The English title for this event is Up Close and Personal with Sylvia Chang.
If you have watched the TV program Inside the Actors Studio where James Lipton chats with a celebrity in front of a stage audience, this is very similar.
The host for the talk was Edward Lam, a theatre director and playwright from Hong Kong who has collaborated with Sylvia Chang, the most recent being the play Grand Expectation (as part of Huayi festival).
When she first appeared, we were amazed how good she looked. It’s as if while her audience have all aged, she hasn’t. She was in a casual sleeveless white blouse and black pants, with a floral shawl elegantly draped across one shoulder.
Edward Lam started the talk by commenting on the tribute Hollywood paid to Meryl Streep after her 30 years of career. Is there any planned for Sylvia Chang, whose career had after all spanned 40 years? She laughed modestly. Tributes are meant for people at the end of their careers; for her, she has lots more to do.
They then chatted about the movies she had made, from 1976 onwards. The conversation was in Mandarin, peppered with American accented English. She admitted that she had always love performing and was thrilled to be in the league of actresses like Lin Ching Hsia, only to be told by one director that she was not pretty on camera – her mouth was too big. Dejected, she decided that she needed to learn other aspects of acting to hone her skill instead of relying on her looks.
I am not familiar with her movies, except Dream of the Red Chambers, which I caught on Celestrial Channel not too long ago. Her role in that movie was actually slated to be 贾宝玉, which she felt really comfortable with. But that was changed to 林黛玉 just before the signing of the contract. She felt she could never play that weak woman and cried to the director Li Han Xiang. She related how during the filming, she had to keep her depressive mood by staying away from the other crew during the break. While they chatted happily, she sat there, stoic, accompanied by her ‘maid’ Deborah (Nicholas Tse’s mother). She also talked about her transition from a romantic actress in Taiwan to a comic actress in HK. (‘Comedy is all about tempo!’)
Apart from her movies, Sylvia Chang also financed, as executive producer, many movies to support up and coming new age directors, sometimes even acting in it.
Edward tried steering the conversation into more ‘dangerous’ territory by asking her if she could fall in love again, who would she have chosen? She answered after a pause – (the late director)杨德昌, for his talent. That was the only heart – pounding question and generally the topics are safe and limited to her work.
Just before the talk ended, they discussed a little about her music. Her favourite was one that did not sell very well. To her delight, an audience member waved the CD to her. (He earned an autograph from her.)
The show ended with a Q&A. Although there was a pile of questions, he only chose to ask her two.
And that’s how I spent my two hours (three, including travelling) in the afternoon on the fourth day of Chinese New Year. Thanks Pearly for the tickets.