The long-gestating film is Wong's first since his English language debut "My Blueberry Nights," which opened Cannes back in 2007. It chronicles the life of the Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man from the 1930s in Foshan to the events leading to his death in 1972. It's been a story in Wong Kar Wai's mind since 1999, when he saw a documentary about Ip Man.
"That documentary was a family video, and it was shot three days before he passed away," Wong said. "From that video, you can see this old man -- seventy-something, very weak -- wearing his pajamas in his living room doing these [martial arts] demonstrations. You can see his cats, you can see his grandchildren surround him. This is the only archive video of these demonstrations. A lot of people -- including Bruce Lee -- offered him a lot of money to these demonstrations personally, and he refused."
Wong cast his longtime collaborator ("The Grandmaster" is their seventh film together) Tony Leung as Ip, and Leung said at the press conference that it was his most enjoyable experience with Wong so far.
Leung's co-star Zhang Ziyi (making her second appearance in a Wong Kar Wai film, after "2046") wasn't quite as aware of her character, Yip Man's rival and friend Gong Er. But that didn't make her experience any less positive -- despite noting a gruelling shoot of 20 months over 3 years.
"For me, even though I didn't know who my character was, I still think I'm the luckiest actress in the world," Ziyi said. "If Wong Kar Wai asked me again to give him this amount of time, I would do it again. That's how great he is."