This 'old guy' can still fight

Special effects make filming gongfu movies easier now, but Yuen Biao still wants to do his own stunts at 57 years old

Action star Yuen Biao (centre), in a scene from Sifu Vs Vampire with Ronald Cheng (left) and Philip Ng (right). -- PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION
Action star Yuen Biao (centre), in a scene from Sifu Vs Vampire with Ronald Cheng (left) and Philip Ng (right). -- PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

At the age of 57, veteran action star Yuen Biao says it is easier than ever for him to film gongfu movies.

This is because action movies these days are so much less demanding of the actors compared with those made in the 1970s and 1980s.

"Action movies these days rely heavily on special effects and stunt doubles, so even the actors who do not have any martial arts training can look like they are action stars onscreen," he tells Life! in a telephone interview from Hong Kong.

"So for me, I don't have to work that hard to practise gongfu or keep up fitness levels anymore. I go running almost every day, but that's about it. Action movies are done so differently these days."

Given the option, he still prefers to do all the stunts and fights on his own.

"If the producers ask me to do all the stunts, then of course I'll start preparing myself physically to accommodate that. I may be over 50, which means I can't fight like when I was 20, but I can still do it, and I want to continue to do it.

"I'm an old guy, but I can still fight," he adds with a chuckle.

He was speaking to Life! to promote his new movie Sifu Vs Vampire, an action-comedy-horror produced by Wong Jing about a TV station boss who hires a Taoist master to relocate his grandfather's burial plot for good luck. Things go awry when his grandfather's corpse turns into a Chinese vampire and starts wreaking havoc on the TV station.

Yuen plays the Taoist master, or Sifu, who tries all he can to get rid of the vampire.

This is his first movie in two years since he played a small part of a gongfu expert in Stephen Fung's Tai Chi Hero (2012). In recent years, he has acted only in a handful of films, mostly when friends ask him to.

"Sometimes, I don't even read the script properly before I agree to do the film," he says, which is why he is unaware of just how raunchy some of the sex jokes are in his new film involving his co-stars such as comedian Ronald Cheng.

He says with a laugh: "I haven't watched the film yet. Is it really that raunchy? Maybe Singaporeans are not used to that kind of humour, but in Hong Kong, it's quite common."

Despite his low movie output these days, he is very much a busy man in show business, except that his focus is mostly behind the camera.

"I'm still involved in movies as an action coordinator or trying to learn new things here and there as a producer. I'm still very much in the entertainment industry," says the star, who is married with two children aged 26 and 28.

As a child, Yuen trained at the Peking Opera School and was part of an acrobat performance troupe known as the Seven Little Fortunes, which also included fellow gongfu stars Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Wah.

He entered show business in the 1970s as an extra and stunt double, famously acting as a double for the late Bruce Lee in the movie Enter The Dragon (1973).

Since then, he has starred in more than 130 movies such as Once Upon A Time In China (1991) and The Prodigal Son (1981), as well as TV dramas such as Real Kung Fu (2005) and Kingdom And The Beauty (1988).

At the moment, he is working on producing a remake of the movie Seven Little Fortunes (1988), which is inspired by the real-life experiences of his famous childhood performance troupe before its members became huge movie stars.

"I think remaking the movie will be quite meaningful, so I've been working on it for a while. A lot of people are of course hoping that the original seven guys can get together in the film, and I'll try my best to accommodate everyone's schedule.

"But at our age, we'll have to play other characters. I'll have to play Yuen Biao's father, for example."

Sifu Vs Vampire opens in cinemas tomorrow.

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