Kris Wu - Portrait / People Magazine April 2016 (completed)
A young yet sensitive soul, finding happiness in the pursuit of freedom of expression within boundaries, amidst hardships, eventually obtaining a long-awaited sense of belonging.
In 2007, after gradually gotten used to living in Richmond, Vancouver, Kris Wu’s mother felt settled and satisfied for the first time. She could envision a future in the long run: her 17 year old son would enter university the next year, assimilate into the community, and go along with her plans of him becoming a doctor, getting married and starting a family, and her task of raising him up would be considered fulfilled. With relief in her voice, she said, “We would then lead a stable life like this.”
Even more than that house, at times Kris Wu would need that little path outside his home. This would enable him to get up and leave during the times when he felt pressured, enabling him to regain calmness after going on a walk alone.
“There was a time which I was really rebellious, and had left home.” Kris Wu said that he had “run away”, but his mother did not recall her son ever doing so, and upon hearing what <People Magazine> relay to her many years later, she was a little surprised, replying after some thought, “Perhaps he felt that he had left home, but he would go around in a circle (go outside and then come back).”
“Going around in a circle” - as college entrance examinations drew nearer and nearer, feeling at a loss of what to do, Kris Wu and his mother began to see things differently.
He felt that his relationship with his mother was starting to falter and fall apart. “It was not a home which I could live in peacefully any longer.” Recalling, he told <People Magazine>, “I felt that I needed to do something to help this family, and I had an extremely strong urge to do so because I was the only man in the household, and I had to stand up and take action.”
Since birth till present, Kris Wu had basically been raised by his mother alone. When she divorced in 2000, his 30-something year old mother made an important decision. She decided to let her 10 year old son take up her surname and dedicate her life to (raising) him.
In hopes that he would receive a better education, she brought him from Guangzhou to Vancouver alone, and started on the path to obtain a permanent residency status, which required close to 10 years. She spent 3 years travelling back and forth to China, finally giving up her business there, and once again becoming a stay-at-home mother without income. To avoid having her son feeling like a stranger at home, she made sure that her full attention was on him, and before he turned 18 to leave for university, she told herself that she would not allow a second man into their household, as she was concerned that external circumstances beyond her control would influence her son’s growth.
During the 2 hour interview, “steadfast” was one of the terms that Madam Wu constantly said, for a total of 7 times. Madam Wu, who concentrated fully on raising her son, rarely interacted with the outside world, and did not participate in any of the activities held amongst the Vancouver community’s Chinese people, only the president of the womens’ club could convince her to open up. When Madam Wu had just arrived in Canada and wanted to buy a house and settle down quickly but could not find a lawyer, the president had extended a helping hand, and Madam Wu was very grateful for her help during that time of need.
From the time when she risked everything till present, her life and worries were interlaced together. In Canada, she forbid all complicated and dirty things into her home, where she lived with her son. For a very long period of time, she would personally enquire about whomever her son interacted with, and if she sensed that something was off, she would think of a way to stop it. “Actually it may not even have been a problem at all, but I would nip the issue in the bud.”
In time to come, she “Nagged all the time”, “Began to give lectures frequently at the slightest thing. Whenever something happened to someone else, she would use it to give her son a teaching, it was always like that.”
She believed that enduring hardships has made her son even more hardworking. In her opinion, guys should have a sense of responsibility, and she her way of teaching her son was to tell him that, you have to be independent, independent at age 18. This was one of the reasons why, during this whole time, she did not want to rely on anyone else and wanted to raise her son alone. Even though it was harder this way on herself, but she felt that the hardship would instil in her son “the need to be filial to (his) mother”, and to develop a sense of responsibility at an earlier age.
When Kris Wu was 13, Madam Wu suddenly noticed that he was taller than her, and when there was some issues at home, she told him directly, these should be handled by men like you, “And without any protest (he) went to do it.” While she was saying this, <People Magazine>’s reporter, who was sitting opposite her, could feel her sense of pride and gratification. “It was really good,” she said, even though she was a little worried about it later on, “He was only 13 years old.”
This child’s calmness at an early age left a deep impression on his mother’s good friend Sindy, but also left her worried. In 2015 December issue, sitting opposite <People Magazine>’s reporter, Sindy recalled her friend (Madam Wu) telling her about her son, and she remembered that her friend had said that her son was described as someone who was usually quiet. “Fanfan doesn’t speak”, Sindy told the <People Magazine> reporter.
The most memorable incident was when her friend told her that once, her son was not resting but instead was sitting in front of the computer playing games. Without a word, her friend shut down the computer. “That’s too much,” Sindy recalled herself telling her friend, “I said if my mother treated me this way, I would surely fly into a rage, no matter what the circumstance was, I was gaming happily, and she switched it off.” Sindy leaned back against the chair, her eyebrows creased.
She thought that if this were to happen to other children, they would have kicked up a huge fuss soon after, but Kris Wu did not have the same reaction as his peers would usually have. “I felt that this child was already very different… He did not make any fuss nor argue… He would not speak.”
Nevertheless, she did not think too much about it, but praised him. “I think that he is rather independent”, “Independent in ways of thought and lifestyle.”
In 2000, Kris Wu, who had just arrived in Canada, had to take an English test in order to be admitted into school. Upon hearing that other kids did not pass even after two or three years, Madam Wu became anxious, “I repeatedly told him, you have to memorise English words, otherwise you will not pass, and then such and such will happen… I constantly said to him, if you do not pass, such and such will happen… Before taking the test I went on and on at him… I kept on pressing him that year.”
At ten years old, Kris Wu did not speak a word. Seeing that her son did not share the same sense of anxiousness that she did, Madam Wu began to worry that he probably did not understand anything. “Without saying a thing, I thought he did not understand, following which, I used a different method to repeat myself. If he still did not reply I would use yet another method to repeat it again.”
Although he did not appear to be as hardworking as his mother expected him to be, but Kris Wu, who started preparing very early for that English test, passed on the first try. But this boy did not receive his due praise, the reason being that his mother was worried that he would lose his self-control. “I could not sing praises to him, I had no choice… Because I felt that I had to discipline him, I had to be stern, otherwise he would think that there will be no consequences. This was that I thought.” she told <People Magazine>.
Chicken Soup Fan
During the 1990s in Guangzhou, first, second grade boys had to spend their summer vacation at swimming classes as their families were busy. Kris Wu recalled the scene where he stood before the swimming pool with the other kids. At that time, rain had just fallen on the hot and humid city. There were many leaves floating on the pool’s surface, and the pool water had turned murky. But when the instructor ordered them to jump in, that day, he was the only child who jumped into the dirty water without hesitation. The next day, he had to go to the hospital because of an ear infection.
“I just felt that what he said was right, it wasn’t a huge deal, it’s just that you guys don’t dare to jump but I dared to, so I jumped.” Close to twenty years later, right now, upon recalling that incident of bravery, Kris Wu said, “I don’t really wish to let others down, especially elders.”
Kris Wu did not wish to be weak. Setting his own high expectations, dealing with immigrating, he was not as calm as his mother thought he was, but instead he was facing huge challenges while growing up. Kris Wu spent his childhood in Baiyin, Gansu; then Guangzhou, and then Vancouver, continuously moving and changing schools. Because he kept on transferring in schools, after getting along well with his companions he would have to make new friends again, and every day during lunchtime it was a very awkward for Kris, who had to eat alone while watching other kids chat happily amongst themselves. During this period of time, he was “Very introverted, very closed up.” “I was not a social butterfly, all along I was someone who wasn’t very outgoing.” He said, “When I was young I really wanted to be the center of attention, who didn’t want to be that?”
Kris Wu did not tell his mother this, he was worried that his mother would become anxious, and decided to endure this on his own.
As a result, till this day he has developed a habit, whenever he encounters something he does not know, his first thought is not to ask the people around him, but rather, take a look at whether it was mentioned in self-help books. His mother was his only channel of communication, but after sealing up this channel himself, he could only go to bookstores and purchase popular books on the bestselling list. “I have read all kinds of books”, “Mandarin and English books, I’ve read them all.” Most of them were self-help books, how to talk, how to be of certain character, how to observe others, body language. From there, he learned on ways to be more approachable and improve his social skills. While reading, he felt that “I can try this tomorrow”. “Really, the books were full of gold.” Kris Wu told the <People Magazine> reporter with a smile.
For example, he read from the books that smiling and greeting strangers would ease tension. Till now, Kris Wu always smiles when meeting others. “I’ve gotten used to smiling to whomever I meet, I believe that if you treat others this way, they would do the same to you, or at the very least not hate you. Also, a smile can impact those around you, I feel that friendliness is a mutual exchange of feelings.”
After growing up with the help of self-help inspirational books, Kris Wu received the nickname of “Chicken Soup Fan”.
The emergence of basketball in his life was the first time Kris Wu interacted with the outside world. When Kris Wu was 15 years old, because his mother was handling the final duties of her business in China, she brought her son back with her to Guangzhou for a year. Because the education system in Vancouver and China was different, Kris Wu returned to sports school in China and played basketball. He was the team leader, and played the position of point guard. It was a role which was key role in strategising moves, and many times he would have to give up the ball to his teammates, in the interest of everyone. He really liked this role. “When your teammates score, you will also feel that sense of happiness.”
In Kris Wu’s opinion, liking basketball had caused a change of heart in him, and it was his first time feel that he need not hold back, he had made friends and naturally found a way which he could communicate with others. Even more importantly, during that period of time, it was the first time that he discovered what he later felt was the “most important things” in his personality: “simple-mindedness” and “sincerity”.
Growing up as a 90s kid, manga was a important part of life. <Naruto> and <One Piece> were manga that pretty much every 90s kid read, but Kris Wu said that the only manga he read was <Slam Dunk>, because it was related to basketball. “I’m a really simple-minded person, I can focus solely on doing the only thing which I like, when I played basketball I only played basketball, I did not pay attention to other sports.” Kris Wu said.
Kris Wu, who experienced the joy of freedom of self-expression through basketball for the first time, planned on pursuing this feeling, and hence he decided to make joining the NBA his lifetime dream. But in his mother’s eyes, playing basketball was something he would “easily get injured” while doing, and it was a “career which would not last very long”.
Madam Wu recalled a teacher from the sports school praising her son for being the “best point guard”, “And he did not steal the limelight, but remained in his position, and he never once wanted to stand out.” she said. In retrospect, she felt that it was hard for Kris Wu to have found a team that praised and needed him, and he wanted to perform even better. Although they did not spend much time together, every year Kris Wu went back to Guangzhou, he would meet up with these former team members.
In the end, Madam Wu had to “forcefully pull away” her son from Guangzhou. Kris Wu was very saddened that his own dreams were dashed before they barely took off. “I was especially sad when we had to go back, it was the first time that I had a dream, of my own, and I was really reluctant to let go. At that time, I had a rough idea of my own values and what he wanted, but there was no other choice, I had to go back with my mother, there was no room for choice.” Kris Wu expressed this to a talk show host in a program which aired in March 2016. He gave the reason that there was no other choice “because he was too young.”
Madam Wu recalled that her son “was very sad when he returned, and did not leave the house for several days.” Whenever there was anything going on, Madam Wu would persuade him to tell her. “During that period of time, my duty was to help him get over it,” she said, “But I recall that that episode was extremely tough.”
An overwhelmingly strong urge to bear the responsibilities of his own life
Madam Wu placed huge importance on college entrance examinations amongst her duties of raising Kris. As the dates for the college entrance exams drew nearer, she became more and more anxious and stern, and Kris Wu remembered that his mother would make a huge fuss over a very minor thing. He attributed this issue to not having communicated with her, because he himself was a person who had no clue on how to comfort others.
In October 2015, the first time Kris Wu was interviewed by <People Magazine>, young Kris Wu spoke of a heavy topic concerning human relations. “In a single parent household, it is not hard for mother and son’s relationship to go to the extremes, because there was no third party to help reach a compromise.”
In such incidences, there were several times he would leave home feeling devastated, walk on the small path outside their home and it was during those times that he especially wished that there would be was a third party around. “I really hoped that there was another person who would just comfort her, just comfort her and everything would be alright, no need to bother about me.”
This was the main reason why he decided to leave for Korea. “I didn’t wish to continue living with my mother in this way, I was really scared that our relationship would change for the worse, I was very worried. After growing up you’d realise that it’s most tiresome to be an angry person, and even more so to be the person who is on the disciplining end, instead of the receiving end (listening). The person who is disciplining you out of care will be more tired than you are. (My mother) was going through a hard time to begin with, and if she continued in this manner it would not be good for her health. Thus I decided to go to Korea.”
What made him worry as well was that the year before, because he has returned to Guangzhou, there was a delay in his studies, and he was worried that he could not get into a university. His mother had been spending her precious past savings, and thinking that university tuition was another large sum of money, he was even more fearful. His mother would definitely not say that the economy was not doing well, but he felt that she would be under much greater pressure in the years to come, and her stressed condition was expressed in her words, “You have to do this, you have to do that.”
Kris Wu especially did not want to trouble others and become a burden to them. During that period of time, he started working part time, washing dishes at a restaurant, being a server at a KTV, although he was only able to earn a small amount of money, when he saw that his hard work was able to bring about some change, he felt a rare sense of relief.
Kris Wu felt that his mother had brought to him many positive things, “But this didn’t stop me from wanting to be independent at 18. He felt that it was necessary for me to be independent, and I hoped that I could repay her, take care of her.”
Kris Wu never wanted to become a celebrity. It was on an ordinary day in Vancouver, upon the request of a classmate, that he accompanied him to Korean company SM Entertainment’s audition. When he heard the words “Inclusive of food and accommodation”, the thought of going to Korea to become a celebrity suddenly flashed past in his mind. “In various aspects I felt that this meant that I could live on my own.” he said.
Although it was inclusive of food and accomodation, this would last 10 years. “My mother thought that… After the contract ended I would already be over thirty, (missing) the most youthful time (in life).” But Kris Wu did not worry over this, and told <People Magazine>, “I had an overwhelmingly strong urge to bear the responsibilities of my own life.”
Kris’s mother was aware of her son’s firm choice during the process of contract signing. Till this day, Madam Wu remembers accompanying her son to the airport and signing the final contract. “The both of us were crying,” she said. She remembered that her son was saying, Mother, I feel that I have really let you down, you’ve raised me up till I am this old, yet I have made you this sad. “After he said this, I was really happy, and I said, son, it’s alright, let’s go home then, let’s go home, that was my reply to him then.” She thought that her son had a change of heart, but the next thing she heard him say was, I’ll sign it. “He then signed the contract, weeping as he did so.”
In the 7 years that she had spent fully dedicated to nurturing her son, she did not leave much time for herself. When her son had left suddenly, in that instant she felt as if she had lost her life’s purpose, and felt a sense of “weightlessness”, “a complete sense of weightlessness”. After a period of time, she sold her house, which she had lived with her son in for 7 years, and moved into an apartment in the city. The garden needed weeding and tending to, and she sadly discovered that there was no way she could continue to upkeep such a large house.
Sindy got to know her then. The both of them did mountain climbing, and when driving out, Sindy always thought that this “very beautiful”, “not a traditional Chinese beauty, but a little like a western beauty” woman did not enjoy the same kind of freedom in her lifestyle as she did, and it was only after a period of time that Sindy came to know that she had a son in Korea. From then onwards, her friend would constantly talk about her son in their conversations, saying that she missed him very much, “He’s a trainee”, “I very rarely asked, (the talk about her son) was all brought up by her”, Sindy said, and at times when her friend was talking about him she would laugh, and other times she would appear worried.
After Kris Wu left, Madam Wu frequently recalled the ups and downs of their time living together. It was only after he left that she looked back and thought that since young, he was always very sensitive towards the hardships of other people.
A few months after Kris Wu was born, he was brought up by his maternal grandparents in Baiyin, Gansu. He felt deeply for the both of the, and was very different from other children. When he became older, he would feel the same way towards all the other elderly people he encountered as well. “Whenever he saw an elderly person homeless on the streets, he would become very sad… He said before that (seeing an elderly person) would make him think of his maternal grandparents.” When he had just arrived in Vancouver, this brought much inconvenience to Madam Wu. She recalled that the hardest was bringing Kris Wu Downtown, and upon encountering elderly buskers, Kris Wu would stand there, not moving till his mother gave money. This put her in a tight spot, because there were too many buskers, and to each person she would give a dollar or two, and with no source of income she was constantly burdened with worry about expenses.“If I did not give any money he would (continue to stand at that spot)… he’s such a person.”
When asked about how he so easily emphasised with old people, Kris Wu replied that it was because of the meticulous care that his grandparents treated him with when he was young. The deep feelings he had towards them were at their highest when he had just started elementary school, and saw their helplessness of suffering.
At the time, four wheel toy cars were popular in Guangzhou, and Kris wanted one, but it was terribly hard to find it in the small town of Gansu which his maternal grandparents lived in. Kris Wu got very angry, and asked them why they could not find a mere four wheel drive toy when they had lived for so long. He recalled that his grandparents immediately became extremely anxious, they wanted to make the best effort to look for a car but could not do so. Kris was then very regretful, and this sense of hurt was deeply etched in his mind. When they had finally found one for him, “I treasured it greatly,” Kris Wu said.
While Madam Wu was working hard, she did not notice that Kris Wu had been watching her wake up early at six, seven o'clock in the dark and coldness of Vancouver, start up the car and painstakingly send him to school, day after day, not knowing when it would come to an end. This left an indelible impression on him.
“So on the day after my birthday I took the driving test to obtain my driver’s license,” Kris Wu said. He was sixteen that year, which was the legal driving age in Canada. Amongst his peers, he was the first to be able to drive. When his friends got in his car they would say, wow, you even have a driver’s license! He recalled himself saying, yes, immediately after my birthday I went to get a driver’s license. On the afternoon that <People Magazine> interviewed him, he smiled happily as he recounted this story. What made him even more happy was his huge sense of pride when his mother found out that, to her surprise, he was a good driver. From then on, he would drive his mother to do grocery shopping, and he felt that he was no longer as helpless as in the past.
Life in Korea
“Your acting is getting better and better right now, do you know why? Because you already treat this place as your home.” Last year, while filming for <Never Gone>, Kris Wu recalled that this what what the cinematographer had told him. In that film, he acted as the male lead. Strangely, at times he would feel extremely comfortable acting, but at times he would feel a little anxious. As he got to know the other cast members better, he was able to open up more, and only then did he receive this evaluation. It had suddenly dawned on him that “It is only when an actor is able to regard the rest of the cast as family, instead of holding back…. Then only will you be able to act your best.”
During the interview, Kris Wu said several times that he hoped that he could achieve the kind of support similar to that of a family, and whether or not he could achieve this at work was a standard that he had set for himself. After returning to China and setting up his own studio, Kris Wu also hoped that the studio staff’s relationships with each other was like family. He believed that the family bond was made out of trust, encouragement and friendship.
In such a homely environment, he was able to give extra motivation, which he felt was a necessity to him.
“If you have a very good relationship with your manager, and feel that he does things for you sincerely, you would feel extremely motivated and greatly reassured.”
It was because he had a strong desire for such a bond, with his personality which was easily encouraged, that was why he was able to persevere with the monotony of SM. “Actually many people gave up halfway, but the reason why I stayed on was because, at that time, I had very good relations with several of the training department staff.” They supported him. “I treated them as if they were family, so they had always told me, you have to press on, you will do well. I too did not wish to let them down.”
Perhaps it was this strong desire to feel a sense of belonging that led Kris Wu to meet his close friend Kevin.
Both of them arrived in SM without the intention to become celebrities. They two were foreign trainees, both liked American hip hop and experimental music, and appeared in SM by chance. Kevin entered SM after passing the auditions held in America. When SM held auditions in America, he had no idea who they were. “I just wanted to make music, and be happy while doing so. Therefore I was naive in certain aspects, and I didn’t think too much about it because I was still young.”
Kris Wu said that the first time he met with Kevin, he could feel that “the both of them had their own ways of thinking.”
In SM, the both of them struggled together, worked hard towards their goal of debuting together, and they met and practiced daily. To Kris, Kevin was a companion that he had long been hoping for, “just like a comrade.”
SM produced idol groups which aimed to attract fans through singing, dancing, taking part in variety programs. There were many ways to increase the charisma of an idol, for example placing them in colourful and cute, oversized clothes to dance in. In a television program which reviewed previously popular Korean idols, idol group H.O.T was shown dancing in eye catching outfits with warm smiles on their faces as they sang along to <Happiness>. Their clothes were bulky and the sweat made their pants stick to their legs. After the performance was over, they drove off and rushed to the next performance venue. The heat was unbearable and sitting in the backseat of the van, they could only pull their pants down to their ankles to cool off for a little, putting them on again speedily once they had reached the other destination, and continue to smile and put on a show for the fans.
Coordinated dances could show off the idol group’s charisma, but it came at a huge price as well. At times when filming for the MV, amongst the ten over members, if one of them were to make a mistake during the dance, everyone would have to rehearse from the start again. SM liked to instil in their idols a concept of “family”, “family” between the members themselves and between the group and their fans. Many times, it seemed as if “family” was making use of (doing something for) the group’s collective interest to put an end to individual growth, in order not to hurt the feelings of family members, not to let oneself shoulder feelings of guilt, they had to practice even harder.
“We practiced every day, and didn’t know when we would debut. In order to gain the opportunity (to do so) by SM, you would have to practice incredibly hard. This was really very tough, every day we would have to practice till 10, 11pm, and at times we would even have to practice till 1am. This was physically a huge challenge,” Kevin said. Like the many other trainees who could not withstand the monotonous training, Kevin eventually left SM. “We wanted to enjoy our youth, but we had to sacrifice the prime time of our youth.”
Since the start, Kevin wanted to make his own music. He had arrived at the company a year before Kris. In the beginning, he faced the company with a sense of excitement, but after 4 years of enduring, his stamina had been exhausted completely. He realised that he was already unclear of his purpose, “I was unable to withstand any more.”
In 2010, 20 year old Kris heard an extremely sad piece of news, Kevin wanted to leave SM Entertainment. Kris Wu was extremely devastated. At first, he thought that it was the company’s decision. “Don’t let him leave,” he pleaded SM.
Eventually, it was only when he made a phone call to Kevin, then he found out that it was Kevin’s own choice. “I asked him, why did you have to leave at this time?” The moment the call got through, Kris was sobbing, “I said, the both of us agreed to debut together, endure hardships together, so why did you have to leave first?”
“If you are my good friend, you have to support me, because being an idol under this company is not something which I intend to do.” Kevin told him.
To Kevin’s surprise, although he did not make good on their commitment, Kris Wu still felt strongly for him, and that time he strongly felt that: Kris Wu did not change his emotions easily.
Kevin’s family was in America, and when he had just left SM, he felt extremely lonely. While still in SM, Kris called him every day to show his support. He usually made the calls at around 11pm from the dorms, as that was the time when SM’s practices ended. There were times that calls were made in the morning, and for a very long period of time, they would call the other first thing in the morning after waking up, to tell each other the first thing they did.
Shall we write a song together? Kris Wu once brought this up.
Yes, let’s, Kevin said.
What shall we write about? Why don’t we write a song for our mothers? Kris asked.
That’s great, Kevin said.
Their song <Lullaby> was produced in an hour. In the song, Kevin expressed that the both of them expressed their apologies towards their mothers for having made them wait for Kevin and Kris for so long. They wanted to tell their mothers not to worry for them, because when mothers worry for their children, the child would not feel at ease either.
“Don’t worry about me, look at me, I’m doing very well.” Kevin shared the lyrics over the phone with our <People Magazine> reporter, “This was the message which we wanted to convey to them.”
What Kris Wu and Kevin were not aware of, was that other than performance, appearance and promotions, in SM, friendships were also restricted.
From Madam Wu’s experience, SM did not like their artistes to maintain friendships with trainees who dropped out or were eliminated. Madam Wu had the notion that SM “naturally felt that”, “those who left definitely hated the company”. SM did not allow Kris to contact Kevin again, but it was under these unreasonable restrictions that Kevin could see Kris’s strong (determination to maintain their friendship). Kris Wu had told his mother firmly: friends are friends, (I) would not stop being friends with him even after he has left the company. “He’s a stubborn one,” Madam Wu said.
During the period of time Kevin was alone in Korea, what surprised him was that in his times of need, Kris would always appear before him. There was a time when he had to be rushed to the emergency room after meeting with an accident, and he could only make a call to Kris. “At this point in time he was already famous in Korea, and after asking him to come to the hospital, he immediately arrived. He shouldn’t have been allowed to go out, and I didn’t know how he managed it, but he did. At that time I had no money with me, and he footed the hospital bill, and brought me to eat something.” Kevin said. “This incident was something which I will always treasure, I am really grateful towards him.”
After working hard, Kevin entered Korea’s CHITWN MUSIC company, and was finally able to have the freedom to produce the hip hop music which he loved.
Perhaps due to feelings of helplessness during his childhood, in a friendship, Kris said that he would take on an active role in protecting it, that is, put in effort to maintain the relationship, and not be the one to let it dissolve easily. After he became famous, he had a friend who made some slightly unreasonable requests, for example for money or material goods, but Kris would pretend to be unaware and just continue to maintain good relations with that person.
“It’s because I think that we feel for each other.” He said. As long as this person was able to offer a listening ear to him in times of distress, just being able to do this bit, Kris felt that it was enough. “So in other aspects, I didn’t really bother much.”
Pushing himself to a point of no return
During the time Kris was in Korea, other than Kevin, what made Kris surprised was that due to the distance apart, his relationship with his mother changed from one in a state that could not be solved, to one where they cared for and missed each other. This was the closeness that Kris had always desired, which appeared once the two of them were separated.
“When I left, I just locked the door and walked away… I wanted to go to Korea because he was there, these were my thoughts at that time.” This was how Madam Wu described her situation when she moved (from their house) into the city apartment.
She realized that if she were to go to Korea to visit him once a year, SM would politely welcome her, but if she were to go a second, third time, SM would treat her coldly in an apparent manner, and would not let her see him. There was a time when, upon knowing that Kris had a break, she went to Korea, but had to wait till late at night before SM allowed him to meet her. She felt that in order to better control the kids (their artistes), SM would want the trainees to quickly accept their new “family” members which were arranged by the company, and did not want them to keep in excessive contact with any of their previous family members. She was afraid that “if you made the slightest bit of trouble, they would take it out on the child, to prove their power” So she dared not trouble them much.
Other than meeting once a year, the bulk of their communication was done via phone calls.
In their calls, her son would constantly tell her, I’m doing very well, really well. “When you pressed him for more information he would still continue on saying, I’m doing very well, everything is going fine.”
Since it was as such, she could only make guesses on her son’s condition through their phone calls. When he did not pick up calls, this was a surefire sign that his situation wasn’t going so well.
What made her most worried was that once on New Year’s Eve, when everyone in the dorms had gone home and only Kris was left alone in Korea, she called and called but “no matter how much I called, he did not pick up at all.” This incident that year was hard on her, “I could not sleep that entire night.”
The next day, she plucked up the courage to send a message to the lady in charge of training. Could I trouble you to please get Kris to contact me, she had said. At night, her son finally called back.
“Do you miss home? If you’re tired you can come home, don’t worry about a thing.” When he heard his mother’s concern, Kris started to cry. At first, he did so unknowingly, and not wanting his mother to find out that he was crying, as like always, he told her that everything was well and there were no problems. After crying he regained his composure and gave himself a pat on the back for being wise enough to hold it in.
It was only after he debuted, did he tell his mother about his inner turmoil that day. At that time, when he was in SM, he had an emotional breakdown, and he dared not pick up the New Year’s Eve call, because he was afraid that once he heard his mother’s comforting words, he would have a change of heart. “He said that if he picked up my call, he would not stay any longer, he would not be able to carry on, he said that that was why he could not pick up my call at all costs.” Madam Wu recounted.
Kris had to muster up his courage in order to make that phone call on New Year’s Day. Kris Wu told <People> magazine that, “I could not go home, I had to press on till the end.” Before he made the call, he told himself to be strong again in his heart.
Recalling the days when he was waiting for his day of debut, Kris Wu said that the first word he could think of was “endurance”, “At that time, you won’t know when you will be able to debut, you won’t know what you would be doing at a certain time (in the future), you would just have to practice and learn every day, and then wait, feeling very lost.” He said. “I had always held on to the determination to press on, I told myself that I could not go back. If I were to go back now, wouldn’t it be like giving up halfway? I’ve already wasted so many years, and discontinued my studies.”
At that point in time, only telling his mother the good things that happened was his way of persevering on, he did not give himself any opportunities to complain. “In the end, I had also pushed myself to a point where I could not return.” he told <People Magazine>.
“Kris (Yifan’s English name) is a selfless person, this point was what made us a little different. To me, if I wanted to leave I would do so, I did not think of my family. But he is a really selfless person, when he wanted to leave he thought of his mother.” This is what Kevin said when he talked about the difference between Kris and himself, and how he supported him until he eventually was able to wait until his debut.
When she knew about her son’s inner turmoil, Madam Wu became extremely saddened. “He would constantly think that I was under a lot of pressure in life,” she said, “Actually, what he planned was not what I needed, I just wanted him to be by my side, so why did he have to live independently?”
Is your son still training? Does he find it tough? …Thinking of how Madam Wu went by those days without news of her son, Sindy’s mind was filled with scenes of her friend muttering to herself. At times they would sleep over for the night, and she could recall Madam Wu, lying on the bed and barely sleeping all night as a result of missing and worrying (over her son). “I told her that it would not be healthy for a woman to stay up overnight, to which she replied, I am unable to sleep peacefully, I miss my son, I know that he isn’t doing too well.” Even after Sindy had said what she wanted to say and went back to sleep, upon waking up several hours later, she found that Madam Wu was still lying there awake.
<People Magazine> asked Kris Wu, other than being spurred on to persevere in order not to let your mother down, was it also because you were afraid that after you went back, your relationship with your mother would return to its previous state of high tension, and you would perhaps have no right to have your say, because you had already failed?
“Yes, this is very accurate. The situation at that time was that I had no other choice, no other option to choose from.” Kris Wu replied. “No matter what, I had to persevere on, I really had no other choice.”
In April 2012, Kris Wu debuted as a member of EXO. When he had entered SM, the company had informed him verbally that he would debut in a year, “And then it became two years, then three years, then four years.”. At the time of his debut, he was the foreign trainee who had spent the longest time training there.
Independent expression of self
Kris Wu shot for <People Magazine>‘s「Faces of the Year」issue one night in November 2015. This was the most important issue of the magazine each year, aimed at highlighting China’s most influential people.
In 2015, because of the impact he left on media and fans, Kris was named as the「Idol of the Year」, and became the first post-90s born celebrity to be on its cover with other prominent individuals. Within this group, most of them donned suits, therefore before the shoot, <People Magazine> requested for Kris Wu, who loved hip hop and current trends, to wear something more formal, so that his style would not clash with the rest.
During those 4 months, Kris Wu was in the midst of filming Tsui Hark’s movie <Journey to the West: Demon Chapter>, and shaved off his hair for his role as Tang Monk.
“Do I look alright in this?” In the studio, Kris’s voice could be heard
A black form-fitting suit, black leather shoes, black wig. “It looks real, doesn’t it? With a slight smile of pride, he adjusted the wig, which took close to an hour to put on.
With this get-up, Kris Wu exuded the aura of a Hallyu idol. The shooting process went by quickly, in the eyes of those around, Kris Wu was well-experienced, looked good, and had an electrifying gaze as he looked into the camera shot after shot. After the first set of photos was shot, everyone gathered around and sang praises to Kris Wu’s pictures on screen. But after having a look himself, he pointed at the wig and said, "Does the fringe look too fake?” “It looks quite realistic.” Although the people present on set felt that there was nothing wrong with it, Kris clearly was not certain of how he looked with the wig on. “You guys hold on for a moment,” he said, turning around and walking out of the studio.
Everyone could see that this wig was special, it had thick, long bangs which kept Kris’s eyebrows covered. Behind its thick, black layers, Kris’s steady and unwavering gaze had softened. Without realising, the piercing gaze he had on before he donned the wig had now become dreamy and distant, giving off the feel of every K-pop star on television. This was not unfamiliar to Kris, for he had been trained to have such an appearance by his former company, a training for 7 years which started when he was 17. It was as if it was a profession itself – if being an idol was a profession, a person could definitely be trained into becoming one.
During those 7 years, Kris meticulously maintained his bangs, treating it as his duty to do so. Upon bringing up the term “formal”, like a natural response of an idol, bangs were the first thing which came to Kris Wu’s mind.
That wig with bangs was similar to the idol image system in Korea, it seemed to contain a secret. In order to make sure the wig was put on well, Kris Wu’s team specially hired a stylist from Korea to stay by his side throughout the whole time.
Kris Wu spent another half an hour in the dressing room adjusting his bangs, and after another round of shooting, still felt that “the wig looked too fake”. On that day, he had set off for his film shooting at 5am, and after working non-stop for 15 hours, staff were concerned that he was too tired and unable to complete the shoot. Later on, Kris then suggested to the editor that he wanted to try out wearing a snapback on his bare head and shoot another round, if it was not to their liking, they could use the previous shots. After being given the green light to do so, he removed his wig, and proceeded to pose in front of the camera.
“It feels as if there is an internal barrier, no matter what others say, as long as you do not cross over this barrier by yourself, you will have no way of producing this work.” After the photo shoot, <People Magazine>’s reporter posed this question, to which Kris nodded in agreement.
The next time <People Magazine>’s reporter saw Kris Wu was a month later at a different shooting venue, and his wig and Korean stylist were on location as well. Kris Wu jokingly said, that wig has not been used in a very long time, and throughout the shoot the stylist would not have anything to do.
When he had just debuted, like the rest, Kris Wu thought that merely being handsome was enough. “Had to be very, very, very handsome.” He was also worried whether there would be fans who would like him. After debuting, upon seeing that there were fans who liked him, his first reaction was to satisfy them, continue pleasing them non stop, and style himself according to what they liked. The fans would tell him that he looked better with his hair pushed back, or that he looked better with bangs down. After a long period of time when he did promotions with his hair pushed back, a couple of days later when fans expressed that they missed his smooth, straight hair with bangs down, Kris would then tell the hair stylist, “This time please give me a hairstyle with bangs.” After going on a year like this, he began to feel that this was “rather pointless”, and the “urge to be different from others” grew stronger and stronger.
“It was very hard not to become an idol.” While he was in SM, Kris understood this feeling. “It was very hard not to become an idol because there were so many people (fans) who liked you, and you would not want to disappoint them or cause them to feel down.” However, as for idols who would always take the safe route, “You would end up just like the rest”, and “lose yourself”.
“I am someone who does not really fancy catering to others,” Kris Wu said, “I knew this, and it was the feeling of going on despite knowing the difficulties lying ahead.”
He was unable to change the songs that the company had chosen for the group, so what he modified was his clothes. “Thus I had to begin with apparel, starting from what I wore, I chose the clothes I wanted to wear, which were to my liking.
When Kris was in EXO he was nicknamed “Airport Runway Model”, because it seemed like he was at a fashion show in his airport photos. "There was never a time when his outfit was uncoordinated, and there was never a repeat of outfits.” Kris said. On Douban (major Chinese social platform), there were people who made threads on such photos, and some commented that he “Put his heart into his airport fashion”. This was because the only time he had the chance to express himself freely and did not have to dress according to the company’s orders, was during those pockets of several hours spent rushing to catch their flights.
During that point in time he was not earning huge sums of money. “My salary for six months was about 120000 or 200000 yuan, and after giving my mother approximately half of it, I would spend all of the remainder on clothes, and use it up within two days.”
Since his mother thought that he was not short on money, she did not send any more over to him. Once, for half a year, he had to eat the company’s packaged lunches every day.
In preparation for his birthday party last year, Kris’s stylist Ah Cong made a trip to Japan and purchased approximately 70kg of clothes. When he handed them all to Kris for him to shoot in, they shot more than 200 pieces in a day, “and I heard that two thirds of the clothing was at home.” Just for hats alone, Kris Wu “has at least five hundred, but not over a thousand” of them, Ah Cong said.
Fashion is something which Kris Wu pays great attention to. Many people think that Kris only likes fashion because he shows great interest in trends, but in actual fact, to him, fashion has more meaning to it than just being something that he likes, and for a very long period of time, that was his only outlet of self expression.
Each time, on the night before travel, after practice when everyone else was asleep, Kris Wu would carefully pick out his outfits and match them himself, no matter how tired he was. Not every look was cool and handsome, but they were all definitely something that he liked. Kris proudly shared a fan’s comment, “Kris will only look cool when he wants to.” , which meant that he had well enough control of his image (after styling himself). The first response from a fan’s letter left a deep impression on him, which he remembers till this day. “(I was) very, very happy.” “All this while, in fans’ letters they would say, (I’ll) always support you, (you’re) very handsome, you’re the most handsome, but that fan wrote: Fanfan, Hello, I like you because of your style, I feel that you carry the clothes off really well.” This was a sign that he himself had received affirmation, as opposed to his idol self which had been “packaged”.
But, Kris Wu was not rebellious in nature, nor was he a blindly rebellious youth. “Chicken Soup Fan”, who had individuality and a distinct personality of his own, had his own reasons. "I felt that each person should have something of his own, which had to be within boundaries and not crossing the line. Doing it within boundaries, people would think that you are unique, but once you have crossed the line, they would feel that you are too egocentric. If there were no rules, there would be no standards.” He said, “Yes, I needed to take into account the feelings of others, and respect the opinions of others before putting into reality my ideas.”
Returning to China
Holding his own destiny in his hands
In this world, there are two kinds of people believe their destiny lies in their own hands. The first is one that has grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth, who has never wrestled with fate. The second is one who has fought with fate, and emerged the victor. Kris Wu is the latter.
Be it leaving his mother or leaving SM after fighting an uphill battle for 7 years, Kris Wu has made his own decisions bravely and acted on them. Eventually emerging victorious, the rewards that followed were plentiful, and from then on Kris Wu became an even stronger and more confident person.
“You believe that destiny lies in your own hands, and not in the hands of God, bringing you misfortune one day and good news the next. You deeply believe that your destiny lies in your own hands, right? Do you believe that you will have returns for all that you have done?” <People Magazine>’s editor asked Kris Wu during the interview.
“Yes, I strongly believe in this, I feel that people should rely on their own hard work and take control of their own destiny, and not go with the flow, nor grumble that they have bad luck. I feel that many a time, if you have truly worked hard and yet received nothing in return, it only means that you have not done enough. If you are rewarded without having done anything, this may not turn out to be a good thing in the future.” Kris Wu replied.
In China, the most common misunderstanding amongst the media that Kris Wu’s former publicist Feng Lihua has faced is: Was Kris Wu lucky and became popular instantly? Because there are many young, popular stars who really became popular overnight because of one of their movies.
After receiving success as a result of working hard for seven years, Kris Wu now even more courageously follows what he desires the most, instead of rules set in stone.
Kevin recalls that Kris Wu was feeling down for a period of time soon after he had just returned to China. “He told me that he did not know who to trust, did not know who were his friends, and he did not want to repeat the same mistake he made when he was in Korea.” Kevin told him that, you have to believe, until you find someone who is truly worthy of your trust.
At that time, what calmed Kris Wu the most was that, he finally provided his mother with an explanation. “If I had gone back while I was still a trainee, suddenly returning during those four years, I would have no explanation (for my mother)……Without earning a single cent, I would have no way of leaving.” But after debuting, he felt that he worked hard enough, and was able to feel relieved.
“Actually I thought of the worst before I returned to China. My mother did too.” Kris Wu said. He told his mother, if China didn’t accept me, if it was not possible to continue in this industry, I would be fine with doing anything, it would be alright not to be a celebrity any longer. When his mother said that she was alright with him doing anything, Kris Wu became even more relieved.
During this period of time, both mother and son had a mutual understanding and tackled this hardship together. “It completely changed our relationship.” Kris Wu said. He was the one who asked his mother to help himself. “I didn’t have any friends in Beijing, I’m not someone with a lot of friends, all this while I have never interacted with the upper echelons of society, and basically I did not know a single person in the entertainment industry.” Kris’s mother once again became the only person whom he could trust. Both of them “just rented a house”, and after 7 years reunited for a long while again.
But when it came to the issue of signing a contract, Madam Wu discovered that her son was not fine with doing just anything, at that time there were many large companies who had their eye on Kris Wu, but after thinking back on the restrictions that his previous major company had imposed on him, Kris Wu was unwilling to sign (to any big companies). He just wanted to do things that he was willing to, there were many things which he wanted to try out, and he was especially afraid that there would be restrictions imposed on him which would leave him unable to make these dreams a reality. He would rather take several detours with a less powerful backing. This way of thinking was different from Madam Wu, as she intended to find a large company (for Kris), because she felt that in this way, she would be able to entrust her son to them with relief.
At one point in time, Madam Wu tried to persuade her son into signing a contract as quickly as possible, but what surprised her was that, one day Kris Wu spoke to her in a very solemn tone, “He said mother, is fame and wealth that important to you?”
“One sentence made me annoyed……I said, son, how could you say this, you know that I never thought of letting you choose this career path, at that time when you decided to join the entertainment industry I wanted to stop it at all costs, yet I did not stand in your way.” She told Kris Wu.
During that period of time, it was Madam Wu herself who busied herself for her son. At that time Xu Jinglei had already approached Kris to film her movie, but Madam Wu had no idea what movie contracts were like, and did not know how to discuss them. Whenever others approached her with the intent to work with Kris Wu, she would not dare to discuss with them, “Because I did not know what to discuss with others about.” When it came to endorsements, her son also has his own standards, he would not do something merely for the sake of making profits, whenever he had to endorse something, he would only do so if he liked the product.
What Kris Wu wanted was to establish a team of his own, like a family, which could progress together. In the past when he was living overseas, he would occasionally return to Guangzhou, and he really loved the feeling of celebrating New Year’s together with everyone. Although there weren’t many family members, but his grandparents, with several of his mother’s siblings. “I really love the feeling of belonging at home. When I was young I really wanted to have a huge family.When I saw other people’s large families, siblings, I would get really, really envious of them, so I always hoped that I would be able to have such a team.”
Kevin recalled that, Kris Wu did not feel a sense of belonging until he began shooting for a film last year. At that time, Kris Wu finally was able to do what he liked, he really liked that role, and got to know several trustworthy people while filming. Thus, he would not have to bear all the stress on himself.
Kris Wu appears bright and calm, but when he cried, it left a deep impression on director Zhou Tuo Ru. They were filming the most climactic scene of <Never Gone>, where Kris’s noveau riche character cried after fighting with his girlfriend, Director Zhou hoped that he would act out of his instincts. “I did not instruct him to cry in a certain manner” he recalled, because he wanted to see Kris’s genuine reaction. Zhou thought of a hundred different scenarios - raging while crying, struggling while crying…… But to his surprise, Kris Wu finally cried in a childlike manner. “Such a large, tall and handsome man……unexpectedly cried like a child.” Zhou said, he remembered that for a very long while after he yelled “Cut”, the entire set was silent.
Fans would do their very best
“From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank them, I’m really touched.” Kris Wu is clearly aware of the opportunities that his fans have brought to him in this day and age. However, “I have no way to take charge of your lives.”
“I have always stressed that you guys have to live your own lives, you guys don’t have to attend my concerts, it’s alright, I definitely won’t be angry, you guys just have to lead your own lives well. I am also unable to lead my life the way you guys want me to. I hope that our relationship can be as such.”
He is also aware that the fans’ power is not a stable force. “It’s not possible for me to have this many fans forever.” One day he will eventually get married and have children, and there would be no way to pursue him. New idols will appear, which is a very normal cycle. “So in the end, whose who are clear on what they want will definitely know that at all times they have to depend on their abilities to prove themselves.”
“Honestly speaking, I am prepared to be outdone by competition anytime.” Kris Wu said. “But I can face this all very calmly. When I’m doing good, putting in my best, and definitely doing the things I like, I think I’m very calm.”
In this era where box office numbers are of great significance in achieving targets, the statistics generated by Kris’s fans have propelled him from being someone without a solid standing in the Chinese entertainment industry, to gain opportunities such as acting in <Mr Six>.
At this point in time, Kris Wu gained confidence through offering to work hard without expecting anything in return, with a sense of selflessness which did not want to let others down, and won over the approval of business partners for collaborations in China.
Thank you for returning home
Before deciding to be his manager, Mr Chen had already worked in the entertainment industry for 15 years, and did not want to work with yet another celebrity without a distinct charm, nor without challenge. To him, this would not be anything new. He did not know about EXO very much, and he did not really fancy celebrities who were the type to be surrounded by fans once they stepped out. When he met Kris Wu, his first impression was that Kris was a clean and fresh, very polite kid, after which he thought was very handsome. “At that time he was not too sure about the Chinese (entertainment industry)…… So he appeared to be a very shy kid.”
What made him impressed with Kris Wu was that, for the role of Tang Monk in <Journey to the West: Demon Chapter 2>, Director Tsui Hark requested him to shave off his hair. To Korean stars, it is a huge deal when they shave their hair before enlistment, and Kris Wu shaving off his hair was akin to “Wang Sicong’s family going bankrupt”, a fan said.
Mr Chen dared not agree to Tsui Hark’s request. But to his complete surprise, when he asked Kris Wu, Kris replied without hesitation, no further asking required, that it was no problem at all.“ This left a deep impression on Tsui Hark. "They all felt that this kid was not bad, he genuinely wanted to act, and that he wasn’t the kind of idol to say that he has to have a certain type of handsome look.” It was at this point in time that Mr Chen finally agreed to help Kris Wu. He understood that Kris was not merely someone who relied on Mr Chen’s efforts to make a living, but someone who would cooperate so that they would mutually create new works.
Zhou Tuo Ru worked with Kris Wu for <Never Gone> when Kris had just returned to China. Director Zhou told <People Magazine> about some of his experiences when he had previously been an actor. He felt that being an actor was an immensely pressurising job. When two or three cameras were on you, and all the people on set were watching you, all the lights shining on your face, it would be easy for a person to feel small and unsure of themselves. But Kris Wu would not be afraid, from beginning to end he will be in a state of his own, have a sense of unadulterated, childlike trust towards the cast and crew, listening carefully to all your pointers and putting his utmost effort into doing so. <People Magazine> asked Zhou Tuo Ru how it was like working with Kris Wu, and he replied, the kind of hardworking spirit and earnestness that Kris possessed made him strongly feel his distinct charisma, and made him feel as if he should protect and not disappoint this younger man. “He believes in you wholeheartedly.” Zhou said with a sigh.
What Director Lu Chuan recalls was that, upon meeting Kris Wu for the first time, this kid had two vastly different communication methods.
“When you talked about things related to life, he would become very quiet, very shy.” On the contrary, once the topic was about things he was passionate about, he would immediately transform from his quiet state into a state of excitement, and there would be no transition stage.
Lu Chuan said that, what excited Kris Wu the most was acting roles that would make him feel extreme emotions and a sense of fulfilment, for example acting a crazy person or a villain. This left Lu Chuan rather shocked, because in his experience, it was difficult for handsome men to give up playing the roles of good-looking characters. “This is their rice bowl”, but Kris Wu did not care about such things.
In 2015 November, in response to <People Magazine>’s question of “Which actor do you like?”, Kris Wu blurted out Leonardo DiCarprio’s name. The reason being, because he could cast aside his image and take on the challenge of a extremely different role.
Kris Wu had to directly contact the business collaborators. “Schedule constraints” was an excuse commonly used to turn down others in the entertainment industry. If someone were to approach you for something which did not appeal to you, this method could be used, Chen Lizhi said. “They would ensure that you still had face, and they would say 'Oh no, due to schedule constraints I am unable to, I already have a movie then.’ and after further enquiry, realise that the aforementioned movie is not scheduled at all.” However, what surprised Chen Lizhi was that, Kris Wu’s method was to directly inform them, I’m not suitable for this, or, I do not like it. Chen Lizhi thought well of him for doing so, but was a little worried as well. “Honestly speaking he should only be upfront with people that he trusts and has good relations with, otherwise, he may be blacklisted.” Chen Lizhi would want to protect his sense of responsibility, and finally end up lying to others that “He has no schedule constraints.”
Kris Wu said that he values sincerity. “What is the quality you value the most when you established your own team?” His answer to this question was, “I really place much importance on being genuine, I hope that everyone can be very sincere.”
As of November 6 2015, Kris Wu has filmed for 7 movies in the 18 months that he has returned to China. Before returning to China, he has never acted before, and local Chinese directors had no idea about him. He relied on his hard working attitude and work ethic to make up for his shortcoming in having little experience.
In the interview, Kris Wu admitted that he has a special bond between male seniors that he worked with. “Actually there was a little of it. When I was very young, I terribly wanted someone like that to guide me, and provide me with a sense of security.” he said. For example, Feng Xiaogang’s experience left him feeling a sense of admiration for him. Kris felt “an extremely strong force which compelled others to be convinced.” What made Kris Wu the happiest during this period of time was being acknowledged and accepted by people whom he admired.
In 2015, while filming for <Journey to the West: Demon Chapter 2>, there was one day when he had gone up to the camera after shooting his scene, as he always did, to take a look at how he did.
All of a sudden, one of the script supervisors told him quietly, you acted very well, the director really likes you.
Really? Why? He asked.
Every time you were shooting your scenes, the director would be smiling at the back. As long at it was your scene, for every scene that you acted in, the director would be sitting behind the monitor smiling, and looking very happy.
Kris Wu felt even more pressured. “I will continue to act, and act even better, not to disappoint the director. Yes, this was what I would do.”
When filming wrapped up, he was almost in tears. “I said, Director, I can’t bear to leave you.” Kris Wu remembered telling Tsui Hark this.
“Right now I’m still like this, I’ll invest emotions in everyone.” Kris Wu told <People Magazine>, even after being hurt with his experience with SM. “I would be the first one to invest emotions.”
At least in some aspects, Kris Wu’s tolerance and willpower is far beyond that of an ordinary person. For example, for many people, after experiencing a lot in life, they have lose their innocence, and to still be able to treat the world with goodwill, is an admirable thing. Kris Wu has realised this at a very early age. It was just as he told Kevin to encourage him when he left SM, “No matter what happens to you, never ever change who you are, you definitely have to continue being yourself.”
He talked about the teaching he received from his mother. “She taught me in this way, to trust in others easily, so I have actually made many wrong turns in life.” When he was young, his mother had always made the world out to be a joyful place. When he was sixteen or seventeen, he was deceived by a good friend, right now he couldn’t remember what had specifically happened, but and at that point in time he was extremely upset, and his mother told him, “I’m sorry my son, Mother has never told you about the dark side of society. However, you have to realise that people have different personalities, we cannot have preconceived notions about others, and you should never have the intent to hurt anyone.”
The keywords Kris Wu set for himself are, pure and genuine. “A person who does not forget his roots.” he said, “Many people believe that I am rather naive, and perhaps at times a little dumb, but I would still like to be this way, and hope that I can retain this side of me as much as possible.”
After that half-day interview that day, when he went home he specially looked for a quote which he had previously noted from Chicken Soup for the Soul, and sent a Wechat message: “Being aware of the ways of the world and not being influenced by them, is the highest degree of being mature and good hearted.”
Speaking of any regrets he felt with his sacrifices, it would be the severe impact to his physical well-being. Before leaving SM, Kris Wu had been getting colds continuously for a year, and due to the extreme demands which had taken a toll on his body, finally detecting some obvious signs. “I didn’t rest well, there was a lot of pressure,” he said, “I used to be able to play basketball, but right now my stamina is not very good…… Actually men should be at the peak of their health at age 25.”
But not long after sharing his health issues with <People Magazine>, a few days later, a picture of Kris Wu wearing a T-shirt in -5 degrees weather outdoors surfaced on the news.
(Translator’s note: This was about his Weibo post for the Takeoff Challenge charity initiative)
As in the fairness that he believes, if one desires rewards, he must be willing to accept all of its costs. “I cannot be forced to so something,” Kris Wu said, “At times I would be conflicted, but then again I feel that at this point in time if I do not do certain things which I want to do, I am afraid that I may regret it later on.”
In the midst of his busy schedule, Kris Wu released his first self-composed song《Bad Girl》. During the day when he acted as Tang Monk, he would think of lyrics while the lighting was being fixed, compose during change of sets, go into the studio to record and arrange the song at night after wrapping up for the day. Just like that, he swiftly created a song, and made careful adjustments to it 20 more times. – “When I’m doing something I love, how could I not have the time?” This song was scheduled to be released on midnight of 5th November, as Kris’s birthday was on the 6th and he wanted to give the fans a gift. End October, Kris was still working on the details, and he told his team that if by 6th November, the song was not up to his satisfaction, “Then I am really sorry to tell you guys that I have to completely abandon this, fully cancel all the plans.”
Last year, for the entire year continuously, Kris Wu slept for about 4, 5 hours each day, and up till the time <People Magazine> interviewed him in November, other than 7 films, his accomplishments were inclusive of the following: released 1 cover song and 2 original songs, signed on to 8 endorsements, been on 13 magazine covers, and attended 70 events.
After <Mr Six>’s premiere, after receiving a Wechat message from <People Magazine>’s editor, who praised him for his performance, Kris Wu very gladly replied: “Thank you Jiejie for your support.” Followed soon by (the editor’s reply:) “Thank you for returning home.” He then returned this with a smiling emoji.
I could not help myself
When Kris Wu received positive statistics, and encouragement from the director and word of mouth as a result of working selflessly, Madam Wu who had been waiting for him at home began to worry yet again, and thus could not sleep well for entire nights.
In early December 2015, <Journey to the West: Demon Chapter 2> entered its final, most intense shooting period overnight. His head already shaved bald, Kris Wu could only wear a thin robe with one piece of thermal wear inside, and film outdoors in the freezing winter of Beijing until early morning.
Are you cold? That night, Madam Wu could not hold back any longer and made a call to her son, asking him carefully.
“Go to sleep quickly!” Her son anxiously said over the phone. “You should go to sleep soon.” He stressed.
Kris Wu told <People> magazine that he was really angry that night. He increasingly felt that his mother was ageing and in their relationship, he had taken on the role to become the one to look after her. “Right now I’m really worried that she will stay up at night.” He said.
Kris Wu, who places importance on his work over himself, since his childhood years till present has found it the hardest to face his mother’s emotions and worry. Sindy felt that because he was concerned that his mother’s anxiety would affect him, Kris Wu has never allowed her to visit the set.
The next day, his mother who had not slept a wink the previous night, could only vent out in her Wechat Moments. At 6am, before dawn, Sindy saw such a message in her Wechat Moments:
「The sixth night of overnight filming, an important outdoor scene, only wearing a thin robe and thermal wear. I could not stand it and called over but in the end I was given a lecture. Firstly: Please do not call me during our working hours. Secondly, don’t say that it’s hard on me, the director and everyone else is older than me, and they have to spend the night outdoors as well. While I am getting ready for my turn I am about to return indoors to get some warmth. Thirdly, when you’re up like this all night, I’m the one who is the most worried. Hurry up and go to sleep!!!」
Many people were under the impression that Madam Wu was praising her son, and their replies were mostly “Your child is so understanding”, “I didn’t know that Fanfan would be this understanding”. but Sindy understood that Madam Wu was expressing her hurt. Madam Wu said, “The moment I mentioned about him, he would make reply with a rebuttal.”
The reply that Sindy gave her was: Fanfan is right, when you do not treat yourself well you’re making him even more tires and distracted from work. Fanfan clearly knows what he wants, and your understanding and cooperation with your child is very important. It’s hard work being a mother.
Madam Wu replied: I can’t help myself.
Kris Wu studio started without a stable leader. When Kris had just returned to China, along with his mother, both of them did not have a choice but to trust every person that they encountered. His former publicist Feng Lihua remembers that at that time, in a Wechat group which discussed matters pertaining to the Chinese entertainment industry, someone asked, Does anyone know who Kris Wu’s manager is? After which, several person’s names were mentioned quickly. “Someone said, just contact me, I’m very close to his mother.” In the end, if Kris Wu was unable to fix his schedule, this task would be handed to Madam Wu. Chen Lizhi felt that Madam Wu had a very heavy burden. “Treating others with goodwill, but end up being accused of having bad intent.”
In the interview, Madam Wu expressed that she was understanding of the situation. She did not mind (carrying out such duties) because she only had one goal: As long as it would be for her child’s benefit. A year and a half after returning to China, after the careful setting up of her son’s work studio, other than remaining in several of Kris Wu Studio’s Wechat groups, she has slowly begun to fade out of her son’s world. There were many things that she was still learning and could not hesitate to ask, for example upon seeing that things would go awry, she would immediately panic and ask the person in charge, how could you handle this matter like this? At this point in time, Kris Wu would tell his mother personally not to act in that manner, and she would go back to apologise and explain.
But thinking that all these things were done for the sake of her son, you would see that Madam Wu possess a strong and unparalleled steadfastness which enables her strong will to resurface anytime.
Accepting <People Magazine>’s interview was the first time Madam Wu faced the media. All this while she had been unwilling to accept media interviews, as she was fearful, and <People Magazine> had asked Kris Wu’s staff to persuade her. She was the only person who witnessed Kris Wu’s growth throughout the 7 years he was in Canada, and there were some stories that had she had to tell.
Taking into consideration Kris Wu’s afternoon shoot as well, arrangements were made by Kris’s publicist to make reservations at a Japanese restaurant located near the studio. Madam Wu felt that there were no good Japanese restaurants in the area, and began to worry that this would not be good enough for <People Magazine>. When <People Magazine> reporter arrived he received a call from the publicist, asking on behalf of an anxious Madam Wu if the restaurant was good enough, if it was not, he could inform them immediately and they would pick another restaurant.
Madam Wu remained concerned even as she stepped into the private dining room. wearing a thick, black jacket, she even asked the same question before taking a seat. Only after hearing the reply, “This place is rather good,” did she then let out a smile, and removed her jacket with a relieved expression.
“You have just been talking, barely eating.” <People Magazine>’s reporter commented when the two hour long lunch was about to end. “That’s alright, my task today is to speak more.” Madam Wu replied. Because in her heart, she was doing this for the sake of Fanfan, she only wanted to do it for his benefit.
Madam Wu enjoyed listening to others praise Kris Wu, when it happened, she would flash a peaceful smile, and her eyes would shine with tenderness.
Right now Kris Wu and his mother are not living together. “Because I knew that from the moment I was born, she no longer had a life of her own.” He hoped that his mother would slowly build up her own life. But whenever he told her, Mom, you should find a boyfriend, his mother’s first reaction was, is it because you don’t want Mom anymore?
Putting her son in the centre of her life for 25 years, there are many hardships which she has endured alone. During his time in SM, there was one event which made her feel very deeply.
If not for the wind and rain, it would have been an ordinary event. But at the venue, the wind and rain had blown down a large banner, which left Madam Wu extremely shocked. The banner was too large, and could only be raised for a moment, before being blown away by the wind and rain yet again. After that, (the people holding it) struggled to put it up again. Upon taking a closer look, Madam Wu realised that it was several girls holding up the banner, they had gotten tickets with much difficulty, but because of this banner, were unable to watch the performance properly. They were motivated to do that because they hoped for Kris to see them and wanted him to have more confidence.
“They were standing in an area far away, several people were holding up the banner, kept on holding up the board, in the wind and rain.” Madam Wu recalled herself wholeheartedly supporting her son, that familiar feeling, a type of love and sacrifice which was “completely giving”, “without expecting nothing in return”.
After that experience, she brought up the point to her son’s team that, from ensuring that ticket prices would not be set too high, as to whether gifts to fans should be charged…she would be the one who would fight for the interest of fans.
“Right now she is in charge of handling the fans, for example with regards to concert ticketing and such, everything would be taken care of by Aunt (Madam Wu).” Kris Wu’s former publicist Feng Lihua said with a smile.
“Because it’s a very simple, very pure love, and they support you in whatever you do, I feel that this is extremely precious, and if such people were to be hurt, I feel that this really (is something which cannot happen).” Madam Wu added, a little embarrassed, “It’s really like a mother’s love for their child.”
On the day of her interview with <People Magazine>, Madam Wu wore a formal black jacket, but when she removed her shoes, a pair of eye-catching pink socks were revealed. That was a pair of socks that SM had specially produced for the fans when her son was still in EXO. There were the words “Fanfan” on the socks, and the idol’s name could be seen whenever your head was lowered wile putting on shoes. This name would evoke emotions of loving someone, although he may not always be by your side, but the feeling would fill your heart with the warmth that you are not alone.