Asia's top comedy star, Stephen Chow has eclipsed his previous hits with the smash action comedy Kung Fu Hustle. The 42-year-old Hong Kong native has only been directing since 1996, when he made his debut with God Of Cookery. Moviegoers outside of China got their first look at Chow's unique brand of comedy in 2004, when his lunatic football spoof Shaolin Soccer enjoyed an international release. Kung Fu Hustle tells the tale of lowly grifter Sing who aspires to the gangster lifestyle only to find that fate has something much more impressive in store. A sequel is already in the works.
This is, by all accounts, your dream project and has proved a massive success. Are you concerned how you're going to follow this?
Good question - I don't know. I hope somebody will tell me if they have any ideas. Actually I'm working on something, but only as a director I think. Directing, writing, producing and starring is just too tough.
How would you feel if Hollywood was to make a version of Kung Fu Hustle, perhaps with you involved?
I would be interested in working with someone from somewhere else in the world. Someone who has a real passion for movies.
There are some pretty wild flights of fancy that unfold on screen in your movie. Was there anything you felt you couldn't do?
There were some scenes that I couldn't get into the picture. Originally in the script there was a scene with a kung fu master fighting a shark underwater but we found it was very difficult to do, so we gave up on that idea. It was actually the CGI people who said "no" to that one.
How do you feel about the comparisons made between you and the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li?
It's an honour. But I think I'm quite different from them because I'm more of a director. I feel I'm more like a filmmaker because I create the idea and then produce my own film.
Were you inspired by these screen heroes?
Yes, Bruce Lee, especially.
What about your comedy influences?
One of my favourite comedians of all time is Charlie Chaplin.
The film is very funny but also quite gruesome. Is this the same version that Asian audiences saw, or has it been cut?
I think the Asian version has more blood. But I don't think they've cut it too much; there are no specific scenes that they took away. They just took away the blood.
Which element do you find more important - comedy or action?
If I had to pick one out of these two elements it would be comedy. But actually the structure of the story is the most important thing in all of my movies.
Is Stephen Chow the director hard on Stephen Chow the actor?
Yes, but that's why I train like I do. I'm extremely busy and running around requires a lot of energy.
What about the actor's view of his director?
He's a very good director in my opinion!
You obviously work closely with The Matrix fight choreographer, Yuen Wo Ping. How does this relationship work?
First of all I come up with some idea and I talk to him about it. Normally he will agree with me. Actually he is great, and although he looks like a very traditional Chinese grand master, he is someone with an open mind. No matter how crazy an idea is, he tries to work with it and figure out how we can make it happen. That's the process. I talk to him about my ideas all the time.
It must be very satisfying to know that audiences adore the movie...
No matter how difficult it was, when you realise that the audiences are enjoying your film that's what makes it all worthwhile.
Kung Fu Hustle is released in UK cinemas on Friday 24th June 2005.