Interview Jordan Chan

From action movies to dramas, from big budgets to small independent productions, Jordan Chan has performed in a lot of different movies in his career. Francois and Vivian met him to talk about the important dates in his career and his latest projects.

His debut
What was your experience with UFO?
I started with UFO. My first movie Twenty Something was with them. I was a dancer at that time and they wanted some new blood and at that time, I didn’t even know how to act, yet after the movie, I got my first Best Supporting Award and from then on I made another 3 or 4 more movies with them.

Then other people asked me to make other movies. In general Hong Kong movies are conceived and made within brief periods of time that varies from half a month, 3 weeks or one month. UFO emphasized more in the scripts and they usually took longer time. Hui Yuen was my manager at that time and even though we didn’t have contracts then, all my movies were with UFO.

The Young and Dangerous Series made you very famous. How did you deal with your popularity?
I didn’t really dwell much on my popularity. If I have work, I would do my best. If within my capability, I would do it well. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even know if I would succeed in certain things. The movie was very popular in China and Hong Kong at that time and the popularity was spread mostly by pirated VCD. Another series that put me on the map was the Duke of Mount Deer TV series. After that, people began to know who Jordan Chan was.
Your character as Chicken is more human than Ekin Cheng’s. Did you change your character much in the Young and Dangerous Series?
Throughout the series, Chicken has to be behind Ho Nam. In the first series, we all had long hair, in the second, I was bald, in the third, I wore hats. In the 4th, I was a bit wealthier and started to wear suits. The 5th and 6th…well, it’s like Wong Fei Hung, you can’t change midstream and become a bad guy like Shek Kin. The success of the series was 70-80% due to Man Chun and Lau Wai Keung, the directors and the actors account for 10-20%. We actually have a consultant back then and he would tell us that was not the way gangsters speak and etc. In Hong Kong, there is a Goo Wak Jai comics series and I never used to read it but after I started making the movies, I read it all the time. If we wanted it to be more realistic, we should have put in more swear words but if we did that, the movie would be downgraded to Category 3 and that would affect admissions into the theatres. So among the bad people in the triads, we are the good ones.
The movie Those Were The Days was more romantic. Which do you prefer, the Young & Dangerous series or Those Were The Days?
I like Those Were The Days because it talks about the family, the livelihood, and the love life of Chicken. In the Young & Dangerous series, it’s all about Ekin being the hero and there wasn’t any room for Chicken to develop. The Assistant Director of the Young & Dangerous series was the Director for Those Were The Days and he had allowed more freedom and more input from my side. But if I talk about the filming itself, I would say it’s Young and Dangerous because there was a big group of us on the set and it was fun.
His recent movies
Diva Ah Hey
(Jordan snored)
You don’t like it?
I’m so tired. Ekin said Charlene screamed so much and was so noisy.
Why do you feel that way?
I rehearsed for my concert for 3 months non-stop and then had my 2 day concert. Usually after the concert, we get to relax and take off for a whole week so that we could have some sunshine, sunbathe a bit, read and relax. But this movie was one day after my concert. It was way too close, too soon. If it were made one week after, I would have been in better shape. It was like I was eating a lunch box at night on the set but the night before I was having a grand time performing at the concert working hard.
Do you think the movie is interesting?
It is an interesting story about a neighborly girl becoming a popstary. The movie took only a little more than 10 days to finish.
Did the younger stars such as Charlene Choi and Shawn Yue come to you for advice since you were the most experienced on the set?
No, no, I wouldn’t dare. Charlene likes to act a lot. She is a very cute girl. Off camera, she is very ebullient. I already am very talkative and go non –stop but she is more.

Shawn Yue – I get along well with him but he needs more time to be accustomed to the industry. In the beginning he had some uncomfortable moments but once accustomed, he would be quite good. He’s quite cool but of course compared to me, he’s less.

Was it easy to change into a person who is quiet and have a long face in the movie?
It was not difficult at all. I didn’t have enough time to prepare for the movie but step by step, I gave Charlene her confidence. If I had more time, I could have done better.

The director’s job is very important. His communication with the actors is really important. It depends on the director. If the director listens to the actors and work with them, that’s good. If the director is very subjective and can’t communicate with the actors, it’s more difficult.

The director in this movie Joe Ma is very subjective but appears to be soft. When I tried to make a suggestion and he was soft about it, then what do I do? Sometimes the director does not know everything. Sometimes the actors have valuable points too. Joe Ma is a good director. So I can’t insist on my views but have to do my best to accommodate his wishes.

So if the communication was better, you could have been better?
It would have been more refreshing. It’s not just this movie but many other movies. Being subjective is good, but too much, the pressure or the tension could prevent the actors from acting natural. Life has to be more relaxed.
What do you find interesting in the script of Men Suddenly In Black?

The movie is very stylish. It describes the team of men and women as robbers and cops. It is not a comedy. We don’t want the audience to expect to laugh in the theatre. The movie should prompt afterthoughts such as if I am that husband, then I would be like that, or if I am that wife, I would be like that.

Jordan Chan in Men Suddenly in Black

We enjoyed making the movie and we looked forward to going to work everyday. As a group, we discussed and have feedback for each other. Pang Ho Cheung is an extremely capable director.

Was it easy for you and other actors to be so serious, like to say I want to be a fucker or a wanker, or to cheat their woman?
The English subtitles are different from the Chinese subtitles. The scene was that Eric Tsang asked either you go out to be fucked or stay home by yourself and I said, I decided….to go out and be fucked. The timing of my dialog was very important. Remember this is a very serious film. It is an action movie where the husbands are robbers and the wives are police. At the first moment it is a movie that tries to look cool but it works.
His Career
You have participated in many movies and which do you prefer : big budget or small budget?
Not every movie has a big budget. You could feel that the development of movies has changed. The movies are mostly Stephen Chow – Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow – Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow – Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow – Jackie Chan. All others are medium budget. The really low budget ones; they are not really classified as movies. There is not a lot of room in between.

Peter Chan, the director, once said to me and I remember to this day, that you could make 10 movies a year and nine are bad and only one is good. But one good movie would be good enough.

Sometimes, the comments about how good a movie would be are all positive but in the end, the result may be different. The success of a movie really rests on how well the group could forge ahead together and that feeling last all the way to the end. If they could do that, the movie would be good.

This year and last year, I see already more money coming in for projects. I think the prospects of Hong Kong movies will improve.

As to the differences in small budget movies, I would think in small budget movies you would have more say in the role whereas in big budget movies, you know you are good to be cast and the movie director knows it, and generally actors would be more willing to stick to what is prescribed and give less input.

Is there any one character you still dream to play?
Movies and psychology are linked in many ways. I want to take on the role of a psycho – a psychologically imbalanced person…out of whack person because in real life I can’t.

I don’t like to be a hero. I would save it for Jackie Chan. I like characters that are less obvious.

Usually, one could not predict a psycho, his next moves and what he thinks. A drifter is so inconspicuous that no one cares to understand him. No one knows what is his life like, what he thinks, what happens to him. There is a lot of room for me to explore.

Which movie do you like most in your career?
Which movie gave you the most memories?
The Young & Dangerous series because there were five of us, Wind Fire Sea (Jordan’s previous rock group), Ekin and Lo. There are a lot of memories in the series. Before, no one knew us and afterwards, we became known. Plus when we worked together, we were really very happy. The movie industry at that time was depressed and I was surprised that a Hong Kong gangster movie would be so welcomed and there were long lines for midnight shows.
How do you prepare for action roles?
I want to do more action sequence but they wouldn’t let me. In many of my movies, I like to do it myself and not use stunts men. Perhaps because I was a dancer before I have some feel for it. Obviously, I could not compare with Jet Li or Jackie Chan. They are performers in martial art and they could do it better. Directors also wouldn’t let me do too much and of course I couldn’t insist on displaying a set in front of the camera. I actually do like action sequences. It’s thrilling to do kicks and punches, things that I could manage but now there are really very few such movies.
Do you think you would be an actor or you would become a director or producer?
When I first started in the movies, I thought I wanted to be a director. But now, people wouldn’t believe me if I did because I don’t have the capability yet. Perhaps later.

If I become director, the first movie I want to make would be a musical like Grease or West Side Story. There is none in Hong Kong so far. I wouldn’t make a comedy or an action film.

What is more important for you now, singing or acting?
Actually I like singing now because singing is my every thing. It is my world. I could do what I want in my world. In movies I don’t have control over co-stars, producers/directors, script writers. I like making movies and the teamwork, but in recording, I could be myself and say what I want.

It is not difficult to combine music with acting. I have been in 2-3 musical productions before. It was fun.

All our thanks to Ann and Mell for their help, and to Jordan Chan.

  • October 2003