It has been 18 years since Anita Mui’s (梅艷芳) passing yet her legacy remains in those who were lucky to have known the star. When producer Bill Kong (江志強) signed on to create Anita a biopic for the late singer, he admitted to feeling an immeasurably pressure. However, he insisted on completing the project as a tribute to his friend and to showcase the golden age of Hong Kong’s music industry.
Bill Regretted Not Fulfilling Anita’s Last Wish
Describing his friendship with the late icon, Bill shared, “I met Anita during the 80’s while working. At that time, my company was just a small company and Anita was already a popular star. However, she was very happy to help us promote Japanese film The Adventures of Milos and Otis <子貓物語>. I am still grateful to her to this day.”
In 2003, Anita approached Bill and expressed her interest in filming a meaningful movie that would withstand time, “At that time, we didn’t know about Anita’s illness but I felt her strong desire to film. I worked with director Yi Mou Zhang (張藝謀) to create a role for Anita in House of Flying Daggers <十面埋伏>. Anita was eager to accept the role but in November of that year, Anita had to drop out because of her health. When she passed, I was never able to fulfill her last wish.”
The regret remained in Bill’s mind until he decided to make a biopic film about Anita. Thinking back on his friend, Bill shared, “Anita’s attitude towards life affected me a lot. Sometimes when I am having difficulties at work, I would think about how she would solve it. Anita went from a small-time singer to a Cantopop sensation. She would have fought to the very end.”
Challenges of Creating the Biopic
When Bill was working on the biopic, he initially sought out screenwriter Lilian Lee (李碧華) due to her experience in working on Anita’s 1988 film Rouge <胭脂扣>. However, Lillian wasn’t able to sign on to the project, Bill enlisted screenwriter Longmond Leung (梁樂民) to work on the biopic.
Bill recalled the biggest challenge in working on the film was finding a suitable actress who could emulate Anita’s charisma. The world-wide audition began in 2015 and two years later, the production team selected 28 years old model Louise Wong (王丹妮) for the role.
Explaining why he ultimately decided to give the newcomer the hefty role, Bill shared, “Louise’s life is very similar to Anita’s. She also grew up in a single-parent family and because she wanted to lessen her mom’s burden, she started working part time when was 10 years old. Her strong spirit convinced me that she was suitable for the role.”
Bill’s intuition was proven correct during the full-dress rehearsal. When director Longmond arranged a wedding dress for Louise to perform Anita’s hit song “Sunset Melody” <夕陽之歌>, the whole production had goosebumps, “When the team watched Louise’s audition, everyone said ‘Anita is back!’”
Helping Louise Get into Character
Although Louise made a strong impression at her audition, the young starlet had never starred in a high budgeted production and she was required to go through two years of intensive training such as acting, dancing and singing.
Louise had the whole team’s support and she was able to train with award-winning actor Liu Kai Chi (廖啟智). Recalling how Louise progressed over time, Longmond said, “At first, Louise was really clumsy. Of course, she could not be compared to Anita, but it was clear that Louise was improving with her training. When filming started and we opened Pandora’s box, everyone was eager to see Anita to sing a song and perform one more time. It was through Louise’s acting that we were able to get our wish.”
Longmond added that when the scene was filming, no one was calling Louise by her name. Instead, everyone was emotional and cried as if the person in front of them was really the legendary Anita.
This article is written by Sammi for JayneStars.com