Cheng Pei Pei

The Queen of Martial Arts

Date: 6 November 2016

Location: Hawaii (The Dole Cannery – Regal Cinemas)

Guest: Cheng Pei Pei

Moderator: George Chun Han Wang

Partners: Hawaii International Film Festival

Asian Film Awards Academy and Hawaii International Film Festival had present the historically game-changing Hong Kong martial arts film Come Drink with Me (King HU, 1966) and a masterclass with the film’s lead actress CHENG Pei Pei, often regarded as the queen of martial arts. Cheng had share her illustrious life as an actress on the world stage (Golden Swallow – dir. CHANG Cheh, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – dir. Ang LEE, Lilting – dir. HONG Khaou) and as the first woman wuxia/action star in film history. The masterclass is part of a retrospective dedicated to legendary Chinese filmmaker King Hu at the HIFF.

The remarkably spritely Cheng sat down for a Masterclass conversation with University of Hawaii associate professor George Wang, following a screening of Hu’s 1966 wuxia classic Come Drink With Me. In the innovative film, Cheng plays a warrior named Golden Swallow in highly stylized, ballet-like fight scenes which, she told us, were meticulously rehearsed.

The actress spoke at length about Hu’s impact on her own life (she currently presides over the King Hu Foundation) and their experience making Come Drink With Me together, negotiating the demands of producer Run Run Shaw, who disliked Golden Swallow’s boyish appearance and campaigned against Hu for more, and stronger, female characters.

Cheng is, these days, well-known for playing the villain Jade Fox in Ang Lee’s 2000 masterpiece Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (which also screened at HIFF); she continues to act regularly, and recently earned critical approval in director Hong Khaou’s indie feature Lilting. When Wang pointed out that she is the only ’60s Shaw Brothers star to still be working today, she gave a characteristically spirited answer: “I move with the tides. That’s why I’m still making movies.”
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