In January, Leslie was invited by TVB to hand out the Jade Solid Gold ‘most welcomed singer’ award. Leslie said that he had hoped to hand out the award to Leon Lai Ming. That night, the winner was indeed Leon Lai, and Leslie got the chance to give the award to him. Leslie had always secretly supported Leon. One day, Leon’s assistant who also happened to be Leslie’s assistant at the time, told him that a fashion store sales girl had been disrespectful to Leon - when he bought one of the two similar styled suits from the shop. Leon had pleaded for the sales girl to not sell the other suit to any other artist, as he was worried about being seen wearing the same clothes as another artist at the same occasion. But the shop assistant had responded to him rudely, stating that the shop would sell the suit to any buyer who wanted it. On hearing this, Leslie immediately went to the shop and bought the other suit. He bought it not to wear, but to keep it. And he did this only to defend and protect Leon Lai!
“It’s a Wonderful Life”, the film about a Chinese family, featured a strong cast and premiered on 6th February. Among the cast was veteran actor, Kwan Tuck Heng. He held a record for starring in more than 130 films! As usual, Leslie kept up good relationships with his co-stars during the film shoot. There were also occasions when Do Do Cheng and Teresa Mo would go over to his house for supper and so on.
Many people have said that Leslie’s handsome face is perfect, and has almost no flaws. After we get up close and speak to him, the above words have proven true because his beauty is not merely physical but shines out from within his beautiful inner soul. He had always been straightforward and sincere. Since he began his career, when he orbited to become a top-billing singer, and then gained success in the film world, Leslie Cheung experienced many changes. But these changes did not influence his straightforward style of speaking and his sincere attitude in all things. Even though he grew to have a much deeper understanding about the world he lived and worked in, and had put in much effort to be more flexible and careful, his true character never changed. At that stage a reporter had asked him what a man like Leslie Cheung - who could be said to have everything: a name, popularity and wealth - would most desire. Leslie answered that he most desired acknowledgement, so that if anyone mentioned the name 'Leslie Cheung’ it meant that they were referring to a legitimate and prolific actor. By 1994 Leslie’s hard work had made him an 'idol’ with superstar status in Hong Kong, and he no longer felt the need to pursue that 'idol’ status. Leslie did not want to be referred to merely as an 'idol’, because he longed to go beyond such assertions of his image. He only wanted to be a good actor, and had wanted someday to become a director. And Leslie had honestly stated that he did not know for how long he would still be involved in the film world: maybe for two years, maybe for twenty years more.
Leslie had said, “In the past or at present, it doesn’t matter if I succeed or fail, truly I can say that I never hurt anybody. This kind of characteristic makes me suffer a lot.”
Canadian director David Cronenberg offered Leslie the chance to act in “M. Butterfly” with actor Jeremy Irons, but because Leslie felt that the theme of the film was rather similar to “Farewell My Concubine”, he did not accept the offer. John Lone took the role. A film critic compared the John Lone’s performance with Leslie’s performance in “Farewell My Concubine”. The film critic said that John Lone was not convincing as a woman: “It can be argued that Cronenberg cast the film with this in mind, to let the audience in on a secret that he knew the intimacy of film couldn’t be kept hidden for long. But anyone who has seen the terrific performance by Leslie Cheung in the Cannes-winning "Farewell My Concubine” knows that it can be done much more realistically than it is here. Lone is a strong actor being put in a virtually impossible situation. He has tried to modulate his voice, half-talking and half-whispering to simulate the husky mystery of a woman’s voice. But it never quite connects; he never seems more comfortable than at the end of the film when he’s dressed in a man’s clothes. By comparison, Cheung was just the opposite in “Farewell”, fully inhabiting the character that he was playing and the character that character was playing.“
John Lone was also offered the role in "Farewell My Concubine”, but he finally didn’t take it, and he said that he was proud with Leslie’s success in “Farewell”.
A Vancouver newspaper, 'The Vancouver Sun’, included the photo of Leslie Cheung with his collie dog, Joy, at his Vancouver home. Columnist Peter Birnie started his article by writing, “He was a pop star in Hong Kong but Leslie Cheung now looks to movies, and Vancouver, for a new life. With his film "Farewell My Concubine” in full flight, at this moment nominated for an Oscar as best foreign film, Cheung has no regrets about choosing in 1990 to end a 10-year singing career that has filled a room in his home with platinum records and music awards. Judging from the laser disc of one such concert, Cheung is lucky to have emerged from the throng of adoring young women without losing a limb. He left behind a tongue-in-cheek rivalry with fellow star Alan Tam. “We were always fighting each other for the awards,” he says, “but we’re the best of friends.” Now in his mid-30s, Cheung knows the Hong Kong music mill will always crank out another idol to fill a quota that’s dubbed 'the Top Four’. “There were four guys coming up, just like us, so it was kind of funny,” he says. “When I watch television now, I find the shadows, like they’re doing the things that we did before.”
Cheung fell in love with Vancouver when he first toured here in 1987, but motivation to move didn’t come until the 1989 massacre in Tienanmen Square. He refers to China’s plans to swallow Hong Kong as 'the '97 burden.’ Despite a fear of flying (and claustrophobia to boot), Cheung will continue the long commute between Canada and Hong Kong. “I’ve had a lot of offers from Hollywood now, but I’m still thinking,” he says. “I’m pretty big in Hong Kong and I don’t want to lose my fans because I’m going to do some lousy Grade C or D movie in Hollywood.” Cheung has already encountered the subtle racism that keeps Asian actors shut out of all but stereotypical roles in most Hollywood features. “One of the production companies tried to line me up with Keanu Reeves, acting as a ninja. I said, "Don’t ask me to play a ninja”. Cheung even questions friend John Woo’s move to Tinseltown. “I don’t think he’s doing the right thing in Hollywood at all. He called me up when doing "Hard Target” in New Orleans; he was complaining that people were cutting his budget and his time.“ Despite his reservations, Cheung flies to Hollywood this week in preparation for next Monday’s Academy Awards. If the pundits are right and "Farewell My Concubine” adds to its list of prizes (Palme d'Or, Golden Globe, L.A. and New York film critics associations), will he be more likely to stay on this side of the Pacific? “I don’t know anything about Hollywood,” he says, laughing again. “I’m just an ordinary moviegoer!”
In Los Angeles Leslie asked a taxi driver, “What is your dream?” And the taxi driver said, “To be a film star”. Leslie was surprised, in Hong Kong it was different.
The great Hollywood director Steven Spielberg felt surprised and admired Leslie’s acting in “Farewell My Concubine”.The 66th Academy Awards nominated “Farewell My Concubine” in two categories: the best foreign language film nomination, and best cinematography nomination (for Gu Chang Wei). Less than two months before, “Farewell My Concubine” had won the Golden Globe as the best foreign language film. The film also won in the 'Los Angeles Film Critics Awards’,the 'New York Film Festival’, the 'Polish Film Festival’, and other film festivals in Europe. But the film did not win at the Academy Awards. Leslie who attended the ceremony with John Woo pointedly stated said there must have been some political reason behind “Farewell”’s losing. The U.S. had indeed put a lot of pressure on the People’s Republic of China on many issues, one of them was about copyright infringements.
Veteran actress Cheng Pei Pei, who acted in “Woman of 33” with Leslie, met up with him at the airport in Los Angeles. Cheng Pei Pei recalled a lot about Leslie, realizing that she had known him for more than a decade. These 10 years seem so long, almost like a century to her. According to her if one were to write about their careers, one could write a long novel. In recent years, both of them have returned to Hong Kong almost at the same time, and once again work in show business. But they did not get to see each other so often. She recalled meeting him after a long time at the “Interview with Celebrities” programme, run by the Chinese News, in Malaysia several years before. She visited him to do a report about his shoot. On these two occasions when Cheng Pei Pei met Leslie he treated her with much respect, as his senior and not as a reporter. Maybe he was correct to feel that she was really like the elder sister of his best friend! That is why he was always extremely kind to her whenever they met. But Cheng never told him that he was like a younger brother to her, as she was of the opinion that this should not be so important.
Cheng Pei Pei also never missed a chance to watch any of Leslie’s movies. She would always buy the tickets herself to watch his movies at the cinema, and according to her his movies are worth paying money for. There are very few actors like Leslie in Hong Kong, who has such enthusiasm and sincerity. Or she often said that, for him, movies are not just a means of earning money but something he does for pleasure. When a person works not merely to earn a living, that person can reach the highest level of his ability. To work for pleasure, this is a dream for most people.
That year, the Japanese Film Critics Society awarded Leslie with the Best Actor title for his performance in “Farewell My Concubine”. During the year, “Farewell My Concubine” had aired several times on Japanese TV station NHK, and on the NHK satellite channel. The movie was a mega hit and marked a box office record for Asian cinema released in Japan. It screened for 7 months in Tokyo and other major cities around Japan, which was also a record. Films released theatrically are usually screened for up to 4 to 5 weeks in Japan, thus the 7 months period of screening Leslie’s hit movie is remarkably long. The movie and Leslie’s acting were highly acclaimed by film critics, the media and public. It was considered the most important film in the history of Asian Cinema in Japan!
He’s a Woman, She’s a Man
“He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” was also a box-office movie of the year, pulling full houses in Hong Kong cinemas. Leslie sang the theme song for the film soundtrack, Chui (“Chase”), composed by Dick Lee, a renowned composer and singer from Singapore. The single of this song became a big hit. Leslie’s older fans did of course miss his voice singing a song. Their longing was a little reprieved by “ The Bride with White Hair” soundtrack, and the song “Chase”. And it couldn’t be denied that even though Leslie had left his singing career, with every passing year he always seemed to gain legions of new fans. During the location shoot of “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” many fans waited faithfully to see Leslie. What surprised and amazed many reporters was the fact that many of them were still teenagers!
At the Fringe Club, with piano, drums and other musical instruments on the stage, Leslie’s character Sam Koo had a jam session with his friends in “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man”. He sang two songs, the famous Beatles song, “Twist and Shout”, and the sweet “In This Lifetime”.
“He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” was directed by Peter Chan, a Thailand Chinese. Leslie was paired with the talented artist, Anita Yuen, Miss Hong Kong 1990 - who had just won the Best Actress title at the Hong Kong Film Festival that year for her performance in Derek Yee’s, “Till the End of Time”. At the awards ceremony, Leslie together with actor Tony Leung Kar Fai presented the award to Anita. Anita, whose body was very thin, felt nervous of Leslie and his fame. Usually, Anita speaks excellently, she excels in memorizing dialogue, and she had never had problems to say eight sentences in row without stopping. But when she faced Leslie, her tongue became like that of a dumb person.
“Indeed, I was too nervous and felt a failure when I faced Leslie. Whereas Leslie was calm, he memorized the dialogue very well, knew what sentence must be followed by what other sentence. Because of being too nervous, I had cold sweats and the movie scrip got truly crumpled!”, said Anita shrugging her shoulder. But Leslie was known to always be nice and helpful to a newcomer.
"The more time went by, the more nervous I felt, then I had to repeat a scene about nine times. Usually, if I hear the director shout "cut”, I would just relax and I’d go play around. But this time, every time I heard the word “cut” I would immediately sit as if I am about to faint, supporting my head with my hands and breathing deeply. Leslie, on the contrary, showed his kindness trying to comfort me. And I had to pretend to be calm, like nothing had happened. Maybe in his heart he thought: 'Ah, they said Anita is great, but she is only like this’.“
Because she was so ashamed, Anita did many self-introspections. She realized that in the past she had been rather lazy and she wanted to improve herself. "Leslie was indeed very diligent, he always made a note of the dialogue which was to be followed in the movie script, thus it helped him to memorize it. I followed his way of working. It has already been three nights that I diligently do my 'homework’”, said Anita.
If she looked at Leslie, Anita didn’t dare to do it directly. She only dared to look at Leslie’s one eye, so that she would not get too intoxicated or nervous. One day, Leslie and Anita were shooting scenes at the Deco Grill at the Peak. Leslie’s character, Sam Koo, was drinking with Anita Yuen’s character, who was disguised as a man. Sam Koo wanted to get to know 'him’ better so that he could write songs for 'him’, and one of the questions he had asked was when 'he’ made love for the first time.
The “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” film poster was subsequently showed off on a wall. Many people said, “Look how handsome Leslie is”. “No”, said Leslie humbly. But some minutes later he looked at his poster and said, “Oh yeah, this 38 year old man still looks handsome… hmmm….”. Every body laughed. Because Leslie is an unusual and daring actor we therefore have a movie like “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man”.
About love between people of the same gender, Leslie said, “Love between a man and woman lasts for a moment like fireworks. It easily disappears, and making it last is very hard. I think love between two men is different from that. It’s generous and kind, supported by a solid trust.”
At the same time as when he was shooting “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man”, Leslie also starred in a comedy film directed by Gordon Chan, entitled “Long and Winding Road”. In “Long and Winding Road”, Leslie Cheung, an angel from heaven, played a bad guy, Lam Chiu Wing. Leslie felt very tired having to do many scenes for two films in a day. He said that he was too tired because he did sports one day before. It was Teresa Mo who had suggested for him to do some sports, and consume healthy food. Usually Leslie kept his body in a healthy condition by going jogging and swimming. But nowadays, Leslie chose to do training in the gym because he was worried that swimming would influence the condition of his hair. Leslie had indeed experienced some indication of baldness. To handle this problem, he took therapy in a hair care center. This kind of treatment was not painful, as if someone is being injected. Leslie used treatment shampoo, hair care hormones and medicine to stimulate growth and prevent the loss of hair. Leslie also consumed 3 kinds of vitamins. Every month he paid almost HK$2,000. Luckily, Leslie succeeded in handling this problem. His hair therapy was successful.
“He’s a Woman She’s a Man” premiered on 23 July 1994, and “Long and Winding Road"followedon 4 August 1994. The two films were no. 2 and no. 3 at box office record. No.1 was the American film "Speed”.
The projects Leslie was involved in were dream projects for many Hong Kong new artists. Ray Chan for example, would be very happy if he could play the part of Yuddy in “Days of Being Wild”. Edmund Leung fell in love with Paris after he saw “Sunset in Paris”.
Sandra Ng Interview
In Sandra Ng’s radio interview, she asked Leslie what kind of dream he would like to have, and he answered that he would of course like to dream about the person that he loved most. Sandra added “… you mentioned earlier that you already have one person in your life already”, and Leslie replied “…that’s the person I’m referring to…”. To which Sandra replied in awe and disbelief “….Oh Gor Gor, I really can’t stand you (in an envious tone) …you want to see this person when you are awake, and you want to see this person in your dreams too!!!” And Leslie replied softly “Yes”. It is truly amazing to hear Leslie say it, in his own words. He was very forthright in showing his love for his partner, and was not ashamed or hesitant at all to admit it. How many artistes have the guts to admit this? Of course, the “person” that he was referring to was none other than Mr. Tong Hock Tak. In 1994 Leslie and Mr. Tong would had been together more than 10 years, which is not a short amount of time by any measure. Sandra did the interview with a male DJ. He also had some questions for Leslie.
DJ: What would you consider yourself stingy in or cheap in: Money? Friendship? Love?
Leslie: Actually, I do not think others would consider me stingy in friendship or money. But I do believe that I am very 'cheap’ in 'love’. I will explain why I considered myself 'cheap’ in romance or love. Because I am for one person. I can and do love just one person. And Sandra knows all these years. I have only had, and have only one love.
DJ: Why? After all these years there has only been one? That does not seem right! In a lifetime… it does not seem right to only have one love.
Sandra: Actually, I noticed that Gor Gor is a very loyal person. And I have seen him when he was mulling over heart related issues. He was sweet.
Leslie: Actually Sandra and I do not see each other that often. But she does know a lot about my life and my business. We may only talk on the phone twice a year. But she is a friend who is in my thoughts.
DJ: What dream would you like to have tonight?
Sandra: Yes! What kind of dream would you love to have?
Leslie: If you want a 'sweet dream’. You would hope the person you care about comes into your dream.
Sandra: But… you mentioned earlier that there has only been one love in your life.
Leslie: Yes… there has only been one, and that would be the one I would want in my dreams.
Sandra: Wow, you mean… even in your dreams you want to see him? Wow. I am so jealous. You want to see him when you are awake and when you sleep. (laugh)
Leslie: Of course, I never would have guessed we would be so happy talking about it…
Sandra: Which ten persons have affected your life most?
Leslie: 1. Anita Mui, 2. Wong Kar Wai, 3. Maggie Cheung, 4. John Woo, 5. Chow Yun Fat, 6. Brigitte Lin, 7. Anita Yuen, 8. Michael Lai, 9. Florence Chan, 10. Chen Kai Ke and Hsu Feng
Sandra: Who can share all your secrets, your heart?
Leslie: Anita Mui and Elisa Chan.
In that interview Leslie also mentioned that he loves children.
In other interview Leslie said he didn’t care about going to Hollywood unless he was offered a good script. He would rather work with mainland directors like Zhang Yi-mou, Tien Zhong-zhong or Taiwanese director Hou Hau-yin. He thought there were plenty of opportunities in Asia. Going to Hollywood was not his cup of tea. As a professional actor, he also didn’t mind stripping in front of the camera if the script sees it necessary. He said he’s well prepared for this challenge. For example if you want to express a person’s narcissism there is no better way than to strip in front of the mirror and then kiss yourself in the mirror. He had been doing love scenes in his early movies like “On Trial” and “Nomad”. He joked that he would be punished for that by the Communists, and that is why he has to leave Hong Kong.
About his baby-faced appearance, Leslie said that it did not affect the development of his acting career. “It has never been a barrier in my professional development,” Leslie said. “On the contrary, I believe it has been an asset. Maintaining youthful appeal is easy,” he said. “I try not to make myself tense and seldom stay out late.” Enjoying life was another secret. It has been nearly five years since Leslie announced he was quitting the music industry to devote himself to movie-making, a decision he says he has not regretted. “I appreciate the fact that my songs are still popular, probably due to karaoke playing,” he said. “It is a great comfort. But comparatively speaking, filming is not so time consuming, especially when it comes to promotion. I just have to fulfill my acting role and after the shoot comes to an end, my job is completed. Sometimes I may have to attend one or two press conferences before the movie is released, but that is it.” Even though Leslie had ditched his music career - apart from singing theme songs for some of his movies - he still has a lot fans. They were part of the reason he says he won’t resume singing. “I still get invitations to sing, especially at charitable functions,” Leslie said. “I won’t do that because I don’t want to back down on my promise (to disappear from the music scene) to my fans.” He describes Hong Kong as a “complicated society” where one must be on guard all the time. “For example, you might work on something for a charitable purpose, but other people might feel you’re actually using it for self-promotion,” he added. “I prefer low-exposure projects when I do things for charity.” Leslie had big ambitions for his acting career and was not limiting himself to Hong Kong. “I want to have a chance to extend my career into the international market, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Hollywood,” he said. Leslie wanted to build up his reputation internationally through Chinese-produced movies. “The Chinese always play the underdog role,” he said. “But over the past few years they have gained attention and respect for their great success. I feel this is a great encouragement.” On a darker note, Leslie said he felt local movies were limited because they always follow the trend. Changing this, he said, was difficult because of the territory’s small market. “Most investors are businessmen and their only consideration is getting satisfactory returns,” Leslie added. “At present, it seems that only commercial films are welcomed by the audience. This makes us different from overseas markets, where there are a certain amount of people who support underground music and movies.” After Leslie quit the music scene, he spent some time in Canada. His first plan was to settle down there and set up a coffee shop. “Things came out differently from what I had expected,” he said. “I couldn’t afford to totally retire.” But he said he’s happy with what he has at this moment. “I consider myself a serious actor rather than a movie idol,” he says. “I believe one’s desire changes from stage to stage,” he said. “At the moment, I hope to fulfil my role as an actor.” Leslie described himself as emotional, a side which he says has helped him in his career. “An artist must be emotional otherwise it is hard to put himself or herself into a role,” he said.
Leslie had endeavored to learn more about the Chinese Culture. And this was something that came to the notice of Professor Yee Shao Hua, a professor of Chinese music history and music culture. In Prof. Yee’s eyes, Leslie was a Western-style singer, an idol. So what was it that established ties between the two of them? During their meeting at a Chinese University Hong Kong seminar, Prof. Yee asked Leslie if he felt any change within himself after performing in literature-related movies such as “Rouge”, and later “Farewell My Concubine”, which was filmed back in mainland China. According to Prof. Yee, Leslie was very frank in answering his question. Leslie said, “I re-recognize myself as a Chinese. Chinese culture is splendid and great. When I was working on the mainland, I found people from mainland China nice and pure. Such experiences totally changed me.“ Prof. Yee could tell that Leslie was being very sincere about what he had said. He was a typical example of people from Hong Kong and their relationship with Chinese culture. Hong Kong people do not have enough knowledge or a clear idea about Chinese culture, and Prof. Yee included himself in this analysis. It was not until he left Hong Kong and China that he observed China from a distance and got to know it. Leslie had the same experience as his.
My Hong Kong
"Hong Kong Visitor”, a tourist guidebook published by the South China Morning Post published an article called “My Hong Kong” by Leslie. “Although he’s acted on television and in many unforgettable films for more than a decade, Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing used to be typecast as a Canto pop pin-up whose main admirers were screaming teenage girls. Not so any more. His role as opera star Cheng Dieyi in the Palme D'Or winning film, "Farewell to My Concubine”, has ensured that his name is now bandied about in international film circles. And one thing’s certain, Leslie has bid his farewell to the days when he was just a pretty boy. He takes time off a movie set here to tell us why Hong Kong is home.
Question: Do you consider yourself a Hongkonger? Why?
Leslie: Naturally. I was born in Hong Kong, I grew up here, so my roots are here. What’s more, I feel most comfortable here.
Question: Where does your family come from?
Leslie: My father was born in Guangdong and my mother was born here. But her folks were also from Guangdong.
Question: Have you ever lived anywhere else? If so, where and when?
Leslie: I’ve lived on and off in Vancouver since 1990.
Question: What do you find particularly appealing about Hong Kong?
Leslie: Hong Kong is such a lively place and I appreciate its efficiency. It’s a city that offers lots of opportunities and it’s very cosmopolitan. One just feels very comfortable here.
Question: What are your favourite places in Hong Kong? Why do you like them?
Leslie: The Peak because the view from here is breathtaking and it’s like a show window of Hong Kong’s prosperity. I also like Stanley, with its quaint village atmosphere; Repulse Bay, where I lived for a long time; and Central, which is the pulse of Hong Kong, showcasing its prosperity and its cosmopolitan nature.
Question: Which are your favourite restaurants in Hong Kong?
Leslie: I like 'Gaddi’s’ at The Peninsula, 'One Harbour Road’ at the Grand Hyatt and 'Fook Lam Moon’.
Question: Where do you usually spend your weekends in Hong Kong?
Leslie: At home.
Question: When you entertain friends from overseas, which parts of Hong Kong do you usually show them?
Leslie: The Peak, again for the fantastic view and because it shows Hong Kong at its best.
Question: Where do you like to take them for meals?
Leslie: I take them to my three favourite restaurants: 'Gaddi’s’, 'One Harbour Road’, and 'Fook Lam Moon’. I want them to try the food I personally enjoy.
Question: What aspects of Hong Kong would you change if you had your way?
Leslie: I would clean it up and solve its pollution problems. I’d also want every Hongkonger to own a home so everyone has more space in breathe in. Right now, Hong Kong is going through a very unstable phase. Yet, there’s nothing basically wrong with it. It’s just politics causing this instability. I don’t think the quirky surges of the Hang Seng index are particularly healthy, for instance. I’d like to see things calm down.
Leslie announced his retirement and migrated to Canada in the early 90s. He said he did want to keep his word (he was not going to sing and act in movies any more) but he found life in Canada was not exactly what he wanted. When asked whether he would leave Hong Kong again, he wouldn’t say “No”. But he reiterated that unless he felt uncomfortable living in Hong Kong, he would spend the rest of his life in the city because he loved the place very much. Hong Kong is a fascinating city, and also his 'roots’.
Leslie had had many a time warded off questions from reporters who wanted to know whether he wanted to make a ‘come-back’to the music world. For him, filming movies did not have the same kind of pressure, only do a shoot and do a little promotion. Leslie always refused many offers to sing, especially for charity. But slowly, Leslie began to have a wish to come back. It was indeed a waste if a music superstar like him could only sing 'karaoke’ at home! When watching Jonathan Li’s concert in Taiwan, the desire to go back to the stage came to Leslie’s mind because the band playing at the concert was his former band. And Leslie also felt dissatisfied with new Canto-pop singers. They couldn’t sing and interpret the songs well. Leslie thought, “I sing well, why don’t I go back to the recording studio?” Leslie’s retirement had indeed been a very big loss to the Hong Kong music industry. At the end of the interview he said, “If I want to back to singing, I will go back whenever I want. If I want to sing, I will just sing. The most important thing is I enjoy it. I don’t care what other people will say…”
On 17 September 1994, “Ashes of Time” finally premiered after more than two years in the making. The film featured many of Hong Kong’s most famous actors, with Leslie playing a pivotal role as the 'link’ between the stories of each character played by these top artistes. Leslie was usually Wong Kar-wai’s first pick for his movies. But he was busy from time to time with other projects, so he had turned down “Chungking Express” and “Fallen Angels,” for which finally Tony Leung and Leon Lai got picked to replace him.
We can get to know Leslie’s personality better by reading many of his interviews. One of his reporter friends, Joe, titled one of his reports, “See How Leslie Cheung Loves And Scolds Someone”. Leslie did not like Joe’s boss Li Zhi Ying, since he felt that Li was capable of ruining the future of an artiste by writing bad stories about an artist in his magazine. Joe wrote that Leslie was already a very eloquent person 10 years back. During that time, everyone would tell him about this, right to his face. Ever since he acted in “The Bride with White Hair”, people started calling him 'GorGor’. Leslie remained the same but the attitudes of the people around him changed. Some people would be bitchy about Leslie behind his back, but would appear very polite in front of him-especially those working with him. The people from the upper management would of course be more tactful, but to be frank this can only be considered fake. We all don’t have to spell out all the reasons. As Leslie’s friends, you will be able to understand him. Besides his good looks, Leslie was someone with his own principles. He was always very clear and very honest about it. He said: “Whatever you do, you should have a principled attitude, a bottom line. So long as we don’t hinder each other work, then we will have no problem”. Leslie became more agitated as he commented on how irresponsible the media is nowadays. And he had even made negative comments about Joe’s boss Li Zhi Ying. As a reporter, Joe felt that he should maintain an objective attitude towards people and other matters, he wrote: “Sorry, boss. Whatever the comments or criticisms GorGor made, I will just write it down”.
In fact, this was not really an interview. If it was an interview, Leslie would most probably not have accepted it, since he thought that the media nowadays liked to exaggerate things and pry too much into artistes’ privacy. He detested this so much, just as he had said before: “If I see those magazines that I don’t like, why should I care about them? Don’t think that just by sending one card over, it means I should give face to them. I am someone who can tear the card in front of these people. Why should I give chances to these people who are fucking around?”
Luckily Joe was a friend of Leslie’s, so he faced less risks of having his card torn up. Leslie knew that part of their conversation would be written down, and he promised Joe that he would allow them to take some photos for use in the magazine. They were still chatting happily but when the photographer started taking photos, Gor Gor suddenly got angry. During the photo session, he kept saying: “You go and tell your boss Li Zhi Ying, I am only taking the photos because I am doing my friend a favour, not because I am giving him face. I don’t understand what he is thinking. What good does it bring him to ruin the future of an artiste? How long can a magazine continue to have good sales? Now, I am not the only one saying this, many artistes are very unhappy about this! If this goes on, sooner or later we will come together and boycott him. Then we will see what more they can write. Honestly speaking, it is not that we are not allowing them to talk or write, but not with this attitude, not completed and not true”.
“What is the use of doing so many things? You must have your own principles in whatever things you do. Now, I only wish to be a real actor. Now that I still have my market, I am going to continue acting. In the past I have said I wanted to be a director, but I will not be thinking about it at the moment.” A reporter asked: “You are still so popular now, do you feel you have a little luck?” He replied: “You can say so, as an artiste, you must make sure the audience likes you. If there are no audiences, no matter how good you are, it will be of no use!”
Not arrogant, just speaking the truth! Although Leslie had said many words out of rage, he would still change his tone and say something nice to comfort Joe. Honestly speaking, Leslie had never changed at all, whether it was when he was acting small roles or now that he is a famous artiste. Joe was not going to comment whether he thought that Leslie’s statement was right or wrong, as different people in different positions see things differently. But in his eyes, to say everything so frankly is Leslie’s principle, at least Leslie feels comfortable this way. As they were chatting they agreed that there were really very few artistes like him nowadays. Leslie stressed that he was not being very arrogant by saying such words. And because of this, if artistes like him would not speak up, who would dare to say anything? But to see things in a different point of view, to Leslie those exciting days had already passed. Leslie seldom went out, he could enjoy his love life and his successful career that he finally gained, and at least he was happy about it.
Inspired by their idol, who was always a trendsetter, Leslie Cheung fans Chang Chi Tao with some of his friends established the Leslie Cheung Internet Fan Club (LCIFC). This was the first internet fan club in Hong Kong, and may be even in Asia!
Leslie’s song “Chase"from the movie "He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” (music by Dick Lee, lyric by Lam Tsik, sung by Leslie Cheung) was nominated for Best Movie Theme Song at the 31st Taiwan Golden Horse Awards. The previous April, another of Leslie’s songs, “The White-Haired Beauty” from the movie “The Bride With White Hair” (music by Leslie Cheung, lyric by Lam Tsik, sung by Leslie Cheung) was nominated for Best Original Film Song at the 13th Hong Kong Golden Film Awards. And again Leslie was Winner of the Best Actor title from the Hong Kong Movie Express Japan (1994 membership, 4,000) for his appearance in “Farewell My Concubine”.
That year, Teresa Mo married director Tony Au. Both Leslie and Teresa enjoyed each others company as close friends. Leslie called her “Honey”, but he stopped calling her that after Teresa remarried. He missed her company after she got married, especially during the mahjong sessions. He dared not call her “Honey” because Tony was a serious person, even if he is a nice guy. A woman reporter, a long time acquaintance of Leslie met Mr. Tong for the first time at Teresa Mo’s wedding party. It’s only a small party of a few tables. Teresa had invited a few very close friends and relatives including Leslie, Mr. Tong, Rosamund Kwan, Leung Lee Siu-har etc. The reporter was sitting at a table behind Leslie. Leslie came to say hello to the reporter and they chatted for a while. Afterwards the reporter heard Leslie greet Mr. Tong, and say, “Gor Gor, come here”. So, actually Mr. Tong is the 'gorgor’!
Mr. Tong is a very nice guy in the hearts of their friends. Leung Lee Siu-har was in frequent contact with them, and she told the reporter, “We used to call Tong Tong 'Gor Gor’ and Leslie 'Ah Chai’ (meaning 'son’), he (Leslie) called me 'thin Mom’.”
On other occasion, when he was asked about his perspective on love between the same gender, Leslie said that he was not a homophobic, because in this world the most important thing is sincere love. “Love belongs to us, ourselves. No need to be bothered about other people’s views, the most important thing is that we feel happy, delighted and do not cause the other’s loss. So there is no need to care about the other people’s bad mouth.” Leslie had just moved from the apartment to a house. Both Leslie and Tony Leung Chiu Wai didn’t like to stay in apartments. They were afraid that people would stare at them. "If the people I don’t know greet me, I will reply to their greeting. But I don’t dare to take the initiative to greet them. If the person I greet doesn’t reply to me, I will feel ashamed. When I decided to retire, people thought that I was afraid that my career would fade away, indeed I was afraid to die. I even received a candle, incense, money for the dead, and a dead cockroach. If we are always conscious that there are people who would like to condemn us to early deaths, we will be in the shadow of death all the time! I really don’t know when my soul will be lost, because of stabbing by a knife or having chemicals poured. I only work as an artist, why must I be terrorized and accept that kind of treatment? So I decided to retire.“
He had at least 500 million HK dollars, 3 houses (two in Canada, one in Hong Kong) and one apartment in May Tower, which his mother occupied. Maggie Cheung and Rosamund asked him to open a coffee shop so it could be a place for them to gather together. When asked why he didn’t marry, Leslie said he didn’t have any interest to be a father. One of his sisters suffered complications while giving birth (her heart nearly stopped), and it scared him.
One day when he was taking his car in the car park, there was a boy who saw him. The boy felt very happy and said to his mother, "Mom, look at him… he is Cheung Kwok Wing!” What gave Leslie a shock was how the boy’s mother scorned him and said, “What is so terrific about Cheung Kwok Wing…?” Leslie felt humiliated. In his opinion, peoples’ abhorrence of the poor and the jealousy toward the rich was too much. He did not like it. In this world, the one with a sincere heart is rare. And Leslie was one of them.
Chilam and Anita got married secretly in United States in 2001. Anita gave birth to their child, Morton in 2006. Chilam is a Hong Kong actor and singer, who participates in TVB Series such as The Rippling Blossom and Triumph In the skies II. Anita is the winner of 1990’s Miss Hong Kong Pageant.