CJ7 interview

Sony Pictures Classics

For Stephen Chow, the Hong Kong-based writer, director and actor best known on these shores for Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, his latest project marks a bit of a departure. CJ7 – a fantasy about a young boy named Dicky (Jiao Xu) and his mysterious pet from outer space – more closely resembles the longstanding American tradition of family movies centered on extraterrestrial and/or interspecies friendships than the manic, pun-heavy style of comedy associated with the director. In an interview last week at Manhattan’s Regency Hotel, the filmmaker highlighted one such influence in particular.

E.T. left a big impression on me. Being in the audience and seeing how the audience reacted to E.T. and cried and laughed with me, that left a big impression, [having been] a movie that the whole family can watch,” Chow said, speaking through a translator. “It’s just the movie overall and how it evoked so many emotions in the audience. I thought about wanting to make a film like that, which you can watch and appreciate having all this happiness and sadness throughout one film.”

Working on CJ7 presented him with several major obstacles. First, big-budgeted movies (according to Wikipedia, CJ7’s reached $20 million U.S.) relying heavily on special effects and aiming to please a wide range of audiences do not typically get made in the Chinese film industry.

“For American audiences, special effects are nothing new; but for me and a lot of the films that are coming out of Asia, it’s definitely new territory. I’m definitely determined to create more films with special effects that add a really high standard,” Chow said.

Also, Kung Fu Hustle, his most recent work, stormed to the second highest box-office gross in Hong Kong history while Shaolin Soccer, its predecessor, swept the Hong Kong Film Awards. The director acknowledged the high standards for CJ7, which opened in China at the end of January and comes to New York this Friday.

“[In China] there’s not a lot of movies like this that appeal to children and to families to take their children to, so I wanted to be able to create that kind of movie. It’s really well received. The current box office in China actually surpassed Kung Fu Hustle’s box office records, so I’m really pleased that they like the film.”

© 2008 Robert Levin. All rights reserved.

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