One of 2009’s most controversial but successful Hong Kong movies was the dark thriller Murderer, starring actor/singer Aaron Kwok as a Policeman whose life is thrown into disarray when a series of brutal murders take place implicating him as the possible suspect.
Now, the same production team of screenwriter Christine To and Director Roy Chow are set to return to the screen with the upcoming release of Nightfall.
It’s another dark tale starring Simon Yam as a Policeman approaching retirement who is forced to revisit an old case when the release of a convicted prisoner played by Nick Cheung coincides with a brutal series of crimes, the film is currently in post-production and set for release in early 2012, Forces of Geek’s Man from Hong Kong Mike Leeder who also plays a supporting role in the film takes a first look at the film.
In early 2011 I got a phone call from an old friend, Director Roy Chow who I’d previously worked with on Ronny Yu’s Fearless where we collaborated on a documentary “Fearless Fighters: in Search of the True Masters’ which chronicled the casting process for the movie across Thailand, Europe and North America as we sought out the best fighters for the film and also the history about the various fighting arts we would feature in the film, and the true story of Master Hua Yin-jia, the man portrayed by Jet Li in the movie. (For various reasons the documentary was never released, although sections of it were used in various promo’s for the movie and in some of the Making Of’s on certain DVD & Blu-ray releases.)
Roy had been working for Edko Films in a variety of positions being mentored by legendary Producer Bill Kong (Crouching Tiger, Fearless, Blood the Last Vampire, Man with the Iron Fists), and had worked with Ang Lee on Lust & Caution, before being given the opportunity to direct his first feature Murderer, written in conjunction by his longtime collaborator Christine To Chi-long. (To’s credits include Fearless, Jay Chou’s directorial debut Secret, and the under-rated Jiang Hu starring Andy Lau & Jacky Cheung). Roy & Christine had also developed the original story for a martial arts take on A Beautiful Mind which became True Legend, directed by Yuen Woo-ping which I also handled some of the casting for.
Roy called me in for a meeting and asked if I’d be interested in working on his 2nd film as director, Nightfall, but not behind the scenes this time, instead he wanted to know if I was interested in playing a role that he & Christine had written with me in mind. I was flattered by the offer and happy to have the opportunity to work with them both, even if I was a little taken back when I realized my character was to be a brutal somewhat racist British Policeman working in pre-handover Hong Kong.
|Its a wrap! Roy Chow, Mike Leeder & Nick Atkinson|
The film follows a hardboiled if jaded detective played by Simon Yam who is forced to re-evaluate one of his previous cases, when a series of brutal murders take place involving those involved in the crime for which a recently released criminal (Nick Cheung) was originally convicted of. The film also stars Janice Man, Kay Tse, Michael Wong and features newcomer Shawn Dou in a cameo role.
|Director Roy Chow & Nick Cheung
Nick Cheung who began the new millennium being groomed as a possible successor to Stephen Chow in the world of mo lei tau/nonsensical comedy, has evolved into a very talented and very serious actor over the years, with standout turns in such films as Beaststalker and Exiled. To prepare for this film, Cheung underwent a very intensive physical transformation, slimming down and pumping iron in a DeNiro’esque manner to become a character who some will no doubt refer to as a Chinese take on Max Cady from Cape Fear.
The younger version of his character is played by Zhang Yimou protégé Sean Dou, who literally threw himself into the role, and had no qualms about being given a good beating by my character and his compatriots.
|Nick Cheung and Sean Dou (the two incarnations of same character)|
My character began life as Detective Inspector Mike Leeder only to undergo a name change to Spencer when we began shooting, sadly negating the opportunity for me to receive the credit I had been hoping for Mike Leeder as himself, and is seen in several flashbacks to the time of the original crime that Cheung’s character was convicted of.
It was fun to play a character who just wants to get a conviction, who believes that the evidence can always be found later and has no time for pleasantries even with his fellow Police officers, and I liked the way Roy works with his actors, he lets you find your own way to the performance he is looking for.
In my mind I was channeling Regan and Carter from the Sweeney and Gene Hunt from Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, although I am worried that I probably come across more like Shouting George from the Weeny last seen in The Comic Strip Presents: Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown. I had the pleasure of working with another British actor based in Hong Kong, Nick Atkinson (Band of Brothers) who plays my partner in crime busting, but refused to call me Guv despite repeated requests. The scenes we shot were pretty intense and I give major respect to both Roy for the way he lets the performers bring out their emotions, and to Sean Dou who gave as good as he got if not better from everything we threw at him verbally, emotionally and physically in the scenes we shot together.
Nightfalll is currently in post-production and scheduled for release in early 2012, the first trailers for the film can be found online. I would also like to say a big thanks to and offer much love and respect to Roy & Christine for giving me the chance to work with them on the film, and thanks also to Sean, Michael Wong, Nick, David Oxley, Boss Fan, Q, Henry Ho and everybody else on the film for their professionalism on set when dealing with a performer like me!