Crystal Liu: 'When I am in character, I am at my bravest'

By Tay Yek KeakMovies - 04 September 2014 10:00 AM | Updated 05 September 2014

Crystal Liu: 'When I am in character, I am at my bravest'

How do you feel about ‘The Four’ film series ending? In years to come, when you look back, do you think ‘The Four’ will be a significant part of your career?

Yes, I will surely miss the days filming ‘The Four’ movies. The crew was like my family. Emotionless, the character I play, was part of my life for such a long time. For me, the best thing about making ‘The Four’ series was making so many good friends among cast and crew and being able to focus on delivering my performance. I could open myself up completely. Director Gordon Chan had complete trust in us and gave us a lot of freedom. We really had a great time making the series.                    

Liu as Emotionless in 'The Four 3'

In the final part of ‘The Four’, your immobilised character, Emotionless, gets out of her wheelchair to fight on her own two feet using prosthetics. 

Frankly, sitting on a wheelchair was very comfortable (laughs). Standing up, walking and fighting with the prosthetic parts wasn’t easy. I had to imagine that I had robotic legs. Director Chan, though, was very keen for Emotionless to stand up and move around, so I had to do it.   

Emotionless is also allowed to be more emotional in ‘The Four 3’. Was this a relief for you, considering how cold and distant you had to be in the earlier two films?

Nobody dictated how I experimented with my character. In the first and second movies, Emotionless’ senses were stronger, heavier and more hemmed in. In this third part, however, she allows herself to release her emotions and, at the same time, display how she has very different layers. I like this. It is very interesting and meaningful.

What has this role of Emotionless taught you as an actress? You seemed to have mastered the skill of expressing a lot while keeping physically still. Are you grateful for the role?

Yes, I’m grateful. Many people objected to me taking this role because they thought that portraying a cripple and not being able to move at all would restrict the vibrancy of my performance. But I thought differently. While I couldn’t move my legs, I learned to use my breathing and posture more, and they improved. Moreover, Emotionless is very strong-willed and I feel that such a characteristic is wonderful, challenging and inspiring. I enjoyed experiencing this character. She has been very beneficial for me.

Liu in 2012's 'The Assassins'

You fearlessly accept controversial roles, such as the one in ‘The Assassins’ where you appear naked.  How brave and bold an actress are you?

In my heart, I am just as patient and strong-willed as Emotionless. When I am in character, I am at my bravest. Once the cameras roll, I put all my personal thoughts to the back of my mind. I concentrate wholly on playing my character. Acting is my passion. I hope I can continue to pursue this passion. I never think about what impression I am leaving on my audience. I play the role that I am supposed to play. I just aim to be a committed actress. 

You have lived in America, you speak English, and have just completed a western-crusaders-in-ancient-China action movie, ‘Outcast’, with Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen. Is there a difference being in an all-Asian film and one with big Hollywood stars? 

I feel there is no difference. As long as you enjoy shooting, no matter where you are and where you go, ultimately you still have to see how much you know and how much you are into the character you’re playing. Because everyone knows what a good movie is. It doesn’t matter if it’s an Asian film or a western one. Movies are all about people and feelings. This is universal. This is part of the freedom of filmmakers.

‘The Four’ is based on a 1980s novel series, ‘The Four Great Constables’, by writer Woon Swee Oan. How important do you think an olden-times wuxia martial-arts film series such as this is in the lives of the modern viewers today? What is the relevance? 

The story of ‘The Four’ is new to cinema-goers. It’s built from scratch and shows a new martial arts world full of possibilities, new characters and a new angle. Consider the rivalry and mistrust between the two organisations beholden to the Emperor – the Divine Constabulary and Department Six. This is something new.

And the story also works at a deeper level. What are the characters like as individuals? What experiences do they have? What is their most important trait? Is it bravery, loyalty or in the case of my character, Emotionless, the dilemma of facing one’s grief and eventually putting all that aside to move forward?

I really like these messages embedded in the movies. They are intelligent and thought-provoking. As artistes working in the martial arts realm, we need to convince audiences that a martial arts story is true and possible. It’s realistic in a human way. Not something which is impossible to grasp. Once the story is realistic in this manner, then the movie becomes relevant to people today. 

‘The Four 3’ is now showing in cinemas

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  • The Four 3 2014
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The Four 3
  • The Four 3

  • Rated
    PG /
    Action, Martial Arts
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