Ti Lung loves being a granddad

The Kid From The Big Apple stars Ti Lung and Sarah Tan (both above).
The Kid From The Big Apple stars Ti Lung and Sarah Tan (both above).PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

Veteran Hong Kong actor Ti Lung, known for starring in Shaw Brothers' classic wuxia films, still practises martial arts daily to stay healthy.

But that is not all that the 69- year-old does to stay in good shape.

"My way of staying healthy is to listen to my wife as much as possible," he deadpans in Mandarin in a recent telephone interview with The Straits Times.

"I accompany my wife on shopping trips to buy her bags and shoes. When you have a happy family, you will be invincible. I may be turning 70 soon, but I'm still as strong as ever."

In his new movie, The Kid From The Big Apple, a Malaysian production directed by first-time film- maker Jess Teong, he plays a respected traditional Chinese medicine physician whose estranged daughter (Jessica Hsuan) returns to Malaysia from New York and dumps his young granddaughter (Sarah Tan) in his care for a few months.

Due to language and cultural barriers, the grandfather-grandchild relationship is immediately rocky and both sides must gradually adapt and make compromises to get along.

During the 20-minute interview, it is evident he cherishes his family a great deal, gushing about them easily. Ask him about his nine- month-old granddaughter - his first grandchild - and he goes on and on.

"I live a carefree and simple life. I spend time taking care of my granddaughter and it's just great. Even my wife has stopped playing mahjong because she wants to spend more time carrying our granddaughter," says the actor, whose only child is actor Shaun Tam, 35.

He adds: "Obviously, my granddaughter is still a baby, so everything she does is cute. When she gets older, she will get into the rebellious phase like any other kid and we'll have to learn how to deal with that when the time comes."

If his working relationship with the child star in The Kid From Big Apple is anything to go by, he should have no problems with his granddaughter later on.

He and first-time actress Sarah, 11, got on like a house on fire. He says: "I think it's because I treated her like an equal. I never talked down to her and that's why she was never afraid of me either. We were co-stars."

The film, which opens in Singapore and Malaysian cinemas tomorrow, has swept four awards at the Macau International Movie Festival, including Best Actor for Ti Lung and Best Newcomer for Sarah.

For Ti Lung, acting awards are not crucial, but he is nonetheless heartened by the recognition, especially for an actor of his age.

The star of Shaw Brothers wuxia films such as The Sentimental Swordsman (1977) and The New One-Armed Swordsman (1971), as well as contemporary crime flicks including John Woo's A Better Tomorrow (1986), says: "Good scripts are hard to come by and good scripts for older actors are even rarer. But I still love to act, so if I get good opportunities such as this one, I will take them on.

"I don't plan on retiring, unless I cannot physically work anymore."

• The Kid From The Big Apple opens in cinemas tomorrow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2016, with the headline 'Ti Lung loves being a granddad'. Print Edition | Subscribe