All's well as Wong plans comeback
Sitting at a desk at his Central office in business attire, Raymond Wong Pak-ming (right) looks more like a businessman than an actor. But now, 11 years after his last big screen role, the Mandarin Entertainment boss is to act again.
And the person who managed to convince the boss to take off his suit and appear in front of the cameras again was - a random taxi driver!
'It was about two or three years ago,' Wong recalls. 'I was in a taxi and the driver asked me: 'Mr Wong, when are you going to make another New Year's film again? I have already watched your All's Well, Ends Well at least 100 times.' '
The term 'New Year's film' is used in the Hong Kong market to refer to movies released during the Lunar New Year holiday. In keeping with the festive atmosphere, new releases are mostly light-hearted comedies with auspicious titles and stories that usually end happily. A signature touch is that all the cast appear in the very last scene to send New Year greetings.
All's Well, Ends Well (1992), which Wong wrote, produced and acted in, is certainly a classic. Its ridiculous plots and trademark slang and catchphrases - such as 'the double inverted Eiffel Tower kiss' - made it a local box office hit.
A star-studded cast contributed to its success, including the late Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing and Kwan Hoi-shan, as well as Maggie Cheung Man-yuk, Stephen Chow Sing-chi, Sandra Ng Kwan-yu, Teresa Mo Shun-kwan and Lee Heung-kam.
'It was a dream cast,' recalls Wong. 'I remember that everyone was very much into their roles and would find ways to crack the audience up.'
Following the film's resounding success, Wong made a sequel five years later, All's Well, Ends Well 1997, also starring him and Chow. Later this year, he will make a third film - All's Well, Ends Well 2009. Wong will again play a leading role, this time opposite long-term screen partners Ng and Lee from the first film. New cast members include Louis Koo Tin-lok and Ronald Cheng Chung-kei.
But Wong admits the original was so good it is irreplaceable. 'It's impossible to make another film with a perfect cast like that. Chow is now a [film] boss, Cheung Kwok-wing is gone, Maggie is now an international star and Kwan has also passed away.
'The new film will have a different storyline but the spirit will remain, to bring people at least two hours of happiness during the festive season.'
Wong finds most of today's films too dark, leaving audience sad when they exit the cinema.
'If it is not about bloodshed on battlefields, then it is probably about a son killing his father, a husband murdering his wife or vice-versa. Usually, everyone dies in the end and when I walk out, I feel that sourness. Why can't people leave the cinema happy, with smiles on their faces?'
Wong wants to use his new comedy to test the local market to see how audiences respond to this genre. If it goes well, he plans to make a New Year's comedy every year - just like the old days.