Busan 2022: Tony Leung Chiu-wai discusses “2046,” Wong Kar-wai

Tony Leung Chiu-wai in "2046." (still courtesy of the Busan International Film Festival)
Tony Leung Chiu-wai in “2046.” (still courtesy of the Busan International Film Festival)

Tony Leung Chiu-wai may have chosen six films for his In the Mood for Tony Leung retrospective at the 2022 Busan International Film Festival, but he appeared for Q&A sessions at just two of those.  One was the Oct. 6 screening of “2046,” the other was the “Infernal Affairs” showing on Oct. 7.  Unsurprisingly, tickets to both sold out in minutes.

“2046” is widely regarded as the sequel to Wong Kar-wai’s critically acclaimed “In the Mood for Love,” for which Leung won Best Actor honors at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. As a standalone film, however, it more than holds its own, with each passing year since its 2004 release only adding to the gulf between Wong’s masterful abstract brushstrokes and much of cinema today. “2046” actually begins in 1966 during the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, worlds away from the deliberate framing and pacing of its predecessor set just four years earlier. Leung reprises his role of journalist Chow Mo-wan, but as a less assured, more unhinged version forever adrift without Maggie Cheung’s Su Li-zhen.  In “2046,” Cheung’s place is taken by several supporting actresses: Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li (who shares the same character name), Faye Wong and Carina Lau.  Separately they possess traits of Cheung’s Su Li-zhen, but the void Chow Mo-wan feels – having permanently lost her in the previous film – segues into “2046,” and worsens as it unfolds.  An interweaving science fiction plot line depicting a train caught between an uneasy present and even more unnerving future – the promise of a mysterious destination, Room No. 2046 – adds to Chow’s helplessness.

Leung spoke about his work in the film at the “2046” Q&A session along with some of his future acting plans. Excerpts:

On “2046”: “When filming started, I told Wong Kar-wai that I wanted to have a mustache [for the role of Chow Mo-wan] – which he disagreed with.  However, I would have felt like a different character without it.”

On working with Wong Kar-wai’s films in general: “As for working with other actors [in Wong’s films], it is not easy without a script.  The only way out is to try to explore each other’s minds while filming!  But I guess this is a fun way to produce a script.  Unlike other movies where all the scripts already written up beforehand, Wong Kar-wai comes up with new scripts daily.  It was like a mind game for us actors to connect with each other.”

On potential future roles (a topic that he also addressed during his press conference): “A new challenge would be to use a completely different method to portray the same character [that I had] previously [played].  I would love to play characters that I had never done in the past.  I hope to be given the opportunities to portray complicated personalities, etc.

“Recently, I was offered jobs in theatre productions and TV series.  The TV series I was interested in was supposed to start filming this year, but it was not feasible as I am still on vacation.  I do hope to be able to do it because this is my goal.  My career began in television way back.  Therefore, I would like to revisit a TV series again.  I would also like to be in a Hollywood TV series.  If everything goes well, then I hope it will materialize by the end of [2023] or in 2024.”

Mai D. Chan contributed to this report.

Photos: Tony Leung Chiu-wai (梁朝偉) “2046” Q&A, 2022 Busan International Film Festival
all photos by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine

Video: [ZH/KR] Tony Leung Chiu-wai (梁朝偉) “2046” Q&A, 2022 Busan International Film Festival
(in Cantonese and Korean)