Tuesday February 12, 2013
Max Zhang blessed to be part of The Grandmaster
By YIP WAI YEE
After living in his famous actress wife Ada Choi’s shadow, Max Zhang is coming into his own in The Grandmaster.
China actor Max Zhang has a prominent role in Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster that is not reflected in the movie poster or promotional materials and much press coverage.
Though his role as antagonist Ma San means he enjoys more screen time than Taiwanese star Chang Chen, it is Chang who gets billed ahead of him.
But Zhang, 38, tells us in an interview that he is not at all insulted by any of this. He feels “blessed” to be part of the movie.
He has the same attitude towards being called Mr Ada Choi, in reference to the popular 39-year-old Hong Kong actress, who is his wife and is more famous than he is.
“It has never bothered me when people say she is more famous than me or doing better, because firstly, it is the truth,” he says cheerily in Mandarin over the telephone from his home in Beijing.
“Also, she is my wife and I want only what’s best for her. Let’s say if one day, her career goes downhill and I happen to be doing much better. Would I really be happy about that? Of course I wouldn’t. I only want my wife to do well and be happy. So when people talk of how well she’s doing, whether or not it’s better than me, I really am very, very happy for her.”
Similarly, he sings the praises of Chang, who has overshadowed him.
“Chang is an excellent actor and I respect him a lot. I really don’t feel even the slightest bit of unhappiness over the fact that he is on the posters and I am not. As an actor, you shouldn’t think so much about these things. Your job is only to do your role well. Everything else should be left to others to decide.”
The Grandmaster, which is showing in cinemas (worldwide except Malaysia), is about martial arts expert Ip Man, who taught Bruce Lee his Wing Chun skills. Starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Ip Man and Zhang Ziyi as another pugilist, the fictitious Gong Er, it also looks at the types of martial arts styles from around China.
Zhang’s character Ma San is the man who kills Gong Er’s father.
Although he is the only actor among the main cast to have formal martial arts training before the film, he says he has no idea why Hong Kong director Wong picked him to play Ma San.
“Action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping introduced me to him, but of course he still had the final say. I am very thankful that he chose me.”
Trained in martial arts as a child, he has also been working with Yuen (Kill Bill Vol. 2, 2004) since 1998. He was a stunt double for several actors on large-scale gongfu films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Zhang Yimou’s Hero (2002).
The Grandmaster is his biggest project to date as an actor, following roles in period TV dramas such as The Tearful Sword (2007) and Ming Dynasty (2007).
In all the time before his big break, his biggest fan was his wife. Sounding genuinely grateful, Zhang says: “No matter what, Ada has been really supportive of me through the years. I owe her a lot for that. She already thought I was a good actor long before The Grandmaster.”
They married in 2008, had daughter Zoe in 2011 and are expecting their second child.
Choi, whose acting credits include TVB dramas Healing Hands (1998) and The Gem Of Life (2008), was one of the most popular actresses in Hong Kong before she relocated to China for work and family in the mid-2000s.
Zhang emphasises that he has never ridden on her fame to get roles.
“There have always been those few people who would say that I only got roles because I’m married to Ada or that she helped me get those roles, which is not true.
“I guess this is part and parcel of being in show business, but I feel a little wronged by it. But it’s okay – all I can and will do is to keep working hard and know that people will eventually recognise me for that.”
Following the release of The Grandmaster in China last month, he says he has already received “a lot more script offers”.
“While we were filming, director Wong told me that I would be getting a lot more movie roles after the release of this film and it’s true.
“The thing is, people have been saying I am a worthy actor now that I’ve done this movie. But I have worked hard for the past decade and I look at that entire process of learning to be enough of a reward.
“I’ve also always looked for opportunities where I can exhibit my talent and let people see what I can do. I’m just glad I never gave up all these years.” – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network