Dada Chan doesn’t want to be seen as a sex icon. That was clear to me as soon as I walked into the room. Wearing a too-large crew neck t-shirt and a floor-length skirt, the Hong Kong actress renowned for her bust was the most modestly dressed one in the room.
Good for her.
After her turn as Popping Candy, an actress willing to do anything to get a part, in NYAFF 2012’s opening film Vulgaria, she was afraid that she could be shoehorned into that kind of role (as she was in Hardcore Comedy, which played at this year’s fest). So not only was she in Hardcore Comedy but also the horror anthology Tales from the Dark Part 1, and by many accounts she was one of the best parts of the entire film.
It was a fun interview, so check it out… even if she didn’t seem particularly into the hug she gave me at the end. Oh well. What can you do?
[For the next few weeks, we will be covering the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival and the 2013 Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF 2013 coverage, click here. For Japan Cuts 2013 coverage, click here.]
In this festival, you were in two different anthology films. How was it working in a shorter format versus a feature film like Vulgaria.
The first difference is that it just takes less time, so I was less stressed out than I was with Vulgaria. Also, because I was working with a lot more young people [on Hardcore Comedy], the director was new and gave me a lot of space to try new things. We didn’t really follow a script. There was a lot of improvising when we were shooting, and the other actor and I had very good chemistry. During Vulgaria, all of the actors were veterans, so it was a different environment.
When you took the part in Vulgaria, were you hoping it would lead to grander things or was it a one-off thing?
Well, this wasn’t my first film [In my defense, I actually knew this and poorly phrased my question – Ed.]. I was in two films before Vulgaria. Before I was in a film called Lan Kwai Fong. That film got a really good response in Hong Kong, and that’s why director Pang Ho-Cheung went to find me for the part in Vulgaria. Before doing films, I was modeling and doing other jobs, but I received a Best Supporting Actress at the Hong Kong Film Awards for Vulgaria, so I became much more serious. And I also want to become a very good actress, and I want people to recognize my skills.
Your part in Tales from the Dark Part 1 is about as different from your character in Vulgaria as it could possibly be. Were you trying to subvert expectations and keep yourself from being boxed into the character of “attractive actress who does sexy comedies”?
Have you seen Tales from the Dark?
Yes .[Which was a lie. – Ed.]
I haven’t! [laughs]
But my work in Tales from the Dark is the one I am most proud of. I am trying to differentiate myself. I would like to try all kinds of characters and don’t care about looking ugly or having a less pretty or sexy appearance than I had in Vulgaria. And when I try different characters, I make more progress on my acting skills. I am afraid that those roles would define me. I want to have more dimensions, and I believe that there are unlimited possibilities in myself to be discovered. I would like to discover them all by trying to find more characters.
Are there any particular characters that you’re looking to do?
I really want to act as a mute or blind character. I feel like that could be very challenging and also very meaningful, because I believe that films can be very influential and if I do a role like that it would be audience attention to that social issue. So I can improve my skills and do something for society.
Are you working on anything new now?
A sequel to Lan Kwai Fong and a new film by Pang Ho-Cheung.
Could you tell me a bit about those films?
The Lan Kwai Fong sequel just continues the story and is about the nightlife of young people in current society, and it’s also a bit of a romance story. The new film from Pang Ho-Cheung shows Hong Kong culture and Hong Kong spirit. We’ve just started, so I don’t really have too much to say.
What genre is the new Pang Ho-Cheung?
I actually don’t know. [laughs] There was no script when we were shooting Vulgaria. Every day he gave me what we were doing that day. So I’m asking about the script, but he’s been revising it and he won’t give me the complete thing. Just my part, so I don’t know. That’s Pang Ho-Cheung’s style.
Was going from comedy to horror jarring at all?
I felt like the transition from comedy to horror and then back to comedy wasn’t too hard. So far, there haven’t been any really challenging roles for me. Tales from the Dark was the most challenging one, because there wasn’t much dialogue so I had to mostly use facial expressions to act, and I felt that the most important part of that movie was the interaction between the cast and crew. I felt like I had to be very serious and couldn’t talk with others or I would be taken out from the atmosphere. Comedies are much easier and much more natural. I wasn’t really stressed out. Hong Kong has a very unique comedy culture, and we would just come up with jokes during the shooting.
Have you considered working in another country’s film industry?
Actually, my next movie is being shot in a foreign country. I would like to try new things and learn new things, but I want to get the basics first. I don’t feel like I’m experienced enough to go to a different country to do new films. I need to learn more.
Which is shooting in the different country?
The Lan Kwai Fong sequel.
What do you think about coming to festivals like NYAFF and introducing films?
I’m very much looking forward to showing [Hardcore Comedy] to the audience, because I haven’t seen it yet either [this interview took place a few hours before the screening – Ed.]. It’s an honor to be here, and it’s actually my first time in New York. I learned about New York from films, and it’s very exciting to be here.
Thank you very much.