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August 6, 2009

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HK director praises his French veteran rock star

DIRECTOR Johnnie To said French rock star Johnny Hallyday was a joy to work with on his new thriller "Vengeance," praising him for adjusting well to the relatively primitive shooting conditions in Hong Kong.

The 66-year-old square-jawed Hallyday plays a French assassin who comes to Hong Kong to avenge the death of his daughter's family.

"Vengeance," which was nominated for the top Palme d'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, marks the first time Hong Kong native To has shot in a foreign language. The dialogue was in English, French and Cantonese.

Attending the Asian premiere of the film in Hong Kong yesterday, To was full of praise for his French star.

"My happiest memory is that such a big star could adapt to the simple productions in Hong Kong without the huge support staff of Western movie shoots. He worked very hard. He was supportive of the way we shoot in Hong Kong," he told The Associated Press.

Western food

The Hong Kong industry is known for its lean and efficient movie crews and propensity to improvise, with directors often writing dialogue on the spot. Catering and trailers for stars are unheard of, with actors and filmmakers usually dining from lunch boxes.

Co-star and Hong Kong actress Michelle Ye said Hallyday wasn't used to the Chinese cuisine served on the set and joked that if he shot in Hong Kong again he would pay for a catering trailer that served Western food.

Language was also a barrier, with To communicating to Hallyday in basic English and through translators.

But Ye observed that they had "an unspoken camaraderie among men."

Hallyday's character was originally written for another French star, veteran actor Alain Delon, but Delon didn't like the script, To said. "I still think the story is great for him," he said, but added that he thought Hallyday was also a good fit.


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