This description from actor Tony Leung sums up what many critics and fans say about the famed Hong Kong director. In 2046, Leung teams with the director for the fifth time, in a sequel of sorts to Wong’s last film, In the Mood for Love.
2046, which is currently in theaters, catches up with Love’s Chow Mo-Wan (Leung), a once up-and-coming writer but now an author of seedy pulp fiction novels. The film follows him through his trysts with six different women. The title refers to the year and the hotel room number in which Chow and the woman of Love had their affair. The result is at times futuristic, often sexual and always provoking. The film also stars Ziyi Zhang and Gong Li.
A complex film, 2046 takes a multi-faceted director like Wong to make it all happen. Leung says that Wong has a very unique style.
"With Wong Kar Wai, there’s nothing to prepare," he says. "There’s no specific direction at the very beginning. There’s a large amount of space for the creation of the character."
Leung and Wong’s partnership goes all the way back to 1991, when Wong directed the actor in Days of Being Wild. Still, Leung continues to learn from and about the director.
"He always surprises me," says Leung. "I never have expectations with him. I know he can do it five different ways in the editing room."
Leung says he puts his faith in Wong on the set.
"You trust him," he says. "You do whatever he tells you. If he doesn’t tell me anything, I do what I think is right. Nothing is right or wrong."
Leung honed his craft by starting in television acting. However, he wasn’t always an actor, and he recalls a story about meeting another rising star from Hong Kong.
"I met Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle). He had always dreamed of being a director. He told me how good it is in artist training class. I was a salesman. I sold home appliances. I found it no fun. One day they were looking for new talent. I was 19 years old. … We got in the training class."
The rest is movie history, and years later, Leung has found his starring films winning many awards. For In the Mood for Love, Leung won the best actor award at Cannes, and for 2046, he won the best actor award at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Ziyi also won best actress for the film.
Leung says winning a top award at Cannes didn’t change him.
"It was great for a couple of weeks," he says with a laugh. "Then I still have to go and make movies."
Leung has worked with many directors over his 20-year film career, and he says that Wong is very unique, most notably concerning the small amount of prep work for his actors. For the 2002 hit Infernal Affairs, directed by Wai Keung Lau, Leung was given lots of direction beforehand.
"We worked on the script months before," Leung says.
Currently, Martin Scorsese is remaking Infernal Affairs as The Departed. Leung seems pleased with the direction the new version is taking, citing Scorsese as one of his favorite directors and Raging Bull and Taxi Driver as titles on his list of favorite movies.
Having worked with him five times, Wong is likely included on Leung’s list of top directors. However, the actor admits that working with the cult director can be a grueling process.
"I don’t mind to work in the Wong Kar Wai style once in a while. But once in a while, not," chuckles Leung.
Some of those feelings might have to deal with the heavy nature of Wong’s films. Many, including 2046, have a lot to do with the painful aspects of love.
"It’s very tiring to fall in love," Leung says. "I better leave it in the movie. I don’t want to take that risk. In that way, I’m very much like the character."
2046 is currently in theaters.