get home, I’d be feeling very fatigued.”
Best known for his portrayal of San Gai, the famed gangster role he has played in at least half a dozen Hong Kong triad flicks including the popular Young And Dangerous franchise, Chan was nonetheless confident that audiences would not be drawing parallels with his newest performance.
“It’s really very different. The director was very clear about what he wanted,” Chan shared, noting that the young director Vicky Wong went to the extent of writing him an 8,000-word description of the character.
Chan was also very satisfied with his nice clothes, as with Jen who was very happy with his big guns. But Lam had a minor grouse: “Next time, I’ll put in a request for my character not to carry a penknife. Plus, having to carry a small bag is so troublesome. In a cops-and-robbers flick, it is way cooler to be carrying a gun.”
Much sought-after in the Chinese entertainment scene, the three have multiple projects in the pipeline.
Jen is preparing for his upcoming concert in Genting Highlands and planning to shoot documentary.
Chan just got back from Taiwan where he recorded a new song and is gearing up for the next stop of his Young And Dangerous concert tour.
Lam is set to start shooting a movie at the end of the month. He is currently going for scuba diving lessons to get a diving license for his next movie project.
Addressing comments that it was a pity the three barely rubbed shoulders although they were starring in the same movie, Lam jested: “Johnnie To should arrange for us to to collaborate in a sequel, where we could play either cops or robbers or even a man in the street.”
Does this mean there is a sequel in the works? Chan answered: “There is a possibility, just ask Johnnie To the next time you see him.”
Playing on Trivisa’s Chinese title Shu Dai Jiu Fung (Big Trees Catch The Wind), Lam came up with a title for the sequel Shu Dai Jiu Choi (Big Trees Attract Wealth), adding: “If the box-office is good, then we will all swing by for a visit.”