Lee Lik-chi Thinks Stephen Chow Is Hiding
The comedian and film director is best known for his collaborations with Chow: Together they directed “Shaolin Soccer,” “The God of Cookery” and “King of Comedy.” Lee's new TV series “The Four Scholars of Jiangnan” is screening on the mainland.
I was born in the 60s. My father was a metalworker and my mom worked with textiles. I have two brothers and a sister. We lived in a government housing estate. In primary school I helped my mom to transport clothes back and forth. It was so heavy! The only thing I had to look forward to was the chance to take a taxi.
I’m the eldest son: I knew my responsibilities from a really early age. Whereas children nowadays are only concerned about where to play, we planned how to make money. I worked as a battery packer in a factory in To Kwa Wan in the summer of my form three year. We got $18.50 per day.
I was packing batteries, suffering in the hot weather. I looked out a window and saw these educated girls in high heels working inside an air-conditioned office. At that moment, I realized that I couldn’t do this job my whole life. After I graduated I got a job in a store. During class reunions, people would say that they had become a policemen or a civil servant. I just felt shame. There are only two ways to deal with this: get used to it or escape. I chose to escape.
I was lucky that my chemistry teacher taught me to use a camera. He taught me how to choose the right angle, find the best composition, even how to develop film. I saved a few months of my salary to buy a camera, and it changed my life. People in my generation have an automatic updating system built in. We update ourselves to fit in. I would never ask others to do things for me. I just push myself to improve.
I was a production assistant at ATV. There was no budget and not enough equipment, so the drama department had to borrow editing equipment from the news department. We could only use it when they finished reporting news at midnight, and they needed it back at five in the morning. At one point I worked non-stop and didn’t sleep for seven days.
My generation, such as [actors] Chow Yun-fat, Tony Leung and Adam Cheng, used to work our socks off. I always wonder why we are still alive without liver disease. Later I got the chance to become a director and made films such as “Flirting Scholar,” “God of Cookery,” “From Beijing with Love”—most of them with Stephen Chow.
I was one of the first to criticize the Chinese Communist Party in a sarcastic way. In “From Beijing with Love” a blind man is given the death penalty for "peeking" at confidential documents.
But after “Shaolin Soccer,” Stephen Chow wanted to be a solo director and we’ve hardly collaborated since. [Stephen Chow], you tend to hide yourself backstage, and not perform in front of an audience. I’m sad about this.
The movie “Papillon” inspired me a lot. I thought it was a masterpiece since first watching it in form five. It’s about freedom. I still remember the last scene where Steve McQueen’s character says, “Hey you bastards, I’m still here.”
I thought: I’ve got so much freedom but I never know how to fully make use of it. To me, freedom is that I can go anywhere. I want and explore the world. The world is really lovely. Have you seen the ET-like bronze head in Sanxingdui? And the Dujiangyan irrigation system? This is what young people should care about.
Is university governance an important issue to us nowadays? Isn’t it something to be sorted out within the school? Hong Kong people tend to care about things like this—but never about the world. I’m very worried about this. Am I a Hongkonger or Chinese? I would just say I’m an Earthman. We must broaden our horizons. The universe is so much larger than you can imagine.
Our city is too small and crowded—we see people looking at each other like they’re enemies. Why can’t we smile more? I only want a peaceful life in which no one disturbs me and I don’t disturb others. In the east we have Tang Sanzang [the monk from “Journey to the West”], in the west we have Jesus. They all convince people through virtue and speech.
If a gang of people holding clubs rushed at you, even Jesus would surrender. [The Occupy movement] held an unlawful assembly. If one day you found a group of strangers had broken into your house, you would also drive them away. If we have different views and assumptions, any debate would be meaningless.
I was criticized by those yellow ribbons, but I don’t think I have done anything wrong. I never say if I’m “blue” or “yellow.” Please don’t label me—I don’t like to be categorized.