river huangpu

T Feature: Superstardom -- Kris Wu


During these two years, Kris Wu has showcased to us
His extraordinary points, as a singer, as an actor,
As an idol representing this generation.

In the special issue of T Magazine’s October issue,
We present, in modern day China,
One of the most popular young idols - Kris Wu

On a summer evening, at the Huangpu river in Shanghai, in a place I have been to at least a hundred times, a studio where I had shot countless of celebrities before, but this evening it was somewhat a little different. During the weekends, young people could be seen lounging around the empty lobby, some even sitting by the steps at the roadside. These young people’s faces had no traces of agitation or restlessness, and they merely sat there quietly, from time to time gathering in groups of three to five to chat. Like the parents waiting daily outside schools to fetch their children, the waiting made them feel at ease.

They waited for at least four to five hours, as they had been waiting for their “child” Kris Wu, who was upstairs getting his makeup done, followed with the cover shoot for this issue.

Such a scene is commonplace in Kris Wu’s world.  As one of the most popular young idols currently, his every song and movie is able to create social impact, and his every public appearance is able to generate a crowd as intense as roaring flood waters. Before knocking and opening the dressing room door, I had thought up several exaggerated scenarios, but instead was greeted with the sight of a coffee table packed with packaged takeout boxes. After a polite exchange of greetings, handshake and introduction (“I am Kris Wu.”, he said – as if he had a need to), Kris Wu merely requested gently to the nearby staff for water, not taking a glance at the tableful of takeout dinner. He leaned on the sofa with his arm on it as support, and invitingly gestured for me to take a seat. After which, he chose a suitable position, sitting side by side next to me, and at the same time letting me see his 45 degrees look which turns thousands of fans into a frenzy.

Although it was summer, he was currently sporting a thick woollen coat (later on found out that he was dressed in this manner because the air conditioning was too cold, and the remote could not be found at that moment). Dressed in only black and midnight blue, his look was extremely befitting that of a “cold pretty boy” type of character from a shojo manga – until the next moment, when he noticed the Apple watch I was wearing was encased in a casing with Mickey Mouse ears, like the young guys his age, 25 year old Kris Wu let out a curious yet joyful expression.

His name may be “Yi Fan (ordinary)”, but this 1.87m tall, solemn-eyed, slender-fingered boy is anything but. Of course, he was not merely inherently born with good looks. During the interview, he was quick in response, with logic and clarity. He maintained a fast but uniform pace of speech, his voice loud and clear, answering sincerely with self confidence, and in full.

On the second day of this interview, the adapted film of popular youth novel <Sweet Sixteen> premiered in theatres. Rebellious but righteous Xiaofei in <Mr Six> and passionate, sunny Cheng Zheng who had everything he wanted in <Never Gone> all reflected bits of Kris Wu himself. But as for “Xiamu”, Kris Wu admitted when when he was young, his personality was “more alike to Xiamu’s”. “When I was young I was an introverted child, and didn’t like talking much. Xiamu is a kid who keeps to himself, and is withdrawn. The young me is probably a little like that, of course that was when I was very young, when I grew up I wan’t like that any more.”  He said, <Sweet Sixteen> was it was more of a “film of crime and romance” and not so much a “film of youth”.  "Personally, I feel that this is a more alternative genre of youth film, as it is extremely dark. It’s….really good.“

<Mr Six> re-introduced us to Kris Wu as an actor. However, the success of “Xiao Fei” is not mere coincidence nor specially created for him. “Xiao Fei’s head of silver-white hair is my contribution to the appearance of the character. Other than that, I am solely, to the best of my ability, performing according to the script, and aiming to portray the character well.“ Be it facing the script or being on set in person, Kris Wu has always maintained a "student”’s attitude. “Films are an actor’s artistic creation. It is an actor’s duty to fulfil the director’s request to the best that they can.”

An actor – Kris Wu right now already has enough confidence to describe himself as such. During these two years after returning to China to develop his career, Kris Wu who started off as a singer has taken on the challenge of different characters, role after role, exploring his potential as an actor. Is this something that came about as of late? Or was it as a result of his most initial dream? “It’s because since young I have had an interest in filming!” Kris Wu replied firmly, “Even before receiving movie offers, I have expressed in interviews that I "hoped to become an actor.” This is also why in the short span of these few years I have managed to film so many movies, as acting has completely filled up my schedule.“

What is the greatest joy that acting has given him? "The most meaningful area,” he said, “Is that when the character that I portray appears on the big screen, there will be people who like the character, like the movie because you played that role – and not because you are Kris Wu.” He describes the genre of films that he is into lately as the “mind-boggling” type. “The best would be those where I do not understand after watching it the first time, and would need to ponder it repeatedly, and finally looking up all kinds of hidden meanings online…”

As an actor, in Kris Wu’s own words, one has to “follow instructions very closely”, and on set, do everything according to the director’s orders. “The director is the soul of each movie. As an actor, what I need to do is to become a blank piece of canvas before the director, letting him paint and decorate.” He said, “At any point in time, I will submit myself to the director.” Upon meeting the bold and imaginative Tsui Hark, Kris Wu started to feel the fresh joy of personal creativity. In the film <Journey to the West: Demon Chapter> produced by Stephen Chow and directed by Tsui Hark, Kris Wu acted as the role of “Tang Seng”. “Lao Ye ("Elder Master” - referring to Tsui Hark) has given me much freedom, usually he would just let me portray the character in my style. He is extremely supportive of me to try out more [ways of character portrayal]. Trying out more may result in reaping unexpected results.“

<Valerian>, directed by Luc Besson, is an international film which Kris Wu participated in, and was his first time acting in a science fiction movie. Kris Wu said, he recalled that the director had brought up several times, if <The Fifth Element> was a director’s initial cut trailer, and <Lucy> was the final trailer, now would be the time for the actual movie, and that film would be <Valerian>. The film is an adaptation of Luc Besson’s favourite comic, starring supermodel-turned-actress Cara Delevingne and Hollywood "fresh meat” Dane DeHaan, with an unusual, extraordinary guest lineup which includes pop diva Rihanna and jazz musician Herbie Hancock.

On this film set, Kris Wu experienced the excellent efficiency and prompt scheduling of an international production. He affectionately called Luc Besson “Director Luc”. “Director Luc has invested an enormous amount of effort into this film.” On the topic of Luc Besson, Kris Wu, born when <Nikita> premiered, revealed that he was a long-time fan of Besson. <Leon: The Professional> is one of my favourite films.“ He said, "When I watched <Fifth Element> I was very young, upon seeing some of the aliens, I had felt that it was close to being a horror film. Director’s imagination knew no bounds, his use of colours and music and grasp of visuals are far too astounding for all.” At this point, Kris Wu once again brought up Director Tsui Hark’s name. “They all have extraordinary imaginations, they’re really gifted.”

When the casting of <Journey to the West: Demon Chapter>, directed by Tsui Hark, was officially revealed, everyone was surprised – Why was Kris Wu acting the role of Tang Seng? In fact, Kris Wu’s reply was, “To everyone, this role is perhaps rather strange, but I beg to differ. Honestly, I have been waiting to take on different roles which are full of challenges, and right now the opportunity has come, so I’m really glad. What has excited me the most is that I am able to work with Director Tsui Hark and Producer Stephen Chow once again, which is a highly valuable learning experience to me.” As for how he would describe his portrayal of the role of “Tang Seng”, Kris Wu said that he hoped that he could create something “fresh and never-before-seen” – “Hope that he’ll be cute!”

After developing his career in China for two years, starring in several movies, singing a few melodic movie theme songs, we practically lost sight of Kris Wu as a singer. However, this autumn, the Kris Wu who loves hip hop music is back. He said, for his upcoming new songs, he will be releasing new and fresh tunes. “This time, everyone will be listening to the music genre which I really love. It won’t really be the same as the last time.”

Hip hop music is the reason Kris Wu entered the industry. Growing up through his teenage years in Canada has led him to like this genre of music. “Because I love playing basketball, that’s why I came into contact with hip hop music. At that time, my friends who played basketball with me all listened to hip hop and rap, and I was influenced by them to take a liking to that genre of music. Hip hop is not only a genre of music, but even more so, it is a lifestyle, which includes basketball, street culture, R&B music… I grew up under the influence of this culture, and the music I like is largely associated with this lifestyle.” He shared with me the recent songs he was really into. Drake and Travis Scott were two of his all time favourite musicians, and both recently released new albums. “Especially Drake, since his debut many years ago till now, I’ve kept up with every album that he has released.”

During these couple of years, a large amount of time was spent on making films and trying out even more possibilities, but now that Kris Wu is finally able to return to the world of music which he passionately loves, he hoped to showcase one simple thing: ‘Myself’. “When filming movies, what you portray is the role you act, it is something which the director wants that character to manifest. But when it comes to music, I have one hundred percent freedom to express myself. Kris Wu in his most original essence – this is what I want to convey in my music. What I myself love, more than anything else.”

After the interview. we still ended up talking about what he loves the most, basketball. Kris Wu, who previously had the dream of becoming a professional basketball player, has a genuine and serious love for the sport. “Basketball is really fun!” Talking about his favourite sport, the way of speech that he had shown during the interview disappeared in an instant. “It feels really good after playing for two hours and sweating a whole lot. As long as I don’t end work too late, and am not too tired, I will play basketball.” He had gone to play basketball the night before this interview, and continued with a sheepish expression, “So today I’m a little tired.”

When a 25 year old boy is together with his favourite sport, there is nothing that can tear them apart. No matter how popular Kris Wu is, for the sake of playing basketball he does his best [to accommodate it into his schedule]. “There will always be onlookers present each time. Sometimes fans will follow over, sometimes it’s curious passers-by. Since basketball is an outdoor sport, if there are onlookers, let them watch!”

As the shoot was coming to an end, I left the studio first. It was already late into the night, yet the number of fans waiting at the door was several times more than the amount that had been present in the evening, lined up in an orderly manner from the elevator exit all the way to the roadside.

At that moment, Kris Wu who was upstairs was wrapping up this job, his third one for the day. It was one of the most ordinary days in his life.

translation: @wu_yi_fan