Bat­tle tested

Ac­tor Wu Jing speaks about his mil­i­tary-themed se­quel

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

It was a real-life ad­ven­ture in Africa for him. At a re­cent event in Bei­jing, Wu Jing speaks of his ex­pe­ri­ences while work­ing on the mil­i­tary-themed movie Wolf War­rior 2. He saw col­leagues bit­ten by spi­ders, acted with lions and nearly drowned at sea.

The movie, a se­quel to the 2015 hit Wolf War­rior, opened across the Chi­nese main­land on July 27. It raked in 1.7 bil­lion yuan ($253 mil­lion) in five days, and was the high­est-gross­ing movie in July.

The pop­u­lar re­view por­tal Douban.com gives it 7.5 points out of 10 thanks to its action se­quences.

The film, which fea­tures Wu in mul­ti­ple roles be­sides direc­tor and star, is set in an un­named African coun­try fac­ing a civil war.

Wu plays Leng Feng, a for­mer Chi­nese special forces op­er­a­tive, who fights a US mer­ce­nary and his blood­thirsty sol­diers.

The cast in­cludes Hong Kong ac­tress Celina Jade and US action star Frank Grillo, who is known for his role as Cross­bones in Cap­tain Amer­ica movies.

For Wu, the movie is a dream project.

The for­mer mar­tial arts cham­pion shot to promi­nence with kung fu pro­duc­tions, such as the 1999 TV se­ries, Leg­end of Dagger Lee, di­rected by Hong Kong filmmaker Yuen Woo-ping, and two crime thrillers — SPL: Sha Po Lang and SPL 2: A Time For Con­se­quences.

But Wu, who was then seen as an heir to the legacy of China’s action su­per­stars like Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Don­nie Yen, wanted to go beyond just fight­ing on screen.

So, af­ter co-di­rect­ing the 2008 thriller Leg­endary As­sas­sin with Hong Kong filmmaker Li Chung-chi, Wu be­gan work­ing on the Wolf War­rior idea. He was in­spired by re­ports about Chi­nese peace­keep­ing mis­sions and ef­forts to evac­u­ate Chi­nese who were caught up in wartorn ar­eas over­seas.

“When I watched news clips of th­ese events, I felt proud of China,” says the 43-year-old.

Wu says he was then dis­ap­pointed with Chi­nese show­biz for fa­vor­ing only young pop idols.

So, he wanted to change the dis­course and make films based on Chi­nese sol­diers.

Af­ter the Wenchuan earth­quake in South­west China’s Sichuan province in 2008, Wu vol­un­teered to help. There he saw Chi­nese sol­diers risk­ing their lives to res­cue sur­vivors.

“Af­ter that, I wanted to show­case the kind­ness, wit, courage and sac­ri­fice of Chi­nese sol­diers,” he says.

Wu had to make the first Wolf War­rior movie mainly with his own money be­cause very few po­ten­tial in­vestors be­lieved that a mil­i­tary­themed movie could be­come a com­mer­cial suc­cess in 2008.

But thanks to word-of­mouth praise, the first movie be­came a hit in 2015, bring­ing in nearly 550 mil­lion yuan.

Then, with a big­ger bud­get for the sec­ond movie, Wu led his crew from more than 10 coun­tries and re­gions to Africa to make Wolf War­rior 2, the first Chi­nese mil­i­tary­themed movie shot in that con­ti­nent.

The crew also went to Ice­land to film some scenes, a pos­si­ble indi­ca­tor of what will come next.

“We went to sev­eral African coun­tries,” Wu says. “And the ex­pe­ri­ences there were more thrilling than what you see in the movie.”

As for his re­ac­tions to the un­ex­pected events, he says: “I was stressed, but not scared. All th­ese are unique ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Speak­ing about what he learned from work­ing with for­eign­ers, he says he learned a lot about action se­quences, in­clud­ing safety.

The movie used 12 tanks, two heli­copter props and more than 100 cars.

Some cut­ting-edge weapons and ves­sels are also seen, such as a Type 052D guid­ed­mis­sile de­stroyer.

Giv­ing his take on the fu­ture, Wu says: “As of now, China has few such mil­i­tary movies. We are still ex­plor­ing the genre and hope to raise the bar.”

I wanted to show­case the kind­ness, wit, courage and sac­ri­fice of Chi­nese sol­diers.”

Wu Jing, ac­tor

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The mil­i­tary-themed movie WolfWar­rior2 fea­tures Wu Jing in mul­ti­ple roles, in­clud­ing direc­tor and star, and is set in an un­named African coun­try fac­ing a civil war. The cast in­cludes Chi­nese ac­tress Yu Nan (be­low, mid­dle) and US action star Frank Grillo (above right), who is known for his role as Cross­bones in Cap­tain Amer­ica movies.

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