Interview de Pierre Tremblay
I thank you for your patience, I admit that 4 years is a bit long to answer, but I had my reasons. To paraphrase French singer-songwriter Jacques Higelin : "Life is what happens to you when you're busy trying to do something else." The side of my media career with the least success is the one receiving the most attention, thanks to you. So I answer.
I could already speak a little Cantonese as I had just taken an intensive Mandarin trimester at the Asia-Yale-in-China, run by a retired Taiwanese military officer, working for the CIA some said. That made it a lot easier for me to learn the Cantonese dialect. I was also learning Tai-Chi with the Hong Kong master of my Montreal master, with whom I had started learning Wu Jia a few years before.
Then in 1980 Madeleina Chan, agency and agent, contacted me about a role in Tsui Hark's upcoming movie "Dangerous Encounters : First Kind." She promised me a 'professional' salary of US$150 per day, for a total of around 7 days within the upcoming month. She kept her promise. There was only one scene with Bruce Barron, the torture scene in the parking lot, we didn't talk to each other. I was only killer no. 3, Bruce was no. 2, and no. 1 was a real Hong Kong police detective named 'Nigel', who was working in the film 'without official permission'. That's the real reason you never got to see his face in the movie. What I remember most vividly is my last scene where I get killed by the students in the cemetery. We rehearsed it 2-3 times : I get shot in the chest and under the impact I throw myself backwards to land on my back on a mattress placed off-screen on the ground. Then we shoot the scene: gunshot, hit in the chest, I throw myself backwards on ... the hard ground ! They took the mattress away ! I yelled in pain, then I see Tsui Hark's face on his tall director's chair. Did I really see a small smile on his face ? He planned everything ! Then he turns around and tells an assistant to take care of me. I immediately demand in a loud voice to be paid extra for reasons of 'unforseen pain', and I showed them my bloody elbow. I got it.
It's a pity your website is only dedicated to movies, you're missing an important dimension : television ! Soon after this filming, still in 1980, TVB-Jade invited me to play in a new TV series that was to launch the career of a very young Chow Yun-fat. The series was called "The Bund", and I was to play the role of the French consul in Shanghai in the 1930's, corrupt and paid by the triads. Seeing as they had already called him 'Mr. Pierre' in the script, how could I refuse ? So we started. I have to admit that with my beginner's Cantonese and their sinologist diplomat's script, I was learning new Cantonese vocabulary with my dialogue. I was always getting the tones wrong at that time so I couldn't remember my script. It was a small massacre.
It was then that Fat-Zai , or 'young Fat' as we called him, started asking me questions during our breaks about Hollywood and how an actor can find work there. I had absolutely no idea, I hadn't even been yet, so I answered him as best I could with whatever common knowledge I had. He had a very clear idea in mind though which was confirmed a little later when he disappeared from the studio for a few weeks, almost a month, and none knew where he was. It's only when he came back that I learned that he actually ran off to ... Hollywood. He tried getting work there, alone. Of course he came back without success, and like he told me 'without connections' you can't do anything over there. So it took him almost 20 years to find that success in Hollywood, and a well deserved success too. I was able to meet Fat-Zai, become Fat-Goh or 'older brother Fat', in sometimes surprising circumstances, which I'll get to later.