Wu Jing on Wolf Warrior 2’s record-breaking run, his cinematic roots in Hong Kong and Wolf Warrior 3’s story direction
Actor-director pays tribute to cast and crew of his record-breaking film, and credits ‘friends and teachers’ in Hong Kong film industry, and says his happiest moment was when film broke even
Wu Jing may be a super soldier on screen and a box office sensation off it, but that doesn’t make him immune to exhaustion at the tail end of a weeks-long promotional tour across China.
“What I want to do most is to have a good night’s sleep,” says the director, co-writer, co-producer and star of action epic Wolf Warrior 2 , which, with ticket sales of 5.6 billion yuan (US$860 million) and counting, is the runaway box office champion of Chinese language cinema. For perspective, the second-highest grossing Chinese film ever made is Stephen Chow Sing-chi’s The Mermaid , which took 3.39 billion yuan.
“It’s been one city per day, and 10 cinemas in every city. This tour – it’s torture; it’s unimaginable for you here,” says Wu, 43, in an interview before the film’s Hong Kong premiere on Wednesday. “But luckily today is the last stop for Wolf Warrior 2.”
While his film’s remarkable coup may leave many with mental pictures of him swimming in money, Wu is understandably keen to downplay his new fortune.
“Every journalist I’ve encountered asked: Do I have a target box office figure in mind? Do I want to make it on so-and-so top-grossing charts? Do I want to break 6 billion yuan? Is that even possible? I have no idea at all,” he says. “From July 27, 8:01 am onwards [when the film opened in China], the life of Wolf Warrior 2 ceased to belong to me.
“But before that, it was priceless to me. It was something that 1,700 people had spent a huge amount of time working on. Twenty-two of us were bitten and partly paralysed by spiders in Africa. Someone got bitten on the hand by a lion. Another had a gun pointed at his head. We made so many sacrifices [for this film].”
With hindsight, Wu pinpoints the moment Wolf Warrior 2’s gross passed 800 million yuan – when the production started to break even – as his happiest memory since its release.
“So many partners and friends had come and helped me out on this project – and then I completed my mission,” he says. “I didn’t owe anyone any more; I hate to be indebted to others. So at that moment I was relieved. And after that, the box office figure kept soaring.”
Where was Wu Jing before Wolf Warrior 2? Five Hong Kong directors who helped the martial arts actor become a star
Wu says he picked Hong Kong as his road tour’s final stop because his “movie dream started here”.
Then he reveals the list of people he’d like to thank, which reads like a who’s who of Hong Kong cinema.
They include Chang Hsin-yen, who gave him his first film role in 1996; Yuen Woo-ping; showbiz influencer “Uncle Ba” Chan Tat-chi, who brought him to Hong Kong; talent manager Paco Wong Pak-ko, who signed his first Hong Kong contract; and filmmakers Dennis Law Sau-yiu (“who took care of me a lot”), Wilson Yip Wai-shun (“I learned a lot chatting with him during the making of Magic to Win”), Benny Chan Muk-sing and Soi Cheang Pou-soi.
“In a way, Wolf Warrior 2 is my way of repaying these friends and teachers. It’s my homework assignment. Technically, these directors are a lot better than me. But I just happened to have had better timing.”
The pressure is now huge for Wu to replicate the success in Wolf Warrior 3, a sequel promised in the current film’s closing credits. While he had prepared the scripts for a Wolf Warrior film trilogy as early as 10 years ago, he acknowledges the challenge of adjusting those ideas for today.
Wolf Warrior 2’s Hong Kong star Celina Jade on landing Wu Jing’s box office hit – and why she won’t play the ‘sexy, kick-ass Asian girl’
“What should I do with Wolf Warrior 3? I have no idea about how to shoot it yet,” says Wu. “I wasn’t stupid – I knew that I should develop a series for myself. But could it become successful? Few people thought it would be at the time of Wolf Warrior 1.
“Now that we know, my story for the third film is already 10 years old. The world has changed, geopolitical situations have changed, [China] has changed, and some countries have even changed presidents several times already. The script doesn’t work any more. I need to reshuffle the deck.
“The main thing I want to show will still be family and national sentiments, and I owe the audience a resolution to the romance [between the two protagonists] in Wolf Warrior 1,” he adds.
Wolf Warrior 2 is in cinemas now
Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook