A Hong Kong Stuntman Thinks: 1967
By sean mcnulty
King Hu was a little too remote and bizarre for me at first. He didn’t appear to have any interest in the martial arts at all. To be honest, I felt he was aiming to exploit their cause initially, jumping on the wuxia bandwagon.
The first time I met him was on the set of Dragon Gate Inn in 1967. He didn’t care much for us stuntmen. We were the ones producing the goods he would benefit from, but he barely spoke to any of us. Han Ying Chieh, the martial arts director, didn’t care much for him either. He didn’t appreciate Hu’s estimations.
One day, Han Ying Chieh got into a serious argument with Hu. One of the actors had tripped and injured his head badly on the stairs. Hu swore loudly to himself behind the camera as he’d been aching to acquire a particular shot. Han Ying Chieh was getting sick and tired of Hu’s mulish need for perfection, so he began shouting angrily at him. Hu was simply a man of letters, and could not have stood against the martial competence of Han Ying Chieh. Yet Hu responded to the angry response with characteristic pigheadedness. He came from behind his camera and walked towards Han Ying Chieh slowly, as though he was about to engage physically. He stopped about a foot away from Han and began to unload a plethora of abusive Mandarin nonsense which nobody really understood, except the Taiwanese extras, who were giggling in the background.
I had to intervene, as I could see Han Ying Chieh was ready to floor the bookish Hu. If I didn’t do something, a dreadful beating would have occurred. And I was beginning to feel that there was more to Hu than had met my eye.
I ran to the actor who had fallen on the stairs, pulled his slippers from his feet, and stamped on them maniacally for about a minute. All present on set looked at me in astonishment. Han backed off, left to go drink some tea and calm down.
Hu stood bewildered, staring at me for a large moment before asking me what it was I did and what was the purpose behind it.
‘A touch of zen was needed in order to complete this moving picture,’ I replied.
How he took it, time would either tell or disregard.