Ip Man: Final Battle - Interview with Leo Au-Yeung
Leo Au-Yeung is a Martial Arts instructor with the unique credentials of being the only appointed Wing Chun instructor for the hugely popular Ip Man movies: Wilson Yip’s Ip Man, Herman Yau’s prequel, Ip Man: The Legend is Born and now the forthcoming Ip Man: Final Battle.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Leo subsequently travelled to the UK in order to study at University. As a keen and heavily devoted practitioner of Wing Chun, he was able to train under some of the world’s most prolific teachers, including Ip Man’s son, Grandmaster Ip Chun. In time he became an instructor himself and was later invited to work as the Wing Chun consultant and assistant choreographer on the original Ip Man, which kickstarted his work in the industry.
With Ip Man 3D in the works (set to reunite director Wilson Yip and star Donnie Yen), another entry into the series is also building anticipation among fans. Ip Man: Final Battle, portraying the last years of the master’s life, is currently filming in China and Leo once again joins the action team. The film stars Anthony Wong (Infernal Affairs, Beast Cops) and Anita Yuen Wing Yi (Protégé, Thunderbolt) and unites a large cast of familiar Hong Kong stars. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Leo as he filled me in on the latest news and what fans can expect from this particular chapter of the already-iconic series.
Leo, what can you tell us about the story of Ip Man: Final Battle?
This film is set to dramatise the final chapter of Ip Man’s life. The story will cover his life from the age of 40 until the day he passed away. It explores the significant events of his life during this time, such as the relationship with his first few students which includes Grandmaster Leung Sheung, who became a famous teacher in his own right, and of course Bruce Lee. In contrast, it will also look at his family life and relationship with his son, Ip Chun, and his wife. Being a historic, fact-based story set in the 1960s, it will also offer a look at Hong Kong society and culture at that time. I think this film will offer a nice extension of Ip Man 2.
What can you reveal about the team working on the film?
The film is directed by Herman Yau who worked on the prequel, The Legend is Born. Ip Man is played by Anthony Wong and the cast includes Anita Yuen Wing Yi, playing Ip Man’s wife, Jordan Chan and Eric Tsang. So there’s a great team!
Can you talk about your specific role in the production?
I am once again working with the team to choreograph the action and ensure the Wing Chun is portrayed in an authentic way. Also, this is the first time I’ve done any acting and will be playing a role so this is exciting. I don’t want to give anything away but I’ll be playing a small role as a bad guy and because of me, Ip Man will have to go up against another traditional style of Kung Fu!
Who have you been working with closely, so far?
On the action, I am working with Nicky Lee (Chung Chi Li) who is the main action director of the movie. Nicky has worked with Jackie Chan on many films and is the team leader of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team. In terms of the acting scenes, I have been working with Anthony Wong and have a scene with Timmy Hung, who is Sammo Hung's son. He is playing one of Ip Man's students in the movie. All these guys are all top class names in the Hong Kong film industry and I’ve learned so much just from working with them. I’m very lucky.
How will the film differ from the previous Ip Man movies?
I suppose the most obvious difference is seeing a different actor play Ip Man. Anthony Wong is very well known and experienced but I think will also bring us a different and more mature version of Ip Man in the later part of his life. Also, the story doesn’t focus solely on Ip Man's life, but will give audiences a view on some of his top students, such as Bruce Lee. The film will demonstrate how Ip Man changed their lives and their led them on their journey studying Wing Chun.
Within the choreography, what do you hope to do differently this time?
For the fight scenes, Ip Man will use Wing Chun to take on a few new styles of Martial Arts which I believe will give audiences something new and fresh. I genuinely believe that if you study Wing Chun or want to learn, you can pick up some great techniques just by watching this!
Ip Man’s son, Grandmaster Ip Chun, has been involved in past films, such as The Legend is Born. Are the Ip family involved in this movie again?
Yes, and Ip Chun will again play an acting role. However, I can only say he has a very special part in the movie and did a very good job with this particular role. I don’t want to reveal too much but I think everyone will enjoy seeing him again on the big screen.
Finally, what can audiences expect from this final chapter of the famous story?
I would say in this last chapter audiences will see a more mature Ip Man and how he spent the last years of his life. You will see him as a Wing Chun instructor, how he picked his students and the relationship he had with those he taught. All this combined with the historic angle, I think there’s a lot here to appreciate and enjoy.
You’ve now worked on three Ip Man films. What’s next?
I think I would like to concentrate on my teaching and personal development. As I’ve taken two months off to film Ip Man: Final Battle, I’ve been away for a while and I really miss my students and teaching. Since I’ve also learned so much about not just Martial Arts but also acting and filmmaking during the trip, I need some time to absorb and practice it. I believe I need a long time to master those skills and just hope that one day I will able to use what I know to inspire others.