This is the first time you’ve worked with a Chinese director. How did making this film compare to Hollywood?
‘The workload is immense – any American crew would be stunned. I’ve never been involved in any movie where sound stages have been constructed just for that particular movie. The speed at which things were constructed was phenomenal. A hotel was built just for the crew members on the movie. A cathedral was built by the production designer that was concrete – it’s very rare to build such a structure for a movie. But Yimou has a very loyal crew and he’s very good to them, so they love him.’

Were there any cross-cultural hiccups?
‘Obviously you’re dealing with language, cultural differences and varying approaches to acting which is quite funny. It always amuses me that people act differently depending on which country you’re in. In America, as time goes on, acting styles develop and fall in and out of fashion, but for me, with every single movie that I’ve worked on, you have to adapt to the style of the director, trying to understand him to see if you’re on the same plate.’

Can you predict how the film will be received in the West?
‘I’m useless at predicting how any movie ever goes down. I know that American audiences generally don’t like subtitles too much, so we’ll see. I did [the film] because I wanted to work with Yimou, I liked the idea of making a Chinese movie and seeing how that went. As for me being astute in any sense – people have been asking me about markets but I have no clue, I don’t think about it. Somebody just told me that’s it’s going to be on 8,000 screens [in China] and I didn’t know 8,000 screens existed in a single country. No doubt it’s going to do all right here.’

This is the second film you’ve worked on that’s been set in China. What do you remember of your time here filming Empire of the Sun?
‘We filmed that in Shanghai, and I only went to Shanghai for one night while I was doing this [Flowers]. Construction, that’s the big thing. These cities are just appearing all over China at an incredible rate and Shanghai looked nothing like I remembered it. It’s an enormous metropolis with neon-lit skyscrapers now, which it wasn’t at all back then. The streets used to be filled with thousands and thousands of bicycles, and now it’s all cars. That experience feels like a different lifetime for me.’


Link to Time Out Shanghai