I recently got the chance to talk to Tien You Chui about his role in ‘Contagion’. Here, Tien talks about how he got involved in the project and which three guests he would invite to dinner…
Hey Tien. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Contagion’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
‘Contagion’ talks about an outbreak of a super infectious disease that passes on very easily - for instance by just shaking hands. The story then continues portraying the darkness of humanity while the doctors are looking for the vaccine.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
My character, Li Fai, is a bartender from Hong Kong who works in a casino. His job requires him to deal with lots of people from all over the world. One day when he is walking in the street with his sick and dizzy body, his attention wanders and he gets killed in a car crash.
He is then diagnosed with this super fatal disease and suspected to be the “first infected person”; his death leads the doctor (Marion Cotillard) to Hong Kong to track the origin of the unknown virus.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
This is my first Hollywood project. At the very beginning I received this casting opportunity because director Steven Soderbergh was looking for cast members from Hong Kong. I was excited to have such an opportunity because I have always been a big fan of Steven’s work. So I went to the casting with great curiosity. I wasn’t expecting anything to come back from it. The casting was relatively easy – there wasn’t even any English dialogue; I just simply did two of the scenes. But then I was notified for a second casting two days later.
I was thrilled to know Steven had selected me out of many local young actors. I couldn’t believe my luck until the first day of shooting – to be in one of Soderbergh’s film! Actually I was shooting another film in China at that time, and I had kept my long hair for that particular historical character; therefore I was quite concerned that Steven would want me to cut it off for the role. Not only was he happy with the way I looked, I was told to just simply be myself !
How would you say this film is different and unique?
Although this film talks about a tremendous disaster, it is not done in a very dramatic way. There isn’t any “end-of-the-world” kind of exaggeration you can see in the film. Instead, it portrays the tragedy in a realistic manner – you see how people in real life would react if it actually happened.
The film stars Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Lawrence Fishburne - with Steven Soderbergh onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
I spent most of the time with Steven discussing about the plotline and acting. He trusted the cast and a lot of times he just let me do it in my own way. Filming was successful and smooth, Steven was impressed with our professional filming crew.
Let’s talk a bit about you Tien. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
It was truly a coincidence! Back then I was a high school student and one day a man came along and asked me if I was interested in shooting a beverage commercial. Later, I found out that he was the acclaimed Hong Kong movie director Fruit Chan! Not long after the commercial was launched, a number of agencies approached me and that was how I entered the entertainment industry. After completing some music courses in Japan, I came back and started a boy band with my partner Wong You-nam called ‘Shine’. I was only 17 then. We released a total of 9 albums. I then decided to devote myself to the movie industry, simply because it gave me a whole new level of satisfaction.
You’ve been in a number of different films – which project has been your favourite to be a part of?
‘Contagion’ is definitely the most interesting, because the people and way of working was very different from that of Hong Kong and China. Everything was new and fun to me. Filming was smooth and I was truly excited – it indeed left me some fantastic memories.
If you could have dinner with three guests (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
- Bruce Lee – my idol and role model. Not only is he a famous kung fu master, he is also a philosopher. I believe by having dinner with him or just a simple conversation it would teach me a lot.
- Michael Jordan – basketball was my life back to high school and I did have an NBA dream! I really want to ask him how he felt the day he scored 69 points in one game.
- Albert Einstein – I am fascinated by science, it must be a great experience if I get to talk to the most intelligent man in the world.
If you were stranded on a desert island – what three things could you not live without?
- Water – life essential, I will not survive without it.
- Muse’s albums – they are always my inspiration and keep my boredom away.
- Dreams – you lose your willpower for life if you don’t keep dreaming.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
There are a few roles in negotiation and hopefully more exciting and challenging roles to play. On the other hand, I am actually writing a movie script which I hope I am going to direct. There are hardships and obstacles for sure, hopefully my first debut will be completed in 2012. I am also working on my 4th sci-fi novel – the ‘Marson Studio’ series, it shall be coming out in a few months time.
Thanks for the interview!