Bey Logan Interview
Through the magic of WhatsApp, I had the pleasure of speaking to Hong Kong cinema expert and filmmaker Bey Logan, about his long career, the Hong Kong film industry and his new books. Of course the Elephant in the room was his role as Asian Vice President of The Weinstein Company and the sexual allegations against him, which were addressed organically. I want to thank Bey for being so accommodating and chatty (The man can talk!) We had a fantastic and varied conversation, I hope you get some enjoyment from the below abridged version.
Jacob Walker: Hi Bey, thanks for taking the time to talk to me, I have downloaded your Book (36 Chambers of Kung Fu Cinema Vol 1)
Bey Logan: Thanks very much
JW: No problem at all, it has some interesting stories in there, I was reading today about Hapkido 1972, and Carter Wong being a Karate instructor for the Hong Kong Police, at a very young age.
BL: Hapiko, such an underrated movie
JW: I have only seen it once, but it has some great action, especially from Hwang In-shik, showing some fantastic leg work and a young Sammo of course.
BL: It defined the Hong Kong style, more than the Bruce Lee films. I am just finishing up my Bruce Lee book and there is some sacrilege on my part, I am kind of looking at this from what influence he had and what he didn’t have on the industry, and to see which films had more of a profound influence, long term than the Bruce Lee films. In fact Bruce was more favourable to the Korean arts rather than the Chinese ones.
JW: I was going to ask you about Bruce Lee, I know you are a fan, as many people are
BL: (Excitedly) Oh yeah totally
JW: For me personally, I loved who he was and his influence on UFC and MMA, but I have never been a big fan of his movies, they very quickly dated and don’t compare to many movies of the 70’s, what am I missing with these classic Bruce movies?
BL: No, I think you’re right. I have written in my upcoming book Bruce Lee and I, and I have gone into some detail on this. What’s interesting is that there has been this misapprehension, Bruce Lee came back to Hong Kong and the only game in town, was to work for Golden Harvest, a second string company at the time. If you compare with the other movies of the time, like The New One Armed Swordsman 1971 with David Chiang and Ti Lung, The Big Boss 1971 just doesn’t compare in terms of technical prowess. What happened was, Bruce made two films for Lo Wei, a bit of a hack director and Bruce had incredible charisma, his scenes blow off the screen, but the scenes that he isn’t in, are kind of weak.
Way of the Dragon 1972, he was finding himself as a director
Game of Death 1978, I found the dailies to that, it would have been a weird film anyway, even if he had finished it the way he wanted.
Enter the Dragon 1973 worked the best of them, beautifully shot and an American production.
We didn’t get to see the best of Bruce Lee. Bruce was unlucky not to work with better directors or to become a better director himself.
JW: Do you think if he had made films in the 80’s with Golden Harvest, then that quality would have shone through?
BL: It’s interesting, I write in my book about what his path would have been post Enter the Dragon, there were talks for him to make a Shaw Brothers movie, would he have made Silent Flute? (This was co-written by Bruce and became 1978’s Circle of Iron with David Carradine). He wanted to remake Way of The Dragon in America as well. He was approached to do a kind of Spaghetti Western, so he had a whole bunch of stuff lined up. I almost wonder if he would have finished Game of Death, or decided it was a bit weird and done something else with the footage.
I’m with you, it is hard to make a case for Bruce Lee movies, to be great movies, with the exception of Enter the Dragon. It has been criticised by people I feel haven’t watched it for a long time or not in any depth. I think it has a great script, brilliant performances, Hong Kong is shot really well, and in some ways, hasn’t been bettered.
Bruce Lee was great despite the films he was in.
JW: To jump back, are you writing any more books after 36th Chamber Volume One?
BL: Bruce Lee and I, then 36th Chambers of Kung Fu Volume 2, which brings you all the way to 2011’s Wu Xia aka Dragon with Donnie. The first book is based on stories that I heard from other people, I have worked with because I wasn’t around when they made those movies. But then on the second book it gets more interesting as it’s more first person. My first book years ago Hong Kong Action Cinema 1995 was an outsider’s view whereas Volume 2 will be an insider’s view, because it is fuelled by information of me working within the industry. I have a unique view as I have worked on many films and I speak Chinese.
JW: Yes it sounds like it stands apart, as it’s from a unique perspective. You mention in the book that you became the editor of Combat and Impact magazines, how did you go about it, it can be ‘easy’ to get things published in certain publications, but how did you actually become the editor of those magazines?
BL: You know what, I use a quote in the book from Frank Zappa talking about Rolling Stone – ‘People Who Can’t Write Interviewing People Who Can’t Talk for People Who Can’t Read.’ If there was ever a field of journalism where a capable writer could make a name, that was the field and if there ever was a time, with the rise of sport kickboxing and the martial arts movie next wave with Jackie Chan, Steven Seagal etc. it was then. I was writing articles for Combat and sending them in and the editor was looking at this prolific work from a guy from Peterborough that was significantly better than what he or anyone else was writing. I was writing in depth interviews and talking about obscure films no one had heard of, compared to the articles like ‘my master is tougher than your master because…’ which sounds strange now because it is all on the internet but in those days, it was like ‘hey this guy is writing about Bruce Lee!’ So he phoned me up and asked if I wanted to move to Birmingham, which is really Ying and Yang. In my right hand in your early 20’s you will be the most powerful man in martial arts journalism (admittedly like being the tallest dwarf!) But you have to move to Birmingham.
JW (Laughs) it’s a punishment! (Birmingham is a city in the midlands of England, for those that live there, it is quite a vibrant place now, but fairly grim in the 1980’s.)
BL: (Laughs) It was, but it was right place, right time. I was asked in an interview years ago and with no master plan, I said I wanted to write articles, make movies then write a book and it has kind of worked out that way. I have still made 4 films this year, but I feel less pressure than as a younger man and I am currently enjoying writing.
JW: It has worked out well, so how did you end up meeting Jackie Chan?
BL: I went to Golden Harvest studios when I was 21, to walk in the footsteps of Bruce Lee but was aware of Jackie Chan. I asked one of the stuntmen and he said Jackie was in Taiwan, I was bummed but he said he is flying in, why don’t you meet him at the airport and arrange an interview? So I went to the airport and asked and he said come to the studios first thing in the morning. I had run out of money, so I slept at the airport until the early hours, went up to Golden Harvest and went to the set, have you seen The Prodigal Son 1981?
JW: Yes I have (In fact I have the Hong Kong Legends DVD of this fantastic film!)
BL: There is a farm at the end and I slept in the barn, which is a claim to fame. So I met him and had an interview for the magazine, then he said let’s make a film called The Medallion 2003 in 30 years’ time (laughing) only joking. So I got my interview and started watching more of his films in China Town when I got back to London. Then when I came back to Hong Kong I worked for a company called Media Asia, which Jackie had a stake in and we did Jackie Chan My Story, My Stunts 1998 and 1999 respectively, the two documentaries. I think the key in life sometimes, with these stars is that they are surrounded by people who want something from them. So I was offering something to him, look I can read and write well, I can produce, direct, I have seen all your movies and I have seen the majority of everyone else’s movies, so I can help you make these documentaries, and he said great that means I don’t have to!
That segwayed into producing Gen X and Gen Y Cops in 1999 and 2000, which starred Paul Rudd of Ant Man fame. I worked with Jackie for 3 years then he went off to Emperor to do The Medallion, he needed someone to write the script, so I ended up writing and producing that movie. Then we worked on The Twins Effect 2003.
JW: Is that with the Canto Pop twins? (Gillian Chung and Charlene Choi)
BL: Yes, that’s right. It was a big hit here, but didn’t travel well. A lot of those movies have been forgotten.
JW: Yes they were big at the time. (The twins were massive in the early 2000’s however Gillian got caught up in the Edison Chen sex scandal, which damaged her reputation, plus they both matured and started to do their own thing. They both still work in the industry today.)
BL: After that I started a company with Maggie Q called Shankara, then I don’t know if I should say it, as it’s been so painted but my next job was with the Weinstein Company as Vice President for 3 years. Then I went back to being an independent producer and have recently rebooted the website Reel East, which sells memorabilia and books.
JW: One thing I was going to ask you about Weinstein, is not to do with Harvey directly, when you were Vice President were you involved with any of the US edits of Hong Kong movies?
BL: Well not directly involved in cutting, they would ask my opinion. It is difficult to talk about Harvey because of the #MeToo movement and my involvement in it as well, but he had been making movies for 20 years before that, this is my experience of him and I actually felt there are few people who could claim to have knowledge of what the US audiences wanted to see. I got into trouble with fans about cutting The Protector aka Tom-Yum-Goong 2005, which I did work on, but I had faith in Harvey, more times than not the mainstream audiences reacted well. A lot of the time these audiences had seen the original version anyway, plus with The Protector we sold a million units, which is unheard of today.
JW: It is a good point, it is hard to deny that he knew what his audiences wanted
BL: As prolific filmmakers, whether it was Harvey, myself or many others, a lot of the stuff you produce will be successful, some will fail with a little in between, nowadays with the internet and people who aren’t filmmakers they are critiquing everything even though they don’t have the experience. If I am getting surgery I don’t want someone in the gallery telling the surgeon where to stick the knife. Film makers should have a free hand to create and audiences a free hand to judge, but what happens now is that there is opinion on casting and scripting before the movie starts, sometimes poisoning the water, they should let the professionals do their job.
JW: Yeah, I did Film Studies back in the day and I love the idea that, the whole point of watching a foreign movie, is that you get scenes you won’t find in a Hollywood or British production.
BL Exactly, my point is let the film makers create it, that is their job, then let the audience view it, that’s their job but I think it has become a bit confused these days.
JW: I agree with that, I don’t know if you have seen some of the video’s on YouTube, endless video essays on Marvel or Martial arts movies, you can get stuck in there forever!
BL: Some are good, I saw a good one analysing Michael Bay movies, maybe I should pay more attention, but I have 5 kids, I have a Kung Fu School, you may hear the drums in the background as they are preparing a lion dance, and I am writing scripts. So I don’t have time for it.
JW: There is some good stuff, but I think you have the right approach, you can easily get stuck down that rabbit hole.
Now you produced the movie Beach Spike in 2011 with Chrissie Chau, I have discovered her recently, of course she is stunning but she has had an interesting career, moving into more serious roles and she is going to be in the new Ip Man Legacy movie.
BL: Yes that is correct
JW: I just wandered what it was like working with her and making the movie?
BL: I came into this as a summer of fun with girls on the beach playing volleyball, who wouldn’t want to go there! A girl called Phoenix Chou, who was signed to our company was involved. Chrissie at the time hadn’t done a tremendous amount of film work, she had done a lot of photo books, which is really tame compared to the west, mainly her eating ice-cream in lingerie as a Lang mo (Young Model) .When I met her I was pleasantly surprised, she was very smart, well spoken, she spoke pretty good English but we also talked in Cantonese. Very pretty but beyond that a smart and nice person and very different to the Lang mo persona of bimbos who are being manipulated. It was a kind of double jeopardy thing were everyone was looking at them but then getting in trouble for looking. If you ever meet her she is very smart and pleasant. I didn’t get to work with her again as I primarily made movies in English and it is so hard for Chinese actors to act in English when they aren’t fluent. She should have been a bigger star than she has been, but her new stuff is interesting, perhaps she will be, I hope she does.
JW: I wanted to quickly ask you about Circus Kids 1994, where you got to fight Donnie Yen.
Bey: It was a great experience, I moved to Hong Kong to do a film called Tiger Storm with Gary Daniels, which fell apart. The only guy I knew was Donnie Yen, who was making a film in China, they needed a villain and he invited me to join him so he could have someone to hang out with. My style is Hung Kuen (Southern Fist) and Donnie was using Northern Leg, Donnie was so fast I could only block one of his 3 kicks. So he said to me (doing a good Donnie impression); ‘Hey Bey, can you speed up!’ So he slowed down a bit and I sped up, so we got the shot. I said something funny to him between takes, which he replied with ‘If only your body was as fast as your brain’ so I said ‘if only your brain was as fast as your body’, which I think summed up our relationship. But it was a great experience, talking to Yuen Biao, the late great Wu Ma and talking with many of the stuntmen about Bruce Lee, picking up many stories.
JW: I was wondering whether certain Hong Kong movies are more rushed than others, as I was watching the Ken Lo Yuen Biao fight at the end of Circus Kids and it isn’t that great. I thought it would be amazing.
BL: Well Ken is great but if you compare him to Benny Urquidez who is also a kickboxing champion, If you look at what Benny can do, he can punch, grapple, do gymnastics and his two fights with Jackie in Wheels on Meals 1984 and Dragon’s Forever 1988 are classics. If you look at what Ken can do, he can put his leg in the air and kick, kick, kick, that’s it! He couldn’t use weapons, no gymnastics and didn’t really have any hand techniques. But I agree with you it was kind of one note.
JW: It’s because the fight between Ken Lo and Jackie at the end of Drunken Master 2 aka Legend of the Drunken Master 1994 is so good, I guess it is down to Jackie Chan’s choreography.
BL: Well originally they wanted Donnie Yen, but he didn’t want to be the bad guy. Then they had Ho Sung-Pak, who was a Korean American martial arts champion, but he wasn’t used to Hong Kong choreography and hurt his ankle, then it became Ken Lo. Thing is if you do a fight with Jackie, they want to see everything you have, so whatever he can do is in that fight.
It makes you realise that Chinese martial arts have more techniques than anybody. If you look at Sammo’s films, they always have a new technique to match up; leopard vs dragon, sword vs spear, such a variety. But if you only kick and punch for 10 movies you start to run out of gas. That is why Jean Claude Van Damme who I worked with on Kick Boxer Retaliation 2018, had to make different kinds of movies, because you knew what he had to give, splits, spinning kick
JW: Jumping spinning back kick
BL: Exactly and he wasn’t going to learn stick fighting or grappling, so he had to create more dramatic movies. Even though I respect him massively, I feel Tony Jaa ran out of steam, because we saw all what he could do.
JW: That is right, plus he went off the rails with Ong Bak 2 2008 and 3, released in 2010 which were a mess.
BL: I was involved with those movies, when I was with the Weinstein Company, we got railroaded by the production company as they had nothing to do with the original and we thought it was a contemporary sequel. They did OK, but the Protector 2 aka Tom-Yum-Goong 2 2013, I was with the director Prachya Pinkaew and he said it hadn’t turned out well, it had lost its freshness and the CGI came in, it didn’t work.
JW: I see there is a movie called The Dark Soul 2018 coming out, which you are directing, are you working on this at the moment?
BL: Yes, Dark soul, well you have been good not talking about it, but as you know I have had some bad press and I felt that in the wake of something like that, you realise you have done something that upsets people and you have to make amends. So you have to figure out what to do, now in my case I didn’t have millions of dollars, I woke up and I had 5 kids to feed. But my filmmaking partner said, look you’re a good guy, let’s continue to make films in China. You haven’t done anything illegal and you need to feed your kids. So I went to China and did a film called Five Element Killer 2018 in Tangshang, freezing cold, if ever there was a place to reboot and revive yourself it is there! Then we were proposing films to the China government and one was Dark Soul, which I wrote years ago with Donnie Yen and Christian Slater in mind. We never did it, so I said let’s do it and I’ll direct it in Shenzen. It was a fantastic experience and I worked with a good friend of mine, a martial artist called Kevin Brewerton and we had a lot of fun.
For me you can say you are a changed man and atone for mistakes you have made, but you need to show it. So I went back to work and made movies, so we made Dark Soul and then a movie called Vixen 2018, which is lady Die Hard, or Die Hard with a Chinese chick. So it is a whole run of movies, primarily for the China market, then distributed internationally. My daughter also asked me to enter a Kung Fu tournament and I got a gold medal in the Hung Gar form. I just wanted to do positive stuff, I think you have to move on and I have enjoyed this past year after what happened.
It was interesting that 2 out of the 3 women who made allegations against me after the dust settled, asked for parts in a movie, which shocked me. I was polite about it, but I declined of course. I appreciate this has been a positive piece but I am not happy, but accept it is something I have to address, for a time in this industry, if you had an allegation against someone, no one believed you, now everyone believes everything.
JW: Yes I didn’t want to focus on the sexual allegations, rather do a piece about your career, I thought it may come up naturally.
BL: I would be happy to talk about it, in length over a beer and be candid, what I can address specifically is the allegation printed about me involving JuJu Chan. (she claims Bey kissed her without her consent and complained that she didn’t want to be his girlfriend) every word of that is an absolute lie, I did tell the editors of Variety that and all the comments about the piece were saying ‘your full of shit’, that one 100% untrue, she saw a chance to get ahead.
I look back at my private life and I think I had too many relationships and left things unresolved. Look since the days of Jack Warner and Samuel Goldwyn, there has been young good looking women and older producers, and it is a different world, which your stuck in and you don’t want to live in the real world as your stuck in this bubble. It is different now, for young guys in the industry, you have to be super sensitive and careful with your behaviour, I certainly am.
JW: Thank you for being so honest, it has been an absolute pleasure.
BL: Well mate, good to chat with you, it has really been fantastic, bless your heart, take care then.