Perhaps this year’s highlight of my so-called entertainment journalism career was the interview with Jackie Chan when he came to Bangkok to promose CHINESE ZODIACS.
We were given 20 minutes for an exclusive interview, but in reality, it was an almost full day coverage because the bloody PRs at Sahamongkol Films, which handled the film’s distribution in Thailand, insisted that we get there an hour and a half before the scheduled press conference. Then after the press conference, which lasted about 20 minutes, there was a more than two hours wait before our interview slot.
Well, this is THE Jackie Chan, so who was going to complain, right?
Then it turned out that in the “exclusive” interview, Jackie will also be joined by his two female co-stars. So my colleague and I had to draft additional questions for the starlets and even rehearsed the sequence just to make sure that our 20 minutes won’t be sacrificed with those “forced” questions.
Then came the interview.
I have to say, Jackie is an entertainment master. And it was obvious he is used to making the orders because in the press conference alone, he virtually acted as floor director. During the photoshoot, he coached his co-stars where to look and how to pose. And the guy can talk. Give him one question, and he has a lot to say. Small wonder that he has been in trouble recently over some “controversial” remarks including his family values, Hong Kong triads and clamping down on protests. Once he pops, he can’t stop, and he just goes on and on and on. Well, the guy has decades of experience as stuntman, actor, director, scriptwriter… so naturally, he has a lot to say and so many anecdotes to tell.
And that’s what happened during the interview. It was difficult to cut in and before we knew it, it was half time into the interview and the PR was nagging me about the questions for the starlets, who, understandably were starting to look bored and upset beside him. We had to rearrange the questions to accommodate the request and push a question for Jackie later so we can give those starlets their precious questions.
But to be honest, I was not keen on it especially when I saw them making subtle faces at each other as Jackie discussed Chinese cinema against Hollywood, unaware that his two co-stars were becoming impatient. Unfortunately for those starlets, it was caught on camera (no sound though because the translator tripped on the wire just before the interview started and I did not notice it has been loosened. I am too lazy to sync the audio file with the video but in this clip, Jackie was expounding on why it will take decades for Chinese cinema to catch up with American filmmaking.)
(The “boredom” sets in starting at 0:30)
And just after the starlets answered their standard questions (to which of course they gave standard answers that they repeated from the press conference… in other words, a total waste of time asking them anything), the PR cut the interview. And just when I was asking about the recent controversies surrounding Jackie. Well, thank you very much indeed.
I would have overlooked such attitude from the starlets, after all I can only imagine how it feels like to be sitting there without getting any attention, if the PR did not cut the interview short. Ergo, that “boredom” moment made it to my story: “Man of many hats.”
But the day was not over yet. There was still the red carpet premiere. I went there out of curiosity and had to endure more than an hour of waiting again. My colleague quipped: “If this is a president or prime minister we’re all waiting for, everyone would have already complained. But if it’s a celebrity, everyone waits around happily.” True, but then public officials are paid by taxpayers’ money while celebrities get money from us voluntarily, because we like their films or albums or whatever. And on that note, no, I haven’t watched CHINESE ZODIAC because I don’t want to “voluntarily” part with my money (the version shown at the premiere was Thai-dubbed so I decided to skip it).
Covering Jackie Chan felt like 12 years indeed, one year for every zodiac.
End note: The starlets’ names are: Yao Xingtong, who was nominated as best actress in 2009 at the Golden Rooster, and Zhang Lanxin, China’s taekwondo champion in 2004 and dubbed as the “next Michelle Yeoh”. Well I’m sure Michelle Yeoh knew her social manners even back when she was not famous yet.
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