Change of scene
SHAWN YUE Man-lok is known mostly as an actor. Since making his debut in 2001 with the independent feature Leaving Sorrowly, the 30-year-old has starred in more than 40 films. In 2010 alone, he graced the screen in eight, among themaromantic comedy (Love in a Puff), a horror flick (The Child's Eye) and a full-blown, John Woo-produced martial arts epic (Reign of Assassins). Time to take a break, he says; which explains his venture into music with his first record in six years.
'I've been doing this on and off for the past year,' says Yue, who released four albums between 2002 and 2005. 'I've just signed to a management agency and it so happens they have a music production arm. So I've got more freedom to do stuff I like. And I have a more active role in this than my previous albums.'
The album will be released in April, and will perhaps introduce a new generation of Yue's admirers to a skill beyond his acting and looks. He is, after all, the face which graces Levi's advertisements across Hong Kong, although he's reluctant to commit to too many fashion labels these days, because he doesn't want to feel compelled to wear the clothes. Instead he prefers to mix and match outfits from brands such as Comme des Garcons, Prada or Dior.
Indeed, there was once a time when Yue was known -perhaps a bit unjustly- as merely a heartthrob, what with a string of films which featured him in roles high on preening and posturing and low on solid storylines and sturdy acting. Reports about his complaints about having to do his own fights in the 2007 action thriller Invisible Target certainly didn't help matters.
He began his career in modelling and making his breakthrough in 2003 -when he was just 21- with Infernal Affairs II, Yue admits he went through a rebellious age in which he 'ran into walls' because of excessive youthful self-belief. 'Looking back, it only makes me cherish what I do have now- today, I'll think more about every step I take. And I'm growing up all the time as I broaden my vistas through every new thing I do.' Yue has admittedly launched himself into some challenging fare in the past few years, such as Soi Cheang Po-soi's bizarre manga adaptation Shamo (2007), Derek Kwok Chi-kin's understated underworld thriller The Moss (2008), and Tran Anh Hung's thriller I Come with the Rain (2009), (which also stars Josh Hartnett, Takuya Kimura and Lee Byung-hun).
Yue says 2010 was an even better year for him, as he received approving reviews for his performances in Pang Ho-cheung's acclaimed drama Love in a Puff, in which he played a meek, chain-smoking salaryman struggling in life and love, and Su Chao-pin's period film Reign of Assassins, which featured him as a retired hitman forced to leave his new life (as a noodle-maker) and family to return to his old ways. 'It's not like I've done something incredibly masterful,' he says, reflecting on the roles. 'But at least I got some nice word-of-mouth from viewers -and these characters allow audiences to re-evaluate their perception of me as an actor.'
His craving for that kind of credibility continues, as he readies himself to star in a Carol Lai Miu-suet romance drama, which begins shooting this month; then there's Love in a Puff 2, which will see him reprising the role which was somehow overlooked at the Hong Kong Film Awards nominations this year.
'My company is probably more disappointed in that than I am,' he says. 'I've never been nominated before so I didn't really feel anything. I was actually reading messages people left [on my webpages] and they seemed to believe I was devastated. I wasn't, but it felt nice to see so many people concerned about how I feel. That is more important than getting a nod -it involved a lot of reasons beyond my control. What I can do is do my part and do it well.'
Photographer's assistant Moses Ng
Styling Marie Lebailly
Hair Ben Yeung (HairCorner@HK)
Makeup Jenny Tziong