If there is one person who may hold the key to the future of the Hong Kong film industry, that person is Louis Koo.
Koo is known to most people as a prolific and versatile actor. He acts in so many films that it really feels like every second or third Hong Kong film that gets released these days has him starring in it. He impresses with his versatility, as he is comfortable acting in different genres including comedies (‘La Brassiere’), thrillers (the ‘Overheard’ trilogy), horror movies (the long-running ‘Troublesome Night’ series), gangster flicks (‘Election 1 & 2’), romantic weepers (‘Lost In Time’), period drama (‘The Legend of Zu’) and action films (‘SPL: Paradox’, for which he won Best Actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards).
The actor’s influence on the Hong Kong movie industry extends far beyond the films that he has starred in. In 2013, he founded One Cool Film, a company that focuses on making films for the audience in Hong Kong rather than Mainland China. Last year, the company released the transgender drama ‘Tracey’ and mid-life crisis comedy ‘Men On The Dragon’. These two films have subject matters that would not be considered particularly appealing to the audience, but both ended up being wonderful success stories. ‘Tracey’ did moderately well at the box office and went on to win Ben Yuen and Kara Hui awards for Best Supporting Actor and Actress at the Hong Kong Film Awards. ‘Men On The Dragon’ took HK$15 million at the box office and was voted the most popular film by the Hong Kong public at a couple of local polls. One Cool Film is currently working on a number of film projects that are at various stages of production. If you look back at Episode #1 of this series, you will see that many of the upcoming Hong Kong films are in fact One Cool Film productions.
Koo became the ambassador of the Hong Kong International Film Festival in 2014. The following year, he joined the board of Johnnie To’s Fresh Wave International Short Film Festival. This is an incredibly significant film festival that has given many aspiring and talented filmmakers the chances to get noticed and the opportunities to make feature films. Award-winning young directors like Wong Chun (‘Mad World’), Jevons Au, Vicky Wong and Frank Hui (‘Trivisa’) and Oliver Chan Siu-Kuen (‘Still Human’) are all alumni of the Fresh Wave Film Festival. In January 2018, he was elected the President of the Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild, and there have been many stories about him helping artists who are struggling with ill health or financial difficulties, though he never claims any credit for the good work that he has done.
Koo’s importance in the local film industry was recently highlighted at the Hong Kong Film Awards ceremony, where he presented Anthony Wong with the Best Actor Award for his performance in ‘Still Human’, and Wong commented on stage that it was an honour for him to receive his award from ‘the new generation’s film tycoon’. Koo’s passion for and dedication to Hong Kong cinema are really second to none. There used to be a saying in the Hong Kong film industry: ‘If you are struggling with getting a film made, try asking Eric Tsang’, who is a veteran also well known for his willingness to help fellow filmmakers. Perhaps for this generation’s Hong Kong filmmakers, the saying ought to be changed to: ‘If you are struggling with getting a film made, and Eric Tsang is not available, try asking Louis Koo’.
Hong Kong film never dies! Thank you for everything, Mr Koo!