For the next film that he directs, Jay Chou wants to collaborate with Hollywood.
It is not that the multi-talented Taiwanese singer-actor thinks the United States represents greener pastures or a step up from Asia. In fact, he believes his new directorial effort, the musical action comedy The Rooftop, is on a par with Hollywood offerings.
Chou, who has had a taste of Hollywood after starring in The Green Hornet (2011), says in a telephone interview with Life!: “A Chinese musical like The Rooftop might even be able to surpass Hollywood musical films, which seldom emerge as huge commercial hits. It can also be a good introduction to Asian culture for Western audiences.”
He adds that he does not feel that Hollywood has a substantial edge over the Asian film industry, except in terms of budget and resources.
Jay Chou in The Rooftop. PHOTO: MM2 ENTERTAINMENT
“I like cars and the sense of speed. Hollywood is able to do these scenes very well,” says the 34- year-old star, who hopes to write and direct a car action movie after this, as a sequel to Initial D (2005), which he acted in.
The Rooftop is about the budding romance between a carefree ruffian (Chou) who lives on rooftops and a rising starlet (Li Xinai). It will also premiere in the US on Monday as the closing night selection at the New York Asian Film Festival.
Chou composed an original soundtrack for the film, which contains multiple carefully choreographed zhongguofeng (traditional Chinese-style) musical sequences, including martial-arts fights that take place in distinctively Chinese settings such as bathhouses and night markets.
His approach to making The Rooftop is akin to that of making an expanded music video, particularly since the idea for it took root as a music video.
“You just have to be careful about keeping the musical numbers realistic rather than using too many special effects,” explains Chou, who confesses that watching musicals such as Chicago would probably make him fall asleep.
He started directing music videos for his own songs in 2005, when he released his sixth album November’s Chopin, and went on to helm his first feature-length film, Secret, released in 2007.
His second directorial feature effort was initially meant to be a sequel to that romantic drama, which grossed more than US$8 million (S$10.1 million) at the international box office and won Outstanding Taiwanese Film of the Year at the 44th Golden Horse Awards.
In the end, he decided to develop an idea that he had for a music video about a boy who falls in love with someone who works at a bowling alley. This became The Rooftop. It was one of many script ideas he mulled over during his free time while filming The Green Hornet.
“Compared to Taiwan, the pace of shooting in Hollywood was much slower and it was as if I was enjoying life on holiday.”
The most difficult aspects of the filming process for The Rooftop were the flashy car action scenes, one of which involved him speeding across a broken bridge and skidding to a stop right before the car lands in the waters below.
“We had to cordon off the entire bridge and filmed into the wee hours, which was draining,” he recalls. “The musical numbers were comparatively easier to shoot, but it still took a few days just to film one minute of the sequences as we had to practise the choreography.”
The songs he composed for The Rooftop are not all that different from the material he would compose for any of his other albums. If anything, he thinks the soundtrack may have higher artistic value since the compositions on it are less trendy than pop songs. “I probably won’t be releasing a new album this year as I would consider this soundtrack to be a commercial album as well.”
He is also proud of the fact that on The Rooftop, he has done what few other directors of musicals can do — write the songs as well.
Unperturbed by talk that his movie is a vanity project of sorts for him to showcase his many talents, he says: “I felt that it was rather ‘diao‘ (Taiwanese slang for cool) to be able to stand out from Western film-makers by directing a musical film and writing the soundtrack for it at the same time. Not many people can do that.
“What’s wrong with showcasing skills that you have worked so hard to obtain and develop?”
The Rooftop is now showing in Singapore cinemas.
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on July 13, 2013. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.