Life & Arts

Tony Leung says acting gets more rewarding with age

BUSAN • Legendary Hong Kong film star Tony Leung said that after 40 years in the business, he’s having more fun than ever playing diverse roles — though he’s still hoping to be cast as a serial killer.

Leung, who was awarded the “Asian Cineaste of the Year” prize at South Korea’s Busan International Festival, is best known for his work with famed director Wong Kar-wai. 

Half a dozen of his films, including Wong’s “In the Mood for Love” (2000) and “Happy Together” (1997), will be screened at the festival, which is Asia’s largest and runs until Oct 14. 

The 60-year-old actor, who made his debut on television in 1981, told reporters in Busan that he loved complex roles that made him think — and said he has had more chances to play them later in his career.

“I think the first 20 years were about learning, and the second 20 years were about showing what you have learned,” Leung said on Thursday.

He said he was “at a point where I can enjoy being an actor without being stressed. It’s a lot of fun as I can now play more diverse roles, and characters I can act as I get older”.

Some of Leung’s best-known roles include a ruthless Chinese politician collaborating with the invading Japanese in Ang Lee’s 2007 period drama “Lust, Caution”, and an undercover policeman in Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s “Infernal Affairs” series.

He made his Hollywood debut in 2021 by playing a well-layered supervillain in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”, a superhero film based on Marvel Comics.

“Personally, I would like to try playing a serial killer,” he said, adding he’s also interested in returning to television, which is experiencing something of a golden age thanks to streaming money.

Busan Film Festival director and acclaimed film critic Huh Moon-young said Leung is incomparable to other actors of his generation. Among Leung’s works are “many masterpieces that will long remain in the history of world cinema”, Huh told reporters.

Leung has long been a well-liked figure in South Korea — where Hong Kong cinema enjoyed peak popularity in the early 1990s — and first appeared at the Busan festival in 1997.

Since then, South Korea has cemented its status as a global cultural powerhouse, thanks in part to the explosive success of the Oscar-winning film “Parasite” and the Netflix series “Squid Game”.

Leung said he would like to work with two of South Korea’s top stars — actor Song Kang-ho of “Parasite” fame, and actress Jeon Do-yeon.

“I’m willing to go anywhere, including South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, as long as things are meant to be,” he said. “It’s the connections and timing that make projects appear.” — AFP / Pic by AFP

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