This is the second excerpt from director Antoine Fuqua’s excellent commentary on The Replacement Killers, in which Chow Yun Fat had his first starring role in an American movie. The first excerpt can be found here. This excerpt covers the concept behind the plot and which drives Chow Yun Fat’s character, and how certain political pressures from the Chinese Government and the film’s own producers affected how this concept was filmed.
Scene 4 (rectangular brick building)
My hope was to make you feel that this was The Killer in America, you know. The idea was The Killer has been brought to America, you know. What was interesting about this, the script, going back to the script, the script originally had some fantastic stuff in it which I think I wish we would’ve shot. Some we shot, some we didn’t but the concept was, and still is, in the story but it was a stronger point. The concept was that Yun Fat’s character, John, was the son of one of Mao’s soldiers. Yun Fat was the son of a soldier, it was one of Mao’s soldiers. His father wanted to get his family out of Hong Kong and so what he did was he went to Mr Wei for help to help him get him out of the country, get his family out of the country, and in exchange for that John would become sort of Mr Wei’s soldier. He would have to do some favours for him, like the godfather. We don’t know what favours they may be but he’s going to have to do some favours. So the concept was that Chow Yun Fat also was a soldier and he wanted to get his family out of Shanghai (?)
Scene 5 (guns being unrolled on red leather)
And so he had to come first, do a few jobs to prove himself, and then Mr Wei would then send his family over – his mother and his sister.
What would happen was when some of the Chinese government read the script, because Chow Yun Fat’s such a big star there, the feedback we got was that they didn’t want to have one of their soldiers as an assassin and they didn’t want to make a big deal about Mao and communism and all this kind of stuff so they didn’t want to get tied into it. So if we would have used a lot of the backstory, which was really important to the story, it wouldn’t have got any play in China because by the time our film was released the British had returned Hong Kong back to the Chinese so they were in control. So it was one of those situations where what we did shoot – some backstory when he was in a car when he’s talking about his father – we had to cut it out of the movie. Which was… it was horrible for me because it gave you a sense of who he was and where he came from. It told you why he was here and what he was doing and we had also had plans for shooting him as a child and showing you know a little bit of China, a sense of his family. I wanted to show his mom and his sister so that people could be invested in his family and you understand his reasons for being here, his motivation for everything that he’s doing. He’s a killer in order to get the people he loved over to this country. It wasn’t something he wanted to do. So the concept was the killer is now in America and this is what he has to do
Scene 6 (temple incense pot)
so it’s disappointing in a way that that never made it into the film because I think it would’ve made a difference in the story telling area. It would’ve gave the audience a little more to hold onto, I think, and because he’s such a lovable guy too. I think it would’ve really helped his character, you know.
It’s rare that it would happen unless it’s a communist country… here in America we can make movies about our government, the President, you know, you can make a film about police officers being corrupt and all these other things. You may not get the full cooperation of the police force but no one’s going to stop your film from being seen in a movie theatre where if you go to countries like China or maybe Russia or maybe places like that I think that they have a little more control over what’s seen and I think that’s wrong because people will form their own opinions. And this came about simply because, like I said, one, there were certain things in the script that we found out that the studio had to, obviously they have a person that they talk to who checks the script out because we were really concerned with the fact that he was going to be a killer here and, you know, naturally studios would do their research and they would want to know if they’re going to have any issues or problems anywhere and we know that China or Asia is a big market for him. So they wanted to just check it out and they had their representatives check it out and what they came back with blew me away, too, when they told me we would have to lose those things and I thought what are you talking about? No one can tell you what, being an American, no one can tell you what to do with your art or your film. If the studio says OK, they approve the script, we shoot it. But that wasn’t the case and it was obviously that fear of losing that huge audience in China because simply they wouldn’t have got to see the film. It just simply wouldn’t have been shown. So I found that disappointing too, but that’s a whole other political conversation, really.