Tsui Hark Chats About DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME


[During this summer's NYAFF, Diva Velez sat down with Hong Kong legend Tsui Hark to talk about his latest, the Wuxia spectacle Detective Dee And The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame. This is being cross-published at The Diva Review.]


The Lady Miz Diva:  What inspired you to make Detective Dee and The Phantom Flame?
 
Tsui Hark:  Detective Dee's real name is Di Renjie.  He was a judge.  He never did any detective things in history, but he was a very famous prime minister in the 7th century for the only woman king in China called Empress Wu.  For that reason, he became very legendary in a way because he was also a very famous and efficient judge.  Wu and Di together became such a wonderful odd couple; because Wu and Di are both legendary and so we thought the two of them would be good to make a story about.  So from early 2000, I'd already started writing about Di, and I remember at that moment that the scriptwriter who wrote The Phantom Flame {Chen Kuofu} was also writing about Detective Dee.  So the two of us knew each other and were doing the same thing, but I was writing a different story and he was writing another story too, not the Phantom Flame.  We exchanged our works in progress and then four or five years ago he came to me and said, "Okay, are you interested in doing this script?"  And I said, "Okay, Let's do it."  It was kind of a problem, the two of us doing Detective Dee separately in different versions.  At that moment we didn't have The Phantom Flame, we didn't have the Buddha, we didn't have anything, so after we came together we started designing the Buddha.  I wanted the Buddha because I wanted iconic things for the Empress Wu and the Phantom Flame is an iconic element for Dee's world.  I think every detective deserves a very unique world for himself, so this is where we had Phantom Flame. Writing it took more than a year.
 
LMD:  Detective Dee is your first Wuxia film since 2005's Seven Swords.  I wondered if it was planned as a return to that form of filmmaking for you after making some non-period, non-action films?
 
TH:  This action genre is never away from my creativity.  I'm always with this throughout this time.  For this question, I think I have to go back to a very, very long time ago because I was doing this Wuxia simply by a mere accident:  Because when I worked in a television station; I was proposing some other project and they assigned [me] to a Wuxia series I think because they didn't know how to position my style, so they put me there.  So I started making a Wuxia series in 1978 in the television station and since then I was caught in this genre as a Wuxia director.  During the 2000's, I was producing some other movies and I was actually writing about Dee.  I think Dee is very interesting, because he's a real person; like Wong Fei Hung in Once Upon a Time in China.  He's a real person and you try to write about this real, authentic figure in history, so you use all your material and information about him to adapt to the story, and the story is based on an actual period in history.  So I was in the process of gathering all these materials and starting to create a series of stories about this guy.
 
LMD:  So we're going to see more films about Detective Dee?
 
TH:  Yes.  And then at the same time I was also doing Seven Swords.  But all along, I was working on Initial D, and at the same time, All About Women and  Missing.  But the Wuxia action genre has never been away from my mind.  I feel like as a director, filmmakers always have fun working on different styles or genres, because I think if you keep on doing Wuxia, you always want to try something else.
 
LMD:  The visuals of Detective Dee are so great, with the giant Buddha and the flying Wuxia deer.  You've always embraced technology and special effects; I wondered what you thought of stereoscopic film and if you considered doing Detective Dee in 3D?
 
TH:  {Laughs} You see, about seven years ago I was preparing for Monkey King, with a producer and he told me that everybody was so preoccupied with 3D.  Directors including Peter Jackson, [George] Lucas, [Steven] Spielberg, and of course, James Cameron was working on Avatar.  Those people were very stuck into doing 3D at the moment.  I was also curious because 3D has been around for a long time, but 3D was not in the mainstream because it's not something you can watch comfortably forever.  It's something you have to do once every several years.  I remember the last time I was testing my reaction to 3D watching Spy Kids 3 by Robert Rodriguez, and then I found out it was not really mature to the extent that you can watch it in a very constant pace.  When we had Detective Dee, we'd heard so many people were working in 3D, so we also were interested in doing it in 3D.  But then we had no access to the technology because all these people are doing it, but we didn't know what the result was.  We were looking around for an adviser or consultant; there are not too many, so we left the situation for a while and we finished the Dee production.  Then after Dee, I went around to a study on the 3D technology and I found out before Avatar was shown, that there is something more advanced and improved and not the same as before.  So, I was so anxious to find out both hotware and software of this 3D equipment and production aspect of the thing.  Two months after deciding to find a way to do it I formed a team of 3D people to work on the 3D, and then bought a machine from Germany and a camera to start doing the 3D.  We found out actually it's not that complicated and it's something we can control in our hands.  Then we decided to do another movie in 3D called The Flying Sword of the Dragon Gate.  It seems like everything is very new and very fresh and we need to develop more from this point on.  There's several schools of thought about this 3D concept:  People have said you just do a 2D movie and just transfer it --it's a 3D version of a 2D film.  But according to my experience it's not like that; when you do it in 3D, it's a 3D movie, not a 2D movie.
 
~ The Lady Miz Diva
July 11th, 2011
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