Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Eric Tsang

The veteran Hong Kong star - actor, producer, writer, director, TV presenter and restauranteur - was born on 14th April 1953. Eric started his career in cinema as a stuntman. His father Tsang Kai wing was a professional footballer and then coach and Eric was following in his footsteps until at 23 he got fed up of being compared to his Dad and wanted to excel at something different. As a footballer he had met Sammo Hung and Lau Kar Leung and become friends with them. Although he didn't know kung fu Lau Kar Leung thought his physical skills could be put to good use as a stuntman. He began working, often as a double for women as he was short.

Eric then decided to turn his hand to screenwriting and in 1977 wrote the script for the Shaw Brothers Kung Fu masterpiece (Wu Tang Clan and Tarantino favourite) The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Industry friend Karl Maka helped him with this new career move.

"To help script The 36th Chamber of Shaolin I studied harder than I ever did in my life even more than when I was in school. I studied all the books I could find because I really wanted to put all the animal styles in the script - tiger, snake etc. I wrote about the theory of kung fu so I could put that material for Lau Kar Leung. Then the next scipt I wrote was Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog."*

Eric then got into directing, his first job was as assistant director on the Jackie Chan movie The Fearless Hyena. Instead of joining the film production company Golden Harvest like Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung Eric's friend Karl Maka brokered a deal with Cinema city. Tsui hark was also part of the Cinema City family. Eric directed Aces Go Places for Cinema City which became a popular series of films (he also starred in them). Eric was definitely not the matinee idol type and believes he paved the way for other fat/quirky looking actors.

In 1984 Eric left Cinema city and Sammo approached him and asked him to join Golden Harvest to star in and associate produce Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars.

In 1986 Eric teamed up with old pal Jackie Chan to direct him in Armour of God:

"I talk to Jackie. I told him he was not improving. He had now girls in his films. I told him that, even though I'm not that famous, some girls like me. I also said he had no friends in his movies. I suggested that he should begin to work with singers like Alan Tam and put some girls in his movies."*

In 1992 Eric co-founded the film production company Untied Filmmakers Organisation (UFO). Around this time Eric's career as an actor was changing. In the 1980's he starred in numerous Carry On style, cheesy slapstick comedies. in the 1990s his roles began to be more serious. Notably his role as a mob boss wooing Maggie Cheung in Comrades Almost a Love Story directed by Peter Chan. Eric's character is introduced in very brief shots as longer shots may have got automatic laughs from the Hong Kong audience.

In the 1990s Eric began to get more serious roles in dramas and in 2002 he was given a fantastic role where he really came into his own as an actor - as Triad boss Sam in the finest film of the Hong Kong gangster noir genre Infernal Affairs. Apparently Anthony Wong was supposed to play this role but they wanted someone with real gravitas (and acting awards!) to play the policeman so they gave him this role instead. Good news for Eric and it is hard to imagine anyone else in the role now. Eric's inspiration for Sam came from watching Anthony Quinn in Avenging Angelo:
"In every scene he is eating and that defined his character. I wanted to be a guy that no one could pin down. No one knew when he was happy and when he was sad. He was always different...The most important thing about playing this role is the fact that I am old enough to be the boss of Andy Lau and Tony Leung. I sa these 2 actors grow up in the film business so it was natural for me to be the boss."

As well as eating in films Eric is obviously a bit of a foodie as he has now become a restauranteur. First he opened the restaurant Eric Deli Paradise in the Hartmas Shopping Complex Malaysia - in good company Kenny Rogers has a chicken restaurant there (I suppose he does look a bit like Colonel Saunders). The restaurant serves steam boat and dim sum goodies. Pictures of Eric adorn the walls and his TV show Super Trio Series plays on a TV.

Eric opened his first mainland China restaurant this year in Shanghai. Also a hotpot place, he thinks it will never go out of style and hopes visitng HK stars will patronise the restaurant.

Eric is still busy making movies, starring in the 2007 Wong Jing comedy Beauty and The 7 Beasts and due to hit our screens in Jay Chou's Shaolin Soccer homage Kung Fu Slam Dunk in 2008.

Eric Tsang with your raspy voice, cheeky expression and limitless talents, we salute you.

* Quotes taken from this interview with Eric from 2004:

Eric Deli Paradise

Blog review of Eric's Deli

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