SeraphCollin Chou Interview on Hong Kong Movie WorldSeraph
Collin Chou talks about his action packed career in Hong Kong and transition to Hollywood
 Hong Kong Movie World's Collin Chou Interview 
    He kicks, he cooks, he speaks three languages and he does his own damn stunts.

 Collin Chou Siu Lung, the athletic actor with the mischievious glint in his eyes, is best  recognized for his stellar villain roles in Hong Kong action films. 

    Billed under the stage name Ngai Sing, he studied under the Buddha of Hong Kong action-comedies, Mr. Sammo Hung, and played lead roles in Sammo-produced films such as Into the Fire and Lover's Tear. Honing his bad guy parts to a fine edge, he also gained recognition as Jet Li's most frequent adversary. After over 15 years in the business as actor, stuntman and choreographer, Collin is now pursuing a new chapter in his career. Moving from Asia to sunny California, Collin accepted the role of Seraph, the protector of the Oracle, in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Here he discusses his beginnings, working with Sammo and Yuen Wo Ping, and the dangerous stuntwork for which he has risked life, limb and tooth.

Collin ChouDo you perform most of your own stunts? 

Collin: Yes, I usually perform most of my own stunts. The only time I can remember some one doubling for me in an action sequence was  because it involved a car chase and crash sequence. Although I know how to drive, I don't think I'm good enough to be a stunt driver!

So the audience can be sure it's you unless you're driving off a bridge or something, eh? I thought so. During your fight with Sammo in the ending of "Slickers vs. Killers", Sammo kicks you straight in the face with his heel. The impact really looks real.. did it hurt?

Collin: Yes, it really did hurt! I ended up losing a tooth from doing that stunt. We had to do the shot more than 5 times before we got the take.Everyone on the set was very impressed with my stamina.

Have you ever been a stuntman for other actors? 

Collin: I started my career as a stuntman in Taiwan. When I went to Hong Kong, I was part of Sammo's team. I often had to choreograph and perform stunts as well as act in the movies produced and/or directed by Sammo.

What is the most difficult stunt that you have attempted?

Collin: I have performed so many stunts over the years that I can't decide which was the most difficult. Most of them have been very challenging. In 1992 I worked on the BLADE OF FURY, directed by Sammo Hung. I was not only an actor, but also one of the action choreographers, and stunt double for many of the actors. The temperature was -18 C in Beijing and it was impossible to warm up before doing a stunt.

One stunt involved jumping over 3 small mounds using trampolines. As you probably know, one is always rushed when working on action movies in Asia, especially when it is the last shot of the night, with the sun quickly setting. I injured my back and was told by the doctors in China that I had broken all of my back muscle tendons. Luckily my spine was OK and it took me 3 months to recover. I went back to China to continue working on the movie as action choreography, doubling and acting as soon as I was well enough.

As a stuntman, who are some of the actors that you have doubled?

Collin: I have doubled for so many people in the past including male and female actors as well as well-known action stars. Many of them don't like others to know that they used a double in their movies so I don't want to mention any names here.

How did you first get started? Was it your ambition to become an actor?

I come from a large family in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. I have 8 brothers and 4 sisters - I am number 8. Our father left us after the youngest was born, leaving our mother to raise us. Some of my brothers went to an orphanage so that they could get an education while others stayed with Mom and went to become apprentices.

I went to school for a couple of years before deciding to go to work at the age of 6 or 7 to support myself and lighten my mother's burden. I was an apprentice in many different fields including wood-carving and baking.

Working at different places, I learnt about movies and martial arts from my co-workers. I started to practice martial arts because I thought it was interesting when I watched people practice. I was very energetic and thought it would be fun to learn martial arts. I found 4 different martial arts teachers who taught me various styles. Not until some co-workers took me to watch Bruce Lee movies and other famous martial arts films did I realize that I wanted to become as good as those "heroes". My interest in movies and martial arts increased with time until I decided to go to Taipei City at the age of 12.

Upon arriving in Taipei I read in the newspapers that a movie company was hiring actors. I went to the audition and paid an exuberant amount of money to join the class. They were actually hiring extras, not actors, but I didn't know it at the time. I was very lucky because on my first job as an extra, they needed some one who could do a reaction to being "killed by a sword". At first they wanted a stuntman to do it, but I told them I could handle it and showed them my moves. They were all impressed with me and took my phone number. That was how I got started in the movie/TV industry - as a stunt man.

In the beginning of my stunt man career I mainly doubled for the female roles because of my height and small frame. As I got older, taller and my skills improved, I was given more challenging stunts. I learned about "Movie Kung Fu" which involves working with camera angles and merging different styles to make it look good for the shot. I suffered many injuries including numerous cuts and broken bones, but I still loved the work. When there weren't any stunt jobs, I would wait tables at restaurants and bars, or do other kind of odd jobs to survive. Sometimes there was so much work that I had to go from one set straight to another, sneaking in naps in between shoots.

When I was 18, I got my first leading man role in a movie about Tae Kwon Do. Sammo Hung was a producer of this movie and that was how I got to join Sammo's Team in Hong Kong after I completed my 2 year military service in Taiwan. 

Describe your relationship with Sammo and how it began.

I went to Hong Kong in 1989.. Sammo Hung was really influential in the Hong Kong movie industry at that period of time and my work was both in front and behind the camera.

Instead of calling Sammo my boss I think of him more like a strict father and master to me.

Sammo is a very powerful and intelligent man. He knows a lot about the different aspects of the movie industry. Sammo is a great martial arts actor, a comedian and also a successful dramatic actor. Other than being a well rounded actor, Sammo is also a great director. He knows where the camera should be placed in order to get maximum impact for the scene. He is also great at controlling the set. If the movie set is compared to that of the army, then Sammo is definitely a great General.
During the time I was with Sammo's team, I had a feeling that Sammo wanted to train me to be like him - versatile both in front and behind the camera.
I once thought that I could be like him, but I realized that I am not smart enough to do all the things he can. So I have decided to concentrate on my acting.

What are your favorite Sammo Hung movies that you have seen?

Collin: Many of the movies that Sammo made in the 80's and 90's I have seen more than once. There are too many that I like and unfortunately I only know their Chinese names.

What martial arts styles have you studied? Do you have a preferred discipline?

Collin: When I was about 6 or 7 years old I had go to work to support myself and lighten my mother's burden. I was an apprentice in many different fields. Working at different places, I learnt about movies and martial arts from my co-workers. I found 4 different martial arts teachers who taught me various styles. My 4 early masters practiced different "animal" styles such as tiger, crane, leopard, praying mantis etc.. At that time I didn't really what style was what, but I enjoyed learning them.

After arriving in Taipei at age 12, I started to learn Taekwondo. I liked to hang out in parks where a lot of people practiced different weaponries such as the sword, broadsword, bo staff, etc.. Whenever I had time I would go and learn all the different weaponries from different people.

I also learned about "Movie Kung Fu" just from working on different films and from different stuntmen. I would watch other stuntmen and practiced their movies by myself in my spare time. Mostly they were trained in Peking Opera style so I picked up various tumbling, trampoline and gymnastics skills.

Collin, since you mentioned that you are also an action director, which films besides "Blade of Fury" did you choreograph?

Collin:  Being a part of Sammo's team I had "helped out" on the choreography on most of the movies he directed. I usually had a role in those films and was on set to help with the choreography. I was not given credit for those movies because I didn't choreograph the whole film.

Your appearances in Hong Kong films are very distinct and memorable. How much input do you typically have- are you allowed to inject your own ideas into the clothes, hair and mannerisms of the character?

Collin: Thank you for the compliment! Usually the costume designer decides the clothes and hair style of the character. In some of the movies I was allowed to inject my own ideas for the clothing and hairstyle of the characters.

As to the mannerism of the character, I try to develop different traits for each role.

"Instead of calling Sammo my boss I think of him more like a strict father and master to me".

Bruce Lee in Fist of FuryIn "Don't Give a Damn", your character disguises himself as a nerdy deliveryman in order to place a bomb in the police station. It reminds me of the scene in "Fist of Fury" when Bruce Lee puts on thick glasses and pretends to be a phone repairmen to get into the bad guy's place. Was it intentional as a tribute to Bruce?

Collin: You are the first person to notice this tribute to Bruce Lee! I had asked the stylist to let me dress up that way and I even supplied the glasses.

Although most of your films are action oriented, you have worked with some of the top comedy talents in Hong Kong- such as Eric Tsang, Richard Ng, and Stephen Chow. You seem to have an affinity towards humor in many of your bad guy roles, too. Would you like to do more comedic material in the future?

Collin:  Of course I would have liked to play different types of roles, but the trend in the Hong Kong movie industry is to cast actors in roles that they have played well previously. Action movies will always be important in the Hong Kong movie industry and there are not many actors who can do their own stunts.

I have tried to do other non-action roles, but those roles are hard to come by. Being an actor I have to perform every role that I accept to the best of my capabilities. I have also learnt a lot from working with all those different martial arts actors and directors.

I hope that I would be able to do different roles here in the US. As you know, there are still not that many roles written specifically for Asians. But there are more opportunities here in the US given to actors to try different roles. My aim is to do as many different and meaningful roles as
I can to help me build a long lasting and well rounded career.

Your wife was in Sammo's "Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon". How did you meet Wanda? 
                             Wanda Yung        Collin and Wanda
Collin:  My wife and I met when she did some martial arts training for a movie. She was working out together with Sammo Hung's wife Mina. I had just arrived in Hong Kong and didn't speak any Cantonese and Wanda didn't know any Mandarin.

Although we knew each other since early 1990, we didn't start dating until 1992. By then my Cantonese was fluent enough to communicate with her!

Have you seen all her movies?

Collin: To be honest, I haven't seen all of my wife's movies as she hasn't seen all of mine either!

What are your memories of working with Lam Ching Ying?

Collin:  I remember that he was a very quiet person. When he talked to me I felt that he was always trying to teach me something. He was a very sincere person and I do miss him.

Do you have any favorite movies that you have done? Do you watch your films
and review your performance to improve yourself?

Collin: Up until now I still haven't found a role in my Asian movies that I am completely satisfied with. But I have to admit that I really like my character in the Matrix 2 and 3.

Of course I will watch my own performance so that I can improve myself.

It's often been suggested that triads sometimes participate in the Hong Kong movie industry. Has this ever been your experience?
                                                 Collin in 'I Shoot Myself'
Collin: I have not had any experience that involved triads while filming in Hong Kong.

Since organized crime is a real problem in Hong Kong, do you think that there is an unhealthy preoccupation with triads in Hong Kong movies themselves?

Collin: Films about organized crime are just a trend. Hong Kong film makers are also business men. They will continue to make movies about subjects that will sell tickets! Anyway, what other theme has all the ingredients for a good movie - crime, justice, passion, action....

The final confrontation between you and Jet Li in "The Bodyguard From Beijing", is a favorite of many fans. When you were filming it did you have any idea that the ending would be so impactful?

Collin: Normally going into a scene, you can tell if it will be a good scene, or if people will like it or not. felt that my character in this movie was going to have an effect on the audience, but not necessarily in just the last scene.

Another favorite is "The Red Wolf", your first movie with Yuen Wo Ping. How is Yuen Wo Ping different from other action choreographers you have worked with?

Collin: Yuen Woo Ping is a very nice man and extremely easy to get along with. Even Sammo Hung told us (his stunt team) to watch Master Yuen's movies because you can understand the theory behind each of his action sequence.
His action sequence are not just mere fight scenes, they reflect the higher meaning he is trying to convey to the audience. Master Yuen is also the only Hong Kong action director that I know who doesn't get upset and angry on the set.

"I had decided to give myself 5 years in America to try and get into an A-movie in Hollywood".

                     The Matrix Phenomenon

When did you decide to come to the United States, and why? 

Collin: I went to America in 1999 because I wanted to learn English. I never had the chance to go to school and decided that this would be a good time to improve myself.

I had decided to give myself 5 years in America to try and get into an A-movie in Hollywood. I am happy to say that my hard work has given me a good start, because in 2000 I got my first Hollywood movie: The Matrix 2 & 3.

Your fight with Keanu Reeves in "The Matrix Reloaded" was the closest thing to standard HK fight choreography in the whole film. I'm sure a lot of fans appreciated this, since most of the movie is computer effects. How did you like working with Keanu, Laurence Fishburne, and the rest of the cast and crew in the Matrix sequels?

 Jada Pinkett and Collin Chou in Matrix Revolutions Anthony Wong, Collin Chou in Matrix Revolutions Collin:  I was very impressed with Keanu Reeves' work attitude. He only trained for half a year to prepare for his part in the Matrix sequels. From watching the movies, you can see that he has attained such skills that are equal to many martial artist who have been training since childhood. You can imagine if Keanu had started his martial arts training when he was a child, his abilities would surpass many of the martial artists of today.

Laurence Fishburne is a very generous man. He treated all of the first-timers....cast and crew very well.  He had helpful critiques and suggestions, and even gave me some pointers about using poetry in vocal training. For as long as I've worked with females, Carrie Anne Moss has the highest work ethic in training for her role. I really admire her.

What kind of training do you do to keep fit and stay flexible?
                              Collin's arm. It's a nice arm.
Collin: My routine usually involves both weight and martial arts training. I try to train different muscle groups each day so that I won't overwork them. I also practice kicks, punches and tumbling to stay flexible.

What kind of food do you love most?

Collin:  I'm a very flexible person as far as my palate is concerned.  No matter where I go, I am willing to try anything and I like everything I try.  But if you were to ask me what kind of food I like to cook, I'd have to say Western food. It's easier to prepare.

In your relaxation and free time, what are some of your hobbies?

Collin:  I like to go to the Jacuzzi, and enjoy a little wine.  I find that is one way I can relax after all these years of built-up tension and anxiety. I also like to cook.

                             Collin Chou Filmography and Pictures Gallery
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