lundi 27 juillet 2009


Born in China in the early 40’s, Ivy Ling Po 凌波 was THE most popular Hong Kong actress and singer of Huangmei diao genre – to make it short, it’s a mix between musical and historical drama inspired by Chinese Opera - in the 60’s, with classics produced by Shaw Brothers studios, from “The Love Eterne 梁山伯與祝英台” (1963 – she received a special award for it at the Golden Horse in Taiwan) to “The Three Smiles 三笑” (1969).

In the second half of the 60’s, martial arts were becoming more and more popular in Hong Kong, and Ling Po tried this genre as well in some swordplay movies like “Temple of the Red Lotus 江湖奇俠” (1965) or “The Sword an the Lute 琴劍恩仇” (1967), where she doesn’t do much (physically speaking).

But in 1970, she started the shooting of her most intense movie, “The 14 Amazons 十四女英豪”, one of the biggest and craziest martial art epic ever produced by Shaw Brothers, where she played a warrior princess and tactician from the Nothern Sung’s dynasty, Mu Kuei-ying 穆桂英, who led hundreds of female warriors to avenge her husband (and most of the males of the Yang family) and defended the country against the invaders from the Western Xia.

Released for the first time in Hong Kong on July 27th, 1972, “The 14 Amazons” was screened in its restored version 34 years later, first in Hong Kong on January 5th, 2006, for a screening hold by Celestial Pictures and Women In Film and Television International (WIFTI) - Hong Kong Chapter. Then, “The 14 Amazons” was ‘officially’ screened in France for the first time (there were some unofficial screenings in the 80’s in a Chinatown theather in Paris) at the Cannes Film Festival (in the Cannes Classics section) in May 2006, before its official French theatrical release on June 7th, 2006.

The following 2006 interview of Asian Movie Queen Ivy Ling Po was previously used (in French), for “The 14 Amazons” French press-kit and an article for the magazine Kumite. It's published for the first time in English here on Action Queens. Enjoy...

Frédéric Ambroisine: The shooting of “The 14 Amazons” was announced by Sir Run Run Shaw in Hong Kong, on October 7th, 1970 at the Miramar Hotel during a press conference. You were wearing the outfit of your “Finger of Doom” character that day. Did you have to interrupt your shooting to attend this event?

Ivy Ling Po: Not really, because as a Shaw Brothers actress, the compagny was arranging all my schedules. I didn’t have to worry about anything. I was shooting Pao Hsueh-li's “Finger of Doom” indeed, and when the time for the press conference arrived, they arranged a car for me to go to the Miramar, and when it’s finished, they brought me back on the set. Usually on a movie, you take a break between each scene, when the technical crew is preparing the next one. So, this press conference was like taking a longer break. It didn’t affect my work at all.

FA: Officially, the shooting of “The 14 Amazons” took two years. But you were working on other Shaw Brothers movies at the same time, right?

ILP: Yes, I worked on other Shaw Brothers movies simultaneously during those two years. The shooting of “The 14 Amazons” took a long time because it was a very big production. There were so many people involved in the cast and crew. One day of change would affect a lot of things. That’s why it took a long time to coordinate the necessary ingredients. And sometimes, director Cheng Kang would make changes, like a lot of directors would, but for this movie, each change required a lot of coordination.

FA: Physically, “The 14 Amazons” was problably your most dificult shooting compared to your previous martial arts movies directed by Chui Chang-wan 徐增宏? (“Temple of the Red Lotus”, “The Sword and the Lute”)

ILP: There was more fantasy in the Chui Chang-wan movies. In his movies I usually play a great martial arts master who would just had to raise a finger to make somebody dies. So of course, I didn’t need to do a lot of physical work for those movies. Comparatively, the shooting of “The 14 Amazons” was harder, because I’m playing a normal person and the action scenes are more realistic. My character has to use a lot of courage to fight. Preparing those scenes required a lot of physical work. I wasn't known as a martial arts actress, so I was not expected to do too difficult martial arts scenes. Usually, for the action scenes, there’s an action director who trains you on the set. You just do it a few times before the shooting of the scene. Then you start to shoot until the director is satisfied.

FA: Director Cheng Kang was apparently under a lot of pressure during the the shooting of “The 14 Amazons”?

ILP: I think he was. Handling a big budget movie means that you’ll have pressure. Cheng Kang had to satisfy everybody. For example, Li Ching probably didn’t have a lot of dialogue originally, but since she was a big star, the director had to add more dialogue for her. I heard that Cheng Kang cried a few times on the set during the shooting and that Yueh Hua consoled him. So I believe he had a lot of pressure.

FA: How was your relationship with your actresses partners?

ILP: I had fond memories of the shooting of “The 14 Amazons”. Lisa Lu, who plays the Grand matriarch in the movie, came from Hollywood, so she had special care from the Shaw Studios, and we could all benefit from that as well. Also, most of the crew would eat usually at the Shaw canteen, but since Lily Ho’s mom lived very close by the Shaw studios, she would do some homecook meal for all of us and bring it on the set. The food at the canteen was so-so. Homecook meal was better. So we could all benefit from that as well...

...During the shooting of an outdoor scene, Li Ching and I were gambling. She challenged me “if you can eat ten eggs, I give you thirty dollars!”. And eventually, I ate eleven eggs! After than Chin Han told me “Are you crazy, you know you can die?! If you eat so much eggs, your inside will burst”. I was young and never thought of those things. Even half-way, after about 7 eggs, Lily Ho’s mother couldn’t bear it. “Aya! Ling Po! Don’t eat! I give you the 30 dollars!” and I said “No, no, no! I don’t cheat! I lose or I win”. And I carried on eating until the eleventh.

FA: What were the most difficult things that you had to do during the shooting of “The 14 Amazons”?

ILP: I was actually really scared to do the horse riding scene. There were previous cases of people riding horses in other movies who had terrible accidents. So I was very scared. But for the movie, I had to look very brave, and ride it. Once, the horse didn’t want to stop, and it scared the hell out of me. Eventually when I could stop the course, I cried for a long time. I was frightened.... Another scary moment was during the scene of the human bridge. I think I was on the top. I don’t remember exactly. I had to get up very high.

FA: “The 14 Amazons” will finally be released in the French theaters. What do you think about that?

ILP: I’m extremely delighted that this movie made almost 40 years ago, will meet a young French audience. I’m verry happy about that. Even if it was made a long time ago, the spirit of courage remains. It is something that will last forever. In the old days, there were women with courage. And it has not changed since. And I hope the French audience will carry on and support Hong Kong films.

(A big thanks to Patty Keung and Kenneth Bi for this interview)

Check out also: The 14 Amazons fan site - Ivy Ling Po filmography (HKMDB) - Yvy Ling Po: Gender Bender

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