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Forever Leslie - Time
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최근 Time에 레슬리에 대한 멋진 기사가 났죠. 레슬리가 얼마나 멋진 배우이며, 가수이며, 프로페셔널한 만능 엔터테이너인지..레슬리가 얼마나 멋진 사람인지를 조금이나마 느낄 수 있는 기사라고 생각합니다. 하지만, 이 기사가 몰지각하고 탐욕스러운 연예기자들에 의해 무참히 변형되고 왜곡되어 웹을 통해 전파되고 있는 현실이 너무도 애석합니다.

* 한국어로 번역된 기사보기

MAY 7, 2001, VOL.157 NO.18

Forever Leslie

Teasing his audiences with a seductive style that both flirts and forbids, durable Leslie Cheung-actor, singer, pop idol-is Hong Kongs great phantom lover


In the first minutes of Wong Kar-wais 1990 Days of Being Wild, Leslie Cheung strikes up a chat with Maggie Cheung. Shes lovely and lonely; hes smoldering and supercool. Out of the blue, he purrs a boast to Maggie: "Youll see me in your dreams tonight." Next day he comes by again, and she brags that she didnt dream of him. "Of course," he replies with practiced confidence, "you couldnt sleep at all."

Thats our Leslie: suave, cocksure, with a touch of the brute (they love him for it) and a hint of sad solitude. A Canto-pop idol and film star since the late 70s, Cheung has been called "the Elvis of Hong Kong" by Canadian critic John Charles. He gets top dollar for film work, his new CD Forever Leslie is climbing the charts, and his concerts still pack em in around the world; for a pre-Christmas gig at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, tickets went-fast-for as much as $238.

At home he is catnip for the voracious paparazzi. "They follow me everywhere," he says. "They know my car numbers, so theyre there whether Im at the Mandarin Hotel Coffee Shop or at Propaganda (a hip new club). I dont even put my litter outside the house. People try to find things and sell them."

Cheung could qualify as a monument to pop longevity if he was not still in his glistening prime-and if he was not still so damned gorgeous. Any visitor to Hong Kong who mentions his name to a local will hear the same refrain: "Guess how old he is" (as if he kept a rotting portrait of himself in the attic). Cheung is 44, and if he has changed at all during his half-life in the public eye, it is to become more wily in the lavishing and husbanding of his allure. He simultaneously seduces and withdraws, flirts and forbids. He is the most cunning, provocative tease in Asian showbiz.

As an actor, he is terrifically versatile, at ease in art films (as Farewell My Concubines conflicted gay opera star), action thrillers (as the sensitive young cop in A Better Tomorrow), fantasies (as Brigitte Lins mountaintop lover in The Bride with White Hair), dark romances (as the haunted singer in The Phantom Lover) and fluffy comedies (as the music mogul in Hes a Woman, Shes a Man). Last year he played a psycho killer in Double Tap.

Inside these varied characters is the irreducible, enigmatic "Leslie": a beautiful man whose sexuality is a gift or a plague to those who fall under his spell. Typically, they love him and he leaves them; he must have said, "I dont love you" more times than anyone else in movies. But he doesnt just mesmerize the camera; he works subtle wonders before it. He glamorizes a scene in Days of Being Wild just by appraising himself in a full-length mirror while doing an expert cha-cha. And then, in unforgiving closeup, without moving a muscle, he will somehow change emotional temperature. You can see feelings rise in him like a blush or a bruise.

In concerts he woos staid Cantonese audiences until they are dancing en masse in front of the stage, votaries to the pop god. Their innocent ecstasy turns him on; Cheung has an almost naked love for being loved. In his year-long Passion tour, which concluded two weeks ago in Hong Kong, he wore eight Jean-Paul Gaultier outfits, in ascending order of outrageousness, from a white tux with angel wings to a naughty skirt (and long black wig). At his Toronto concert a voice cried out, "I love you, Leslie!"; he said, "I love you too, whether youre a boy or a girl." The line happens to be one he delivered in Hes a Woman, Shes a Man, but it winks at Cheungs androgynous appeal. With a soul both pensive and explosive, equally capable of derisive laughter and hot tears, Leslie is all man-woman.

Cheung enjoys this audacious role playing; his latest music video featured a pas de deux (with a Japanese male ballet dancer) so sexy that it was banned by TVB, Hong Kongs top channel. He also knows that it leads audiences to the suspicion-or compliment-that he is gay, though he has not publicly declared his sexual orientation. "Its more appropriate to say Im bisexual," Cheung notes. "Ive had girlfriends. When I was 22 or so, I asked my girlfriend Teresa Mo (his frequent co-star in TVB serials of the time) to marry me." As a guest on Mos cable TV show last month, Cheung bantered, "If youd agreed to marry me then, my life might have changed totally."

His life was eventful long before then. Cheung Kwok-wing was born the youngest of 10 children of a Hong Kong tailor-he made suits for William Holden and Alfred Hitchcock-and his wife. "I didnt have a happy childhood. Arguments, fights and we didnt live together; I was brought up by my granny." His nearest sibling was eight years older; Leslie says he was "the youngest and the loneliest. My brothers would be dating girls and I was left alone in the corner, playing GI Joe or with my Barbie doll. It was miserable. My father couldnt control his emotions, with me or my mother. I used to think, And this is what they call marriage."

At 12 he was sent to the Norwich School in Norfolk, England. "There were racial problems, discrimination," he says. "But I made friends there. And on weekends Id go see my relatives in Southend-on-Sea, where they ran a restaurant. I was a bartender, and Id do amateur singing." By this time he had chosen his English name. "I love the film Gone with the Wind. And I like Leslie Howard. The name can be a mans or womans, its very unisex, so I like it."

After a year studying textile management at the University of Leeds, he returned to Hong Kong and placed second (singing American Pie) in ATVs Asian Music Contest. His 1978 film debut, Erotic Dream of the Red Chamber, was notable only for his butt-baring. Still, filmmakers saw his appeal as a new kind of star: beautiful, tender, dangerous. He still has it, and better. Hes James Dean with a mean streak, or a deeper Johnny Depp.

Cheung did smart star turns as the lovers of two beguiling specters in A Chinese Ghost Story and Rouge, and he would later earn international acclaim in Chen Kaiges Concubine-still his fullest, grandest performance. But it was Wong Kar-wai who illuminated the inner Leslie on the big screen. Days of Being Wild made him a 60s Ah Fei (shiftless youth) whose mistreating of women is his payback to the mother who deserted him; it won Cheung a Hong Kong Film Award for best actor. In Ashes of Time, cast as a martial-arts scoundrel, he ably anchored a film of top Chinese stars and rapturous visual splendor. In the not-so-gay drama Happy Together he taught Tony Leung Chiu-wai how an actor prepares.

The film opens with a stark scene of the two main characters having sex. "When we tried to shoot the love scene it really shocked Tony," Cheung recalls. "He refused to do it. For two days he was miserable, lying on his bed. So I went up to him and said, Look at me, Tony, Ive gone through so many scenes kissing, touching girls, grabbing breasts, do you think I really enjoyed it? Just treat it as a job, a normal love scene. Im not going to fall in love with you, and I dont want you to really have sex with me. Youre not my type. So he agreed to do the scene." In other words: Tony, dear boy, why not try acting?

Though Cheung has directed an hour-long music drama and an all-star anti-smoking film, he will keep acting; he soon joins Anita Mui and Karen Mok in a Stanley Kwan film, and hopes to work with Zhang Yimou and the Crouching Tiger princess, Zhang Ziyi. Still, forever-young Leslie is having midlife doubts about his standing in post-97 Hong Kong. "Ive worked bloody hard for 20 years," he says passionately. "I was penniless, dying hard for my groceries. I can now live in a reasonably sized detached house. Im still very strong in Japan and Korea. But I may be a little passE in Hong Kong. The place is so extravagant, vulgar, expensive. I may be too soft for Hong Kong. I dont always count myself as one of them."

Leslie, dear boy, why not try looking at yourself in the mirror and doing an elegant cha-cha? Youll see what youve been and still are: phantom lover, concubine, sweet prince.

- Reported by Stephen Short/Hong Kong

Bedroom Pinup
- TIME talks to Hong Kong actor/singer boy Leslie Cheung


Thursday, May. 3, 2001 Leslie Cheung is Hong Kongs great male diva. The flamboyant singer and actor talks candidly with TIMEs Stephen Short about movies, fame and growing up. Edited excerpts:

TIME: You are sometimes called one-take Leslie, because directors get what they want immediately. Is that so?
The longest scene I ever shot was with Wong Kar-wai in "Days of Being Wild." Maggie Cheung and I are having a conversation in bed about her cousin or something like that. Anyway, it took two days and 39 takes to shoot. Wong did not give us a clue as to what role he wanted us to play. Even when Maggie and I asked what was wrong with the previous 38 takes, he wouldnt tell us.

TIME: Have you ever turned down a project from Kar-wai?
Im usually Kar-wais first pick. Im his favorite. Even for "Chungking Express" he approached me first, before Tony Leung. But as you know I was so busy at that time. I was doing "Shanghai Grand." I was working with Peter Chan on "Hes a Woman, Shes a Man." So Kar-wai calls me up and says, Leslie, Ive got this great story. Would you like to try doing a film with Faye Wong? At that time I had some reservations. I said to him, Kar-wai, can she really act? I told him it would be delightful to work with him, but sadly not at that time, as I was too busy. So then he approached Tony Leung. He also asked me to do "Fallen Angels," for which Leon Lai got picked. Later Kar-wai called me up for "Happy Together." Andy Lau originally wanted to be in the movie, but Im not sure what happened to that. I was doing "Viva Erotica" at the time. So I spoke with Kar-wai again and thought his offer was quite reasonable, though I took some convincing. We talked schedules, terms, deadlines... Kar-wais a very clever guy. He knows how to handle things.

TIME: Everybody I talk to wants to work with you. Who do you want to work with?
Im hoping to work with (Chinese actress) Zhang Ziyi next year. I think (singer) Karen Mok and her would be brilliant in a film. Ill have to pull some strings. The movie would be similar to "Beaches," the Bette Midler film. Interesting. Dont you think so?

TIME: You could put Karen and Ziyi in a Nescafe commercial and Id pay good money to watch it. You were a huge Canto star in the 80s. Whats changed since?
Things are getting much more conservative. And politically correct. Im lucky that I can still survive and maintain my place at the top. A lot of it is to do with the media. A few years back they never put anything positive in the tabloids. Take Tony Leung, for example. He wins the Best Actor award at Cannes. Now that should be huge news in Hong Kong, but all you get is a small piece in the corner of the paper about his award, and the main focus is about actress Carina Lau and who shes having an affair with. The media cater to gossip.

TIME: You must get asked about "Happy Together" all the time?
Yes, although now Im used to it. Its like a daily routine. But if someone tries to ask me an intellectual question in Hong Kong then I get quite stumped. It really shouldnt be like this.

TIME: Did you enjoy school in England?
I had to make a lot of readjustments. There were racial problems, discrimination. But it enabled me to see things. I could take a train to London, for example. So I didnt feel lonely. My first bit of homesickness didnt happen for three months. I used to write letters to my parents and family every week. I think that started to pull us closer. During weekends I used to go to Southend- on-Sea to see my relatives; they ran a restaurant there, and Id be a bartender. I also started performing. I was only 13 years old, but Id do amateur singing every weekend.

TIME: Do you like Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is so extravagant... Its too expensive. Im too soft for Hong Kong. I dont always count myself as one of them. And I dont put my litter outside my house anymore because people try to find things and sell them or whatever. Even if I go to Causeway Bay, reporters follow me. They know my car registration number, so whether Im at the Mandarin Oriental coffee shop or Propaganda (a hip gay club) Im followed.

TIME: Youre agony uncle to many Chinese actresses, arent you?
I love them all very much. Twenty years ago I was also a newcomer, so I love to groom girls, tell them the pros and cons (of the profession). I scolded Karen Mok for not performing well enough at her recent concerts. But did you see I gave her a kiss on stage. She thanked me as her uncle for giving her a first chance.

* from Time Asia
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