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November 6th, 2006

Idle Worshipping

     I haven't written one of these A Man Called Sanjuro columns in a long while, and now I return specifically to share a little tale with all of you faithful readers. What I have to tell you isn't exactly a great story, but it's almost a great story, and hey, that's gotta count for something, right? No? Well, don't say I didn't warn you.
     I've been a fan of Hong Kong cinema for quite some time now, so it's always been a dream of mine to cross paths with an actual HK film celebrity. Actually, I did happen to see Maggie Cheung at the Hawaii International Film Festival a couple years back. She served as a judge and even spoke a bit at a special screening of Comrades, Almost a Love Story. Unfortunately, she didn't stick around to take questions and when I tried to take a picture of her, some lady with a ridiculously large hairdo and even larger proportions stood up in front of me. And just like that, Ms. Cheung was gone.
     Aside from that fortuitous Maggie Cheung appearance, about the closest I've gotten to any other HK movie stars would be either the celebrity handprints over at the Avenue of Stars or the lifelike dummies at Madame Taussaud's Wax Museum. Sure, I had my hair cut by Michelle Yeoh's stylist while visiting Malaysia this summer, and last year I laid eyes on one of the Jay Chou-driven Toyota Truenos used in Initial D, but as far as firsthand, honest-to-goodness star sightings? Aside from Maggie Cheung, it's never happened for me. Until…
     Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to visit Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong for my summer vacation. I began my vacation in Singapore, taking trips to Malaysia and Hong Kong in-between. The weeklong Malaysia visit resulted in my current shaggy coif courtesy of none other than Michelle Yeoh's aforementioned stylist (as a result, I now possess "The Touch." Evildoers beware!). My HK visit was a bit shorter, and while Kozo and I had a good time hunting Storm Riders collectibles and dining at the authentic Chinese eatery known to some as California Pizza Kitchen, neither of us saw any celebrities. However, the last leg of my trip involved a return to Singapore. Jackpot.
     When it was finally time to head back to the States, I found myself chowing down on some surprisingly tasty congee at a food court in Changi Airport. Basically, I was hanging out with my family before saying my last goodbyes and then proceeding through security for the customary groping. But before that could happen, I heard a sudden commotion from the booths on the other side of the small, mostly deserted food court. And that's when I had my second real-life HK actor sighting.
     Before I could really gather my bearings, there he was: the Man with the Tan himself, Louis Koo. If I were slightly demented, I could argue that it was fated that I run into the guy; it was, in many ways, the summer of Louis Koo for me. For one thing, I finally bought, watched, and enjoyed Election 2 during my vacation. Not convinced? Well, I also happened to read an interview Koo gave with Singapore's Eight Days magazine in which he revealed his penchant for collecting life-sized action figures. Apparently, he owns some giant-sized Star Wars, Spider-Man, and Batman statues, a detail that I happily shared with my girlfriend in order to justify my own raving toymania. Still don't see the "date with destiny" angle of this encounter? Read on. In addition to buying Election 2 and reading the interview with Louis Koo, I kept seeing the man's face plastered all over Singapore: the guy apparently has a lucrative endorsement deal with a line of massage chairs. Go figure.
     So yeah, obviously, I was fated to meet Louis Koo this summer. Of course, that's all crazy talk. By that logic, I was "destined" to bump into Sammi Cheng as well. I mean, seriously, that chick's face was more ubiquitous than Koo's. All over South East Asia, Sammi was hawking everything from watches to moisturizer to handguns. Okay, that last one's a lie. Still…um, what was my point?
     Ah yes, I saw Louis Koo. Sadly, there's not much to tell about the encounter. Koo was gone in less than five seconds. I didn't talk to him. I didn't get an autograph. And I didn't approach him for a picture. I just watched as he briskly walked away and politely handled the fans that apparently did possess the wherewithal to actually greet him.
     Now, you would think that would be the end of the story. But you would be wrong. Y'see, I also ended up having my third firsthand HK celebrity encounter. Just as I'm trying to figure out whether I should have gotten up and said hello to Louis Koo, guess who else walks by when the coast clears? Daniel Wu. But just like Koo, he's gone before I can do anything about it. Damn.
     Now, my first thought was, "Do these guys take summer vacations together?" The two of them are actually appearing together in the Derek Yee-directed, Singapore-co-financed film entitled The Protégé, but I didn't know that at the time. Andy Lau is in the movie, too, but sadly he did not emerge from any of the food court booths. Instead, I just watched with baited breath as assorted entourage, regular joes, and quite possibly a Mainland Chinese actor I've never seen before passed by my table. No Andy Lau. No Derek Yee. Heck, nobody from Daniel's Wu's "band" Alive either.
     If I could go back and do things over again, I'd like to think I would have tried to be more proactive and perhaps gotten a picture or an autograph. But what would I say? "I'm your biggest fan"? Sure, I like both actors, but "biggest fan"? That's just not true. Or to Louis Koo: "I really enjoyed your performance in Election 2; please take a picture with me." That seems kinda lame.
     And what about Daniel Wu? If I had seen Heavenly Kings at the time (which I later did and thought was hilarious), I could have come up with something complimentary, perhaps even vaguely amusing to him, but I hadn't even opened the packaging on the DVD yet, much less watched it. Leaving Wu alone was probably for the best since the only comment that came to mind -- "Your acting has gotten a lot better since Gen-X Cops!" -- seemed wildly inappropriate.
     As a Hong Kong cinema fan, I can't fully explain why I just let those two walk on by. My only answers are that A) it happened really, really fast, B) I don't really like to bother people, and most importantly, C) I'm not a big enough fan of either of them to leap over both my family members and the table between us just to pursue Louis Koo and Daniel Wu for a photo op, especially in an airport only a few days after the terrorist scare in England went down. Call me crazy, but cavity searches just aren't my thing.
Now, if it had been Jet Li, Faye Wong, Chow Yun-Fat, Sammi Cheng, or Andy Lau, I might have risked it. I can damn well assure you if I saw Ekin Cheng, I would have ran up to him, got his signature, and perhaps even forced him take a funny photo with me -- I mean, I have a moral obligation to this site, after all. But for some odd reason, I didn't go the extra mile with these guys. No picture. No autograph. Just a silly little anecdote about celebrity spotting. See, I told you this was almost a good story.

-- Sanjuro, 11/06/2006


A Man Called Sanjuro

  The Featured Photos
First up, it's a photo of me and Bruce Lee (his wax facsimile actually) at Madame Taussaud's Wax Museum in Hong Kong. What you don't see in this picture is me bumping into ol' Brucie and nearly knocking him to the floor, an unfortunate turn of events which would surely have brought tears to the eyes of the many young fans waiting to take pictures, not to mention the overworked museum staff on duty that day. Photo #2 features one of the subjects of this very article, the super-tanned Louis Koo as he appears in the bonus interview on the Election 2 special features disc. Photo #3 is a picture of Daniel Wu, another guy discussed in the column to your right. And no, he wasn't dressed like that when I saw him at the airport. It's just a shot from his hilarious mockumentary, The Heavenly Kings. And finally, Photo #3 is Madame Taussaud's wax dummy of Michelle Yeoh, the actress with whom I share a vaguely interesting connection: we share the same barber. Kind of.

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The relatively few opinions expressed within this column are nothing more than random words cobbled together by this particular writer. Those who would take issue with his opinions may contact him here, though he would much rather you send him words of praise, extravagant gifts, cash donations, or best of all, a time machine and Athena Chu's home address circa 1995. Thank you, and good night.
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