It is my great honour to welcome Conan Lee to Eastern Film Fans.
Can you tell me how you something about your martial arts background?
My father started training me at the age of 7 yrs. old. As I saw the progress day by day, I’ve then dedicated my entire pass time in practicing all different style of martial arts. I never got tired and it was nonstop training everyday. Forty five years ago I started to learn martial arts, I have made more than one dream coming true. I did all this all by myself. I like to that this opportunity to thank all the great legendary masters and grand masters of martial arts for their recognition and respect for me and I want to thank all my friends and fans for their dedicated support for all these years. Every single martial artists dreams of being in a movie so they can demostrate their hard trained skills and share it to get that recognition of self satisfation fulfillment . I was that martial artists. I love to train, practice and workout alone for many reasons. One is to not be disturbed and also no one can see my mistakes and weaknesses. I have mastered my own self in the martial arts. I’m self taught and I’m proud of it!
The good thing is that I didn’t take a style that I was taught and made it better or changed the name of the original style. Realistic Fist is simple. Is “Street Smart” martial arts that incorporate real fighting techniques which are in most style. But is tailor made for me and the students was taught accordingly to their own abilities. If you can’t jump, you will not be taught any jumping kicks. Mastering skills that fit you and making the best of your own abilities!
You burst onto the scene with Ninja in the Dragons Den, One of my favourite films, what do you remember about this film ?
My friend said to me a producer that promoted Jackie Chan into stardom was in town looking for a new star to replace him. Because Jackie Chan walked away from him and his new offer after their contract had expired. I told my friend that, when this producer see me he will immediatelely want to sign a contract. I will go to HK to make the film and when the film is released, I will be the #1 kung fu star and making my dream come true…I said it just like that in that exact fashion. I told the producer, I do not want to compare or compete with Jackie Chan or am I here to get revenge for you. Let the results speak for itself! We all witnessed the results. The biggest box office grossing film of all time for any new actor in his debut beating out Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donny Yen and Jet Li. It took 3 months alone just to film that stilts fight scene. That’s enough time to make a complete film and some. I wanted to make that film for one reason, to make my dream come true and see if I’m capable of what I thought I can do on screen and hoping to be accepted with open arms just like Bruce Lee. That film made history for me overnight and the film stand alone as the most unique classic kung fu fighting film of all time. The stilt scene will never be duplicated or copy again by any actor. What separate me from the rest of the actors, in my own opinion, is that, I was an all around athlete can played all american sports well and a dedicated martial artist that train and train and train from sun up to sun down and never got tired. I have respect for all action actors, martial artists and athletes for their own hardship put in and accomplishments. I just always felt I’m one cut above as an overall action actor… Superstar and all that hype is all make believe and a bunch of fantasy, to me it is just my profession and I just want to be the best that I can be and perform my best to entertain my fans worldwide as an actor. I’m very proud of demonstrating my skills that I’ve trained so hard and so many years for. I want to show as much of myself as I can so the next generation of young martial arts practitioners have something to aim for. I want to keep inspire not expire… By the way, now I realized why Jackie Chan left Seasonal Film Co. Ltd. HK.
and working with Corey Yuen?
Cory Yuen, it was his debut as well. He is definitely a super choreographer but a very controlling. We never saw eye to eye from the first day. They have a thing with being groupie sort of like a family. I can understand that because everything come from the family values and they never had any real biological family support or love given up by their parents at a very young age and were all basically orphans contracted to master Yu stage opera school that includes stars such as Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biu to name a few. I went to HK to make kung fu films and wanted to meet all the legends and screen greats. Not to join any ridiculous group acting like they are the best in the business and everybody else are their enemies. I’m here to work and make a quality living so I can to take care of my mother, families and friends. Besides, we had different mentalities and I didn’t feel comfortable thinking like them. So I went to work and refused to join his group because I didn’t want to be involved with any of that political nonsense. Then they would tried to make all the action scenes very difficult and dangerous for me and thinking I was too big and muscular and will not be limber or flexible. How wrong they were and I made all his dangerous difficult action scenes looked too easy and that disturbed them even more. They were very jealous of my skills and my die hard confident. What really destroyed their egos was that they never dream of seeing a muscular martial artist that move so fast with lightening speed jumping so high with accuracy, powerful with such incredible strength and stamina. They had to finally give me my respect because I passed all their dirty tricky tasks. I never complain once during all this abuse. I remember Cory making me hit the cement hard on my back over tens times and it was my debut so I really thought I wasn’t doing it right. Then when I heard the DP saying to Cory “the first two takes were good in the eye of the lenses, you don’t need to do this to him and lets move onto the next shot, with a dislike facial expression towards Cory”. I knew he was trying to overwork me. I was in too great shape and will not allow anything to disrupt me from reaching my dream come true and the promised I’ve made to my mom that I will come back a winner and I will take care of her and my families for the rest of my life. I thank SFC for the opportunity and in return I made them more money than they ever made in all the years in the film business and to this day my film stand as SFC masterpiece and high grossing film of all time for them. As for Cory, I thank him for his superb choreo and as a director. In return he got a successful film for his directorial debut.
You also worked with Sanada,Hiroyuki and the legendary Hwang Jang Lee what was it like working with these guys?
One word professional. Actually two of the nicest guys I’ve ever worked with. I was wondering how come? Until I have realized, they were not from HK and had a different mentality. Einstein said, think different, The HK film industry people do think different, but not always in a good way. Very sad! Sanada was a friendly and humble guy very likable. We got along so well and became the best of friends to this day. I thank him for the opportunity to introduce me to the Japanese audiences and fans. It was he who help made me a household name in Japan, but I get a little credit for my unique personality, talent and skills. Hwang Jang Lee, we had a blast everyday working on the set and off the set. He would come and we would go out to dinner and talk martial arts constantly. I have learnt so much from him. I was still kind of young back then an was thrilled to be around the best kicker in the business. He taught me a lot of the mechanics in his kicking techniques and the philosophy behind his arts. He was very impressed seeing me able to do everything he showed me and asked of me to do. My kicking techniques are perfected to my own ability. But his kicks come out like it was turbo charged and sharp.
He gave me a gift that I will treasure for the rest of my life. He gave me his personal “gi” training outfit that he wore himself and his blackbelt after severals months of private training under his teaching. He said he was honor to teach someone who was that good and so fast in understanding and perfecting his techniques and I was by far the best individual he ever taught. That was big coming from..I think so too.
At the final fight scene, Hwang Jang Lee slipped and kicked me in the face in the actual take, I should have continued the take but I thought it was off camera. However, after that kick in the face, master Hwang apologized and said to me after the shoot that day “Conan Lee you took my kick as it was nothing, you are very strong”.
Tiger on the Beat was such a great film and can you tell us what you remember about this film?
The legendary Liu Chia Liang was the happiest man on the planet when he had a chance to worked with a superincredible real talented martial artist like me. He said I was the best ever and was amazed at my leaping abilities because of the size factor. He treated me well and to this day, I have the greatest respect for him and it was another dream coming true working with him. He wanted to sign me to a 5 picture deal and I rejected his offer. It was business and I had to take care of business the right way. I will never allow anyone like Seasonal Films Co. Ltd. HK to lie and cheat and exploit me again. Thank God ole mighty no one exploited me again. ChowYun Fat was a fun guy. He refused to do Part 2 because I dominated the first film. Danny Lee wanted to work with me knowing it was going to be his best film ever. Though I was the real leading actor. I gave them both the first billing to show I was not concern with politic and lets just get the film done and move on making more box office hits.
Obviously we all remember the chainsaw scene from 'Tiger on The Beat' with Gordon Liu how long did it take to choreograph that fight scene?
HK are masters at that, we do all choreo on the set right there. Then you rehearse for a few minutes and camera, lights and action… Gordon Liu was fun to work with. He was another legend from SB studio. We use real chainsaws but when the blades are colliding we had to turn off the motors. The scene was indeed another classic and a milestone classic added to my film career as well. That film was the action film of the year and was again, the highest box office film of that year…
Tiger on The beat 2' saw you do the famous stunt which I guess most stuntmen would refuse to do jumping from a bridge to a lamppost even now the stunt still looks phenomenal, but looking back now was that the craziest thing you ever did?
Not the craziest, but I wanted to adjust the stunt in mid air and the post was very slippery. The stunt was too easy just jumping 22 ft. like a long jump and land on the post and slide down like a fireman or Batman…And for the industry; I wanted to use this stunt as a trademark for Conan Lee’s Bravery. I wanted to be The Real Deal Conan lee and make use of my skills, so I decided to try to make 3 stunts into one take. I wanted to jump and land on the arm of the lamppost, then slide down i/3 of the way and push off leaping onto an on traffic car in the farthest lane. It wasn’t a stunt gone wrong or any miscalculating. If I didn’t reach the post then we can say it went wrong or miscalculated. It was too slippery and I hit the post too hard and the momentum gave me a little trouble. But I was in the state of mind to not lose that shot and we used it on screen and the results were just as awesome. Every stuntmen and people from the industry all came to witness this stunt being performed by me. ALL 100% of the industry people said, they would never think of doing such a stunt and all the stuntmen said, NO ONE WOULD EVEN REACH THE POST! That will be the most dangerous stunt in the history of HK action film making. No one will ever attempt a stunt knowing it would cripple you or even get killed. CONAN LEE IS THE BRAVEST ACTION STAR IN HK HISTORY.
You were in Lethal Weapon 4 how did the role come about?
Jet ask me and the director really like me. They saw my resume and footage and told Jet Li, this Conan is really something else. So they was absolutely right. At the end of the shoot, I was approached and told by the director. Quote “Conan I have got good news and bad news”? The good news is that your action scenes were awesome and captivating. The bad news is that, we had to edit out the entire scene because you out shine and stole the show from Jet Li and we are promoting Jet. I totally understand is business and politics. I said thank you for the opportunity and the truth. I was given a bonus and all the footage of the fighting with Jet and I. Me and Jet became great friends after that film and no hard feelings. His wife costar in two of my films… (Tiger on The Beat and Aces Go Places 5 ED)
I know that from my own point of view and the fans, we'd love to see Conan lee back on our screen, what are your future plans?
I have been busy with an incredible new health product of mine called Hemoxygen. Is from the discovery of the Nobel Prize winners. Now that the product is ready for world wide sales I have put my focus back into the film industry. I have several scripts and in negotiations with many potential production partners. I look to be back on the screen by 2012 no later 2013. I will bring back the real action back to the screen. For all the new fans that don’t know about me allow me. Allow me to say this, see some of my past work and I will see that you will not be disappointed when I introduce myself to the world again.
Finally the Eastern Film Fans question If you were on a desert island and could only take 3 films with you what would you take? (It can be any genre)
Ninja in the dragons den, Tiger on the beat and The Bible story. The 4th. Would be, Sean Connery’s 007 Bond, James Bond! But there are so many great films James Bond was my growing up action hero!
Thank you for the wonderful and intelligent questions. I gave you the best of my knowledge and wish all the fans understand now why I was out of the scene. I left because of the liars, I’m back because of the buyer!
Conan Lee Yuen Ba
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Conan Lee and his team for this interview it has been an honour.Please note this interview is copyright protected by Conan Lee Inc and Eastern Film Fans.