Actor/martial artist Jet Li is a firm fan favourite who made a name for himself playing Chinese folk heroes, such as Wong Fei Hung and Fong Sai Yuk. In 'Fearless', his latest and perhaps last martial arts themed film, Li undertakes the role of Huo Yuanjia, a man who experienced exceptional personal tragedy but fought back to become the most famous fighter in all of China.
Whilst doing the publicity rounds for the film, Li took part in the following question and answer session that provides a few insights as to why he participated in the film and his personal philosophies on martial arts.
Why did you choose 'Fearless' to be your last martial arts film?
Jet Li: I have put all my beliefs and experiences from learning martial arts in the last 35 years and placed it into this movie. After this, I feel that I have nothing more to say about martial arts. To date, it is my most personal and most important film.
Who you do you think will be the next big martial actor?
JL: It's tough to say. I always believe that the audience is the biggest boss. If they see a new talent they like, the studios will smell this and put this new person in movies.
What projects have you got next?
JL: If everything goes well, I should be shooting a movie with Jackie Chan next April. We have talked about working together for 15 years and this time it may happen.
Would you consider going behind the scenes?
JL: Not as a director. There are so many talented directors in the world, I believe it's best to keep to what I do best and then collaborate with others. We each bring out our best strengths.
What is the main theme of the film, any important message?
JL: There are many themes to the movie and many layers. One of the reasons why I made this film is that in China in 2003, there were over 280,000 suicides. Most were between the ages of 14 and 35. I felt great suffering when I heard this news and wanted to do something about it. In this film, I say that the biggest enemy is yourself. You have to overcome your own internal challenges and always stand strong.
How was working with Ronny Yu, had you worked together or met before this movie?
JL: Ronny is a very talented director and has proven through his range of box office and critically successful movies. I've had the story for 'Fearless' for a long time now in my mind but it was always missing something. When I met with him and told him what I wanted to do, he came up with the idea of the village in the middle part of the film. This helped complete my story.
Did you do much research to play the real life martial arts legend Huo Yuanjia?
JL: Yes, I did a lot of research but in the end I only took three important elements of this man's life. The date he was born, the date he died and the fact that he created the Jing Wu school. The rest of the story is based on my own personal life and experiences.
Would you say it's increasingly difficult to draw a distinction between Eastern and Western film making?
JL: Film making is now a global business. Everyone wants to make films for a worldwide audience and it also takes the efforts of people from around the world to make a film. For this film we had collaborations from China, Hong Kong, Australia and the United States. In addition, you can see that we went around the world to find real martial artists to put in the movie. This made the fight sequences much more realistic as we were able to use wide angles and long shots to make the fight sequences more exciting.
How do you feel personally about violence and it's portrayal in cinema?
JL: I always say that violence is not the only solution. I feel that in most action movies, they are only about violence and revenge. You can see in this film that the message is that revenge brings more revenge. It is a never ending cycle. You use martial arts really to stop war, to stop fighting. That is the root of the word wu shu which translated into English is martial arts.
Is it true that you are retiring from action films?
JL: No. I will continue to do action films. I have only stated that 'Fearless' will be my final movie about martial arts.
'Fearless' is available now from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Far East Films would like to thank Jet Li, Universal and Greenroom