The Daily Beast: Tony Leung on His Journey to Kung Fu Spirituality in ‘The Grandmaster’

Tony Leung

In the kung fu epic The Grandmaster, Cannes award-winning actor Tony Leung trained for four years. And he broke his arm twice. He talks about his transformation.

On The Daily Beast, you can read my latest article, “Tony Leung on His Journey to Kung Fu Spirituality in ‘The Grandmaster.’”

There’s something calming about Tony Leung. The 51-year-old Hong Kong superstar sits on a white leather couch at the ritzy SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, his usually side-parted hair now shaved down to a buzz cut. Despite a hectic schedule promoting The Grandmasteran arthouse biopic based on the legendary kung fu master Ip Man out in select theaters Friday, he seems at ease. It’s as if he has adopted the Zen qualities associated with martial artists.

“It’s not easy for someone like me to start learning kung fu at the age of 47,” a soft spoken Leung tells The Daily Beast.

He went through four years of vigorous training with the masters of Wing Chun martial arts for the role. Along the way, he broke his arm twice. In his seventh film with auteur director Wong Kar Wai, Leung and his costars Ziyi Zhang and Chang Chen (both in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) had to achieve a high level of authenticity in mastering the moves and embodying the spirit of kung fu during their three years of filming. Physical conditions were rough during the shoot, as they spent months in the freezing, snow-blanketed landscapes in Northeast China. They even shot for 30 successive nights in cold and wet clothing to capture the epic opening fight sequence in the rain.

Leung isn’t a stranger to playing challenging roles. He snagged the best actor award at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival for In the Mood for Love. In director Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, which won the coveted Golden Lion award at the 2007 Venice Film Festival, Leung portrayed a menacing Mr. Yee whose graphic sex scenes in the film earned it an NC-17 rating. It was something he never thought he’d be able to do.

Continue reading at The Daily Beast


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