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Thursday, May 18, 2017, 18:17
Leon Lai takes director's mantle in new film
By Xu Fan
Thursday, May 18, 2017, 18:17 By Xu Fan

Leon Lai's directorial debut, Wine War, will feature Lai and supermodel-turned-actress Du Juan. (Photos provided to China Daily)

On the sets of the upcoming movie Wine War, Leon Lai has many jobs: a translator, light adjustor, prop checker, a child actor's sitter and the most significant one, as director.

All this is visible in the footage of the movie, Lai's directorial debut.

Lai, who is one of the 'heavenly kings' - the four biggest male stars in Hong Kong in the 1990s, including Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung and Aaron Kwok, is now working on a new chapter in his 32-year career.

I'm not scared of failure. It's a new start for me. I will learn

Leon Lai 

Singer and actor

At 51, the singer and actor is the first among the four to make a career switch.

While Cheung focuses on a singing career and sometimes plays supporting roles, Lau and Kwok said they wanted to direct, but have yet to realize that dream.

Wine War will hit Chinese theaters on May 19, the same day as Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster Life.

With eight movies simultaneously premiering on Friday, it seems Lai has picked the most competitive opening weekend this month.

"As a newbie, I don't dare expect a big return," Lai says. "I'm not scared of failure. It's a new start for me. I will learn."

The movie centers on a bottle of red wine produced in 1855.

The inspiration for the film came from his friends, who guided Lai on how to taste and judge red wine.

"It stirred my interest. From my research, I found that China began making red wine from as early as the Yuan Dynasty [1271-1368]," he says.

Veteran actor Zhang Hanyu stars in Leon Lai's latest film, Wine War. (Photos provided to China Daily)

Besides Lai, who plays one of the major roles, the cast features veteran actor Zhang Hanyu, known for The Taking of Tiger Mountain and Operation Mekong, Taiwan actor David Wang and supermodel-turned-actress Du Juan.

The filming was shot in China and France.

Speaking about Lai's direction, Zhang says: "I believe he should explore more."

His view is echoed by Huang Jianxin, the producer known for hits, such as The Warlords and Bodyguards and Assassins.

"Lai was fast and decisive," Huang says. "He did not look like a newcomer. He is very demanding when it comes to storytelling, which is rarely seen in stars who turn to direction."

In his early days, Lai was trained by Hong Kong's Television Broadcasts Limited, a kind of West Point for megastars.

Lai first shot to prominence as a singer in the mid-1980s, and began to star in films only in the early 1990s.

He won the best actor prize at Taiwan's Golden Horse awards for Three: Going Home in 2002, and received international acclaim for Peter Chan's romance Comrades: Almost a Love Story, a favorite at many festivals.

In the past decades, Lai also invested in a series of movies, such as Leaving Me, Loving Me, and shot a few music videos.

"I have done a lot of film making and accumulated a lot of experience from acting. But I always wanted to be a director," Lai says.

"For me, it is a great risk to start in a new field, because after the screening there will be many diverse voices, including negative ones. But I am ready for that," says the star, who has seen many ups and downs.

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