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| Friday, October 19, 2007

ONE, two, three, four tigers. But where's the fifth one?

Hong Kong's iconic Tigers - Andy Lau, Miu Kiu Wai, Ken Tong, and Felix Wong - will reunite on the big screen for the first time since the 1991 movie The Tigers. Nicknamed the Tigers because they were TVB's top male leads in the '80s, the actors now share screen credits on the new movie Brothers. But one tiger is noticeably missing: Where is Tony Leung?

His absence has been enough to stir up talk in the Hong Kong press that even after all this time, he is not on good terms with the other four. Media reports in Hong Kong have also speculated that Andy and Tony - the two biggest names now - didn't really get along.

It hasn't helped that Tony's face is now plastered all over cinema billboards in the hot Lee Ang film Lust, Caution. This means Brothers, which opens in cinemas here today, will be competing head-to-head with it for box-office sales. Whatever the reason for Tony's absence, the media-savvy Andy, 46, wasn't telling when he met Singapore reporters at his fan club's headquarters in Kowloon, Hong Kong. But the charming and affable actor said that the four Tigers still catch up outside of work.

Speaking in Mandarin, he said: 'We meet about three times a week, usually to go bowling and have meals, with the exception of Tony Leung.' Is that why Tony wasn't included in the reunion? After all, Andy said that it was over a bowling session with the other Tigers that the idea for the movie came about.

'We didn't really discuss it. We were bowling and chatting over dinner when the question just came up if today's audience would still want to see a reunion of the Five Tigers,' he said. 'Kiu Wai said he would ask Tony. But later when we asked him about it, he said he didn't ask Tony.' But Andy, who produced the movie under his production company Focus Films, went ahead with the film anyway.

The movie is about two brothers - the older Yiu (Kiu Wai) and the younger Shun (singer-actor Eason Chan) - who were separated at a young age but were later reunited when their triad-chief-turned-businessman father was killed.


The group's love for bowling extends beyond just a few casual games. Andy said they even set up an informal fund among themselves based on forfeits during the game. He said: 'In each game, whoever can't pick the spares will be fined HK$10 ($1.90). After bowling, we use the money to pay for dinner. 'If it is not enough, then the loser will have to pay the balance of the bill.'

When asked who lost the most often, he said: 'Initially, Kiu Wai and Ken were the worst and they lost the most money. 'But recently, they got quite serious about the game and improved a lot with practice. In fact, I have been the one losing the past few games, so I had to buy them dinner.'

Friendships aside, Andy chose to take a back seat when it came to assigning roles for the movie. 'It is not always the boss who decides. We have to look at the budget, and we can't go beyond the available budget. 'I respect the director a lot and left most of the decisions to him. It is better he has a free hand.'

Eventually, the role of Yiu's trusted sidekick and adopted brother went to Felix, while Ken played Yiu's villainous arch rival. Andy said that at the start, he was prepared to take on a minor role, as an investigating police officer who is determined to bring down the triads.

Said Andy, who was also filming Peter Chan's wuxia flick The Warlords: 'I was originally slated to have a cameo role because of my own filming schedule. 'I gave the director seven days, but suddenly, the scenes kept increasing, and the director kept improvising, and he really worked me! It was continuous work from 8am to 10pm each day of the filming.'

Andy confessed he is a perfectionist. But he conceded: 'Nothing can be perfect, but what matters is the effort to reach the highest standard possible.' Yet, not all was smooth sailing.

Director Derek Chiu admitted that the three-month shoot ran into budget problems, and Andy had to fork out some of his own money - between HK$100,000 ($19,000) and HK$200,000. The show's final production was HK$20 million. Said Andy: 'I will cover the extra expenses of other movies, even if I am not the producer. 'I'll just earn less. It doesn't matter. As long as I am happy, there is no particular reason for being generous.

'It's not about whether the movie is good or bad, it's about enjoying the process of making the movie.' Andy said he insisted on being paid 'the same as the other Tigers' - a rate of HK$100,000 per day. The multi-tasker had penned the lyrics to the movie's theme song and sang the duet with Eason.

Andy said he has no immediate plans to become a director. But with so much on his plate - from film production to music production, artiste management and even managing his own official fan club - does he consider himself first an artiste or a businessman? 'I consider myself a man,' he said with a laugh. 'I have different roles in life. When I go home, I am a good son. At work, I am a good boss. On the set, I strive to be a good actor.'

news from: The New Paper, Singapore