Everybody is kung fu fighting in this historical epic from director Wong Kar Wai (2046, In the Mood for Love). Tony Leung stars as Ip Man, a master of the real-life Wing Chun style of kung fu and the legendary teacher of Bruce Lee. In mid-1930s China, Ip Man is selected as the successor to aging Grandmaster Gong Baosen (Wang Qingxiang). The only person who can best Ip is the old master's daughter, Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang), but being a woman, she can't assume the mantle. Instead, Gong Er and Ip Man end up sharing an unconsummated romance that spans decades. Ready for some fighting and flirting? Chop, kick and punch your way through these fun facts:
1. Pain & Gain (& Rain): Tony Leung, a frequent player in Wong Kar Wai's films, physically prepared for this role by training in kung fu for nearly 4 years, during which he broke his arm. Twice. The shoot also proved challenging for the actor, especially the rain-soaked brawl that opens the movie. After filming the fight for 30 consecutive nights in the cold, Leung was laid up with bronchitis for 5 days. At least his suffering paid off with a kick-ass sequence.
2. The Gong Show: Ziyi Zhang (Memoirs of a Geisha; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) dazzles as Gong Er, a master of her family's "64 hands" technique. Lovely and lethal, Gong Er uses more than her hands during an erotically charged faceoff with Ip Man, and in her breathtaking showdown against Ma San (Zhang Jin) beside a speeding train. The always-luminous Zhang trained as a dancer before studying acting, and that dancer's grace and flexibility are on full display in her martial arts scenes.
3. Chinese Buffet for the Eyes: The Grandmaster features stunning locations throughout China and elaborate sets that include an ornate brothel and full-scale replica of a Manchurian train station. For the period costumes, designer William Chang Suk Ping spent two years collecting beads, ribbons, lace and fabrics. And cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd gorgeously lenses everything, from extreme close-ups of burning cigarettes to majestic, snowy battles choreographed by The Matrix and Kill Bill action director Yuen Wo Ping.
4. When You Can Take the Pebble From My Hand… Martial arts students will appreciate the many kung fu lessons, as different masters challenge and educate Ip Man with their various fighting styles (Baji, Xingyi, Bangua and others). Some of these masters can trash talk like WWE Superstars! Kung fu fans should also know that despite the mention of Ip Man's most famous student, Bruce Lee, in The Grandmaster's advertising, the pop culture icon never appears in the film.
5. A Grander Grandmaster: Director Wong Kar Wai's first rough cut of The Grandmaster, which took six years to plan and three years to shoot, ran a whopping four hours. He whittled the film to 130 minutes for its world premiere in Beijing—and later down to 122 minutes. The U.S. version has been further streamlined to 108 minutes. Unfortunately, because of all the edits, certain characters and subplots get short shrift, so we hope to see the full story on the Extended Edition DVD.