8 QUESTIONS WITH Mark Chao

Mark Chao's playing Hero for the third time

Taiwanese actor Mark Chao says reprising his hit role as a cop in a movie sequel of Black & White feels like coming home

Mark Chao says he would not accept a role if it did not offer something new. -- PHOTO: MONTBLANC
Mark Chao says he would not accept a role if it did not offer something new. -- PHOTO: MONTBLANC

Taiwanese-Canadian actor Mark Chao rejected at least 30 movie scripts over the past year, he said.

"My manager's starting to get upset with me. He's like, 'Hey, why don't you make some money?'" he told Life! with a laugh at a sit-down interview.

"I'm very picky. Maybe the script was for a role that I'd done before, or it was one that I could sort of see where it was going, so there would be no surprise element.

"I want to be responsible to my fans. I want them to say, 'Oh, Mark's in a movie. Do we know what it's about? No, but it's going to be good, because he's in it'."

The 29-year-old hunk was in town to grace an event organised by luxury brand Montblanc to celebrate the 90th anniversary of its Meisterstuck fountain pens.

After several back-to-back interview sessions, he was looking a little tired by the time Life! caught up with him, but the professional remained friendly and charming throughout.

Unlike most celebrities, he was also open about his personal life, even when questions veered towards China actress Gao Yuanyuan, 34. They registered their marriage in June.

Gushing, he rattled off a string of adjectives to describe his wife. "She's beautiful, kind, mature and gracious. We're often on the same wavelength in the way we think, and there is a lot of communication between us."

He added that married life is not much different from being single - at least for now.

"We haven't even seen each other for about a month since we got married, because we've both been so busy with work. So we haven't really settled down to live together yet to see what married life is like."

He was coy only about the date of their wedding banquet. "Things are still in discussion but we'll let you know the date when the time comes."

Chao shot to fame in 2009 riding on his debut in the hit TV action drama Black & White, where he played a no-nonsense cop named Hero. The role earned him the Best Actor prize at the Golden Bell Awards, Taiwan's equivalent of the Emmys.

He soon went on to become an A-lister in the movies, starring in popular films such as Taiwanese gangster film Monga (2010) - for which he won the Asian Film Award for Best New Actor - and ensemble romantic comedy Love (2012), as well as Vicki Zhao Wei's hit directorial debut So Young (2013).

In 2012, he reprised his popular Black & White character in the movie spin-off of the show, Black & White: The Dawn Of Assault.

Now, he scores a hat- trick in the sequel Black & White: The Dawn Of Justice, slated for release in October.

Slipping back into the same role for a third time was clearly a breeze, as he said: "Everything about it just feels like home. It's good to be back as Hero, but I hope audiences will see that my character has changed and grown as well. I would not have done the role if it didn't offer something new."

1 Black & White: The Dawn Of Justice is opening soon. Are there pressures to have it live up to the first movie?

(Laughs) A little bit, but I'm not worried about it in terms of the box office. When we shot the first movie, we had so many challenges - there wasn't enough money, then we had equipment issues and we couldn't get (actor) Huang Bo's schedule to suit us to finish it.

This time, there are even more special effects and stunts, so it was a whole new set of challenges and I was wondering how the director was going to handle it all. But he's so confident and brave, and I trust him completely to do a good job.

2 You've played your character in the Black & White franchise three times now. Are there plans to extend it?

No, no. The director, Tsai Yueh-hsun, did only three projects in the last five years, which is Black & White the TV series, Black & White movie episode one and now the second movie.

Every time we work together, he told me all his wonderful ideas for other stories and I always told him, 'Why don't you start filming those instead?'

He's starting to listen and he told me that he won't be filming any more Black & White movies - for a while, anyway.

3 In previous interviews, you said that you agreed to film So Young only after much persuasion from the director and your good friend, Vicki Zhao Wei. Is that how director Tsai roped you in to film Black & White so many times too, because he is a good friend?

(Laughs) Yes, they all know my soft spot. But no, all of these movies were great scripts, and great movies too, so I was more than happy to participate.

For So Young, it wasn't because I didn't want to do it but because I didn't have time. But Zhao Wei kept saying that I had to do it, so I squeezed out some time to do her movie. For director Tsai, it would be a given for me to work with him. He's my master, my sensei, and he taught me everything that I knew.

4 After you filmed Taiwanese movie Monga (2011), many of the films that you worked on were co-productions with China. Do you miss getting to do a purely Taiwanese movie?

Yes and no. It's a trend in film-making now to have co-productions. Taiwan lacks the funding, and China has a lot of money. But China needs help from Taiwan too because Taiwan has the expertise in film-making. So that's why they have to work together.

I do miss it in a way. The Taiwanese arthouse films were awesome and extraordinary. But right now, very few directors are doing that sort of thing, so opportunities like that are hard to come by.

5 Now that you are married, are there plans for a baby anytime soon?

After the wedding banquet, I don't think we'll stall on the baby thing for too long. But we don't have very concrete plans, so we'll just let things happen naturally. I definitely want to have children, I think having kids is a beautiful thing.

6 You met your wife Gao Yuanyuan on the set of Chen Kaige's Caught In The Web (2012). Will you co-star with her in another movie?

It would have to be a really, really good script, one so good that we cannot say no to it. If the two of us film together, it'll take away some focus from the movie itself, which would do more harm than good.

7 Your wife is promoting her new film But Always, where she has some steamy scenes with Nicholas Tse. Do you mind your wife shooting sexy scenes?

We're all actors, so I know that it's part of the job and that everyone's being professional. But if either of us have sexy scenes, we would have to tell the other beforehand. It's simply out of respect. And I'll definitely watch But Always. Nicholas is so handsome, so I'll just focus on him instead (laughs).

8 How would you like to be remembered?

Just as a dude, an ordinary dude who lived happily and was responsible to himself, his family and to the world.

yipwy@sph.com.sg

Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

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