Updated at: 01/23/2013 6:37 AM
By HEATHER TAN
(AP) SINGAPORE - For a director and actor who have worked together for about two decades, there did not seem to be much chemistry between Wong Kar-wai and Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai at a news conference promoting their new movie "The Grandmaster" on Wednesday.
Wong kept his arms folded most of the time and Leung did not look his way when Wong answered questions from the media.
However, Leung, who suffered two broken arms while preparing for the role, dismissed rumors of tensions and unhappiness with his director over having some of his scenes cut.
"I don’t harbor any unhappiness or ill feelings toward Wong because I respect and understand his decision," Leung said in response to a question. "The decision is entirely up to him to decide how his story should be told."
"The Grandmaster," which reportedly took 17 years to complete, is Leung’s seventh collaboration with Wong and recounts the life story of Chinese martial arts legend Ip Man, famous for having trained Bruce Lee.
"I wanted to see a different Tony for this movie and I believe that `The Grandmaster’ has proven to be a new challenge for him both physically and emotionally with the amount of time taken to film it," Wong said in support of Leung. "It is a new way of showcasing the character of Ip Man so it was physically challenging for Tony to undergo training for so many years just to prepare for the role."
While the two seemed to be on civil terms toward the end of the news conference while posing together for photos, they still maintained a certain amount of distance.
Leung and Wong’s collaboration in the 2000 movie "In the Mood for Love" won Leung international recognition and the Cannes Film Festival’s Best Actor award. Their relationship is said to have soured when Leung learned that scenes from "The Grandmaster" had been cut to favor his co-star, Zhang Ziyi, who plays the daughter of his rival.
As the co-stars were reported to have filmed their scenes separately, Leung remained oblivious to Zhang’s screen time. Leung also said that his work in the movie served as second fiddle to Zhang’s role.
Wong, however, defended his decision to reduce Leung’s film time by saying that Ip Man was a man of few words and thus he felt it necessary to remove as many dialogue scenes as possible.
The move prompted Leung’s wife, Hong Kong celebrity Carina Lau, to take to her microblog to criticize her husband’s role in the movie as being a "silent, colorless ghost."
The movie has faced its fair share of obstacles, including Leung developing chronic bronchitis as a result of shooting at least 30 action scenes in the rain.
Leung is also believed to have spent three years mastering the martial art of Wing Chun required for the role, and broke his arms twice in the process.
But the film’s misfortunes turned into box office success by grossing $26 million in its opening week in mainland China.
It also scored more than double the box office sales of competitor Jackie Chan’s action-comedy "CZ12" and went on to gross $1.04 million in its opening weekend in Hong Kong.
Three previous films about the life of Ip Man, which were not released in North America and most of Europe, made over $36 million.
"The Grandmaster" is to open next month’s Berlin Film Festival, where Wong is to serve as jury president.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)