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Triads and Mafia in the Hong Kong Film Industry?

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So I was reading an article online the other day that said during the 80"s and early to mid 90"s many Hong Kong based film directors and actors had associations with Triads. I also read that Jet Li"s agent was murdered by triads and he made a few movies that were funded by them(i know sounds like a movie lmao) The article claimed that the industry declined during the mid 90"s, so many of the triads left it because the money dried up? Does anybody know how true this is?Also does anybody think if it is true that this explains the abundance of gangster films between the mid 80"s and early 90"s? I also read that the Japanese film industry was the same for awhile until the police and government started cracking down on Yakuza.

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So I was reading an article online the other day that said during the 80"s and early to mid 90"s many Hong Kong based film directors and actors had associations with Triads. I also read that Jet Li"s agent was murdered by triads and he made a few movies that were funded by them(i know sounds like a movie lmao) The article claimed that the industry declined during the mid 90"s, so many of the triads left it because the money dried up? Does anybody know how true this is?Also does anybody think if it is true that this explains the abundance of gangster films between the mid 80"s and early 90"s? I also read that the Japanese film industry was the same for awhile until the police and government started cracking down on Yakuza.

While I do not know the Japanese film industry as well, this is quite true in the Hong Kong film industry -- each statement you made. I have many quotes on this topic but I'll first start with David Bordwell in Planet Hong Kong (2nd Edition):

During the 1980s Hong Kong’s mass media began glamorizing triad culture, notably in films like A Better Tomorrow (1986), with Armani-clad racketeers professing sentimental brotherhood (Fig. 2.3). At the same time, the societies began investing in the booming film industry and used productions to launder money. Stars and directors

were bullied into working for triad companies. There were thefts, at least one firebombing,

beatings, and murders. Win’s, a major company founded in 1984, is widely assumed to be a triad related enterprise. It is currently operated by Charles Heung Wah-keung, brother of an alleged “Grand Dragon” of one of the top societies. In a wink typical of Hong Kong film, Charles Heung plays the unsmiling triad bodyguard Lone Ng in Win’s God of Gamblers series. His scorpion tattoo, an icon signifying a Vietnamese Chinese, adds to

the character’s (and the producer’s) mystique.

Now it is important to note that John Woo himself is no fans of triads.

If you are interested I have more quotes on this topic.

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Source: John Woo Interviews: Edited by Robert K. Elder

John Woo (1994): "The people take the impression of my movie and turn to love the violence, and some people misunderstood. I tried not to glorify the Triad. I really didn't intend that. WHEN I make a gangster movie, its just like making a Chinese swordplay. All I intended was to glorify the hero, the behavior of the hero, not the Triad society. I admit the filmmaker sometimes has to be concerned about the moral standard ... but for me, I make the film as an artist, and just make the film."

This is from Terence Chang on the Criterion Hardboiled commentary. It is important to note that it was done in 1994 (so a lot has changed since then, but it gives you a story of the time period:) "There are gangsters everywhere, even in communist countries, but in Hong Kong, because we are in the film industry, we are very aware of the gangsters' presence in the film industry. For some reason the gangsters in movies are very glamorous and they like to be involved with it and it's also very profitable for them. I personally have had very few dealings with gangsters myself, except for when you're in production, they're always gangsters and hoodlums coming up to you and asking for protection money. And I remember when you're shooting in the streets, you pay off one gang and they keep the other gangs away from you. But now, even when you're shooting at a private property, they'll still come to you. For instance when we were shooting at that teahouse or at the hospital set, different gangs would come to you and ask for money and you just have to pay them off -- all of them. I guess it's the popular actors that are most afraid of gangsters. The gangsters will go to them and sign movie deals. If they say no, then something might happen, not necessarily to them but maybe to the people who work for them or to the family or whatever.

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Wow that's crazy. I had no idea how far down the rabbit hole this topic went:squigglemouth:

I also looked up that Charles Heung Wah-Keung guy and it seems like he had his hand in everything back in the day and still does a fair amount in the present. Its a little disheartening seeing that this man is responsible for some of my favorite movies lol I'm glad to see though that John Woo in reality had nothing to do with that stuff :)

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Unfortunately I do not have some books (that I thought I did) with me at work so I can't further elaborate but triads were responsible/partially responsible for:

Wong Jing getting beat up and losing some teeth.

Jackie Chan in a contract dispute with Lo Wei (who hired some triad members) having JC leave HK for a period of time until the dispute was help settled by Jimmy Wang Yu (this is one of the reasons that Chan ended up in some not-so-good Wang Yu films.)

Chow Yun-fat leaving HK films for quite a long period.

David Bordwell quotes (since the Planet Hong Kong book is near; this is a book I highly recommend):

"By the early 1990s, partly because of the charge that the heroic triad films had led youngsters to admire the gangs, more filmmakers played up the self-sacrificing heroism displayed by peace officers."

"It can be argued that the production boom of the late 1980s launched a fourth phase. For one thing, it attracted triads, who now saw film production as not only a money-laundering device but also a reliable source of income. Triad-funded companies sprang up, and although they intimidated stars and producers, they often allowed directors considerable freedom."

"Occasionally a current event makes it onscreen in fictionalized form; a sensational kidnapping involving both the triads and the People’s Republic inspired Operation Billionaires (1998), and the case was still in the headlines when the film opened."

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It's true about triad involvement. The Jet Li stuff was true, but it was mostly his manager involved not Jet personally. Anita Mui's manager was shot dead and she went on the Lam to USA then went into the safe arms of Jackie Chan and his manager upon return to Hong Kong. Wong Jing had his mouth smashed in by Triads for something he said. An actress was even raped by triads (I think it was Carina Lau). In 1993 after the incident involving Anita Mui's manager Jackie Chan along with a load of other Hong Kong celebrities staged a street demo march protesting against triad involvement in the industry. Not all triads but the bad ones (apparently). It is common knowledge that actors such as Chan Wei Man, Jimmy Wang Yu and Alan Tang have been directly involved with triads in the movie industry and Wang Yu famously 'pulling strings' to get Jackie Chan out of his contract with Lo Wei and Chan returning the favour owed by appearing in Fantasy mission force and Island on fire. A lot of celebs were having Willie Chan as a manager because triads would not bother with them as Jackie Chan was 'untouchable' by that time in the industry. But then they got to Willie Chan and he stopped managing them. Many actors were working with the 'Wins' film company to escape pressure from the triads as the owners of wins are former Triads themselves Jimmy Hueng and Charles Hueng http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Heung.

There are those who openly have expressed their disapproval with triads. Most famously the former Police comissioner turned actor Phillip Chan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Chan who plays the police chief in hard boiled and winners and sinners and I guess is always type cast. He was in the media before his acting career for solving crime cases including Hong Kongs first ever armed bank robbery in 1974 where 11 hostages were held to ransom (sounds like a movie). I saw a section for a Channel Four show in about 2000/2001 with Emily Booth about Hong Kong movies and there was a brief interview with Danny Lee who expressed his distaste for real life triads as he appears in gangster flicks himself, and while on set of a movie he did something that led to triads being arrested. Director Johnny To clearly portrayed Triads realistically in Election 1 and 2 and to some extent Drug War. There was heavy anti triad and anti mainland corruption messages in the Election movies.

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According to wushu champion/master Kenny Perez in a 2009/2010 interview, the production of Mismatched Couples got interrupted when a triad gang demanded protection money from the film crew when scenes were shot on a location the gang happened to control. After frequent visits by the gang, the film crew eventually grew tired and decided to fight them off whenever they appeared. Donnie and Kenny willingly joined in to fight them, with the latter describing the situation as "crazy but highly fun".

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While I do not know the Japanese film industry as well, this is quite true in the Hong Kong film industry -- each statement you made. I have many quotes on this topic but I'll first start with David Bordwell in Planet Hong Kong (2nd Edition):

.

I've only heard of two Yakuza involvements in the Japanese film industry. Well, actually, one notorious gangster, Noboru Ando, would star in a series of films virtually playing himself. I read this in the book Tokyoscope where he was interviewed by the author.

The other was an incident that happened in 1992. Director Juzo Itami made a satirical comedy entitled Minbo, or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion (which I have the VHS tape) about gangsters attempting to extort money off a hotel with the staff eventually standing up to them (the film's lead was Itami's wife Nobuko Miyamoto). Well, needless to say, gangsters from the Goto-gumi beat and slashed Itami as a result. The attack would become the catalyst for the government's crackdown on the Yakuza.

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http://www.scmp.com/article/354876/singer-and-executive-held-over-triad-attack

"Award-winning Canto-pop singer and actor Joey Yung Cho-yee and an executive at a listed company were arrested yesterday in connection with the assault of comedian Eric Tsang Chi-wai - taking the total number of arrests in the past two days to 11."

http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/movies/story/cecilia-cheung-fired-how-she-lost-the-protector-who-stood-her-every-time-nich

[...]

"Enter Chen, who was asked by [Cecilia] Cheung's father, alleged gangster Cheung Yan Yung, to mediate between the two sides.

"She also helped the Cheungs when the father got into trouble with a triad and rumours went round that gangsters had been ordered to rape and kill the daughter. After resolving the crisis, she became the star's manager."

http://yellowcranestower.blogspot.com/2010/05/simon-yam-famous.html

Simon Yam forced to make movies for the triads.

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Fred Dannen's book "Hong Kong Babylon" probably best describes the links between HK's Triads and entertainment business - perhaps because unlike may authors of HK movie books, Dannen was first and foremost a journalist (rather than a fan/critic of HK films who also chose to write).

An interesting article Dannen had published in 1997 can be read here: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/90738/partners-in-crime

Note, Dannen talks about Albert Yeung. Yeung is boss of Emperor Entertainment Group. They have produced such movies as "Twins Effect", "The Medallion", "Rob B Hood" etc, and manage artists/actors like Nic Tse, Joey Yung and Nick Cheung.

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Fred Dannen's book "Hong Kong Babylon" probably best describes the links between HK's Triads and entertainment business - perhaps because unlike may authors of HK movie books, Dannen was first and foremost a journalist (rather than a fan/critic of HK films who also chose to write).

An interesting article Dannen had published in 1997 can be read here: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/90738/partners-in-crime

Note, Dannen talks about Albert Yeung. Yeung is boss of Emperor Entertainment Group. They have produced such movies as "Twins Effect", "The Medallion", "Rob B Hood" etc, and manage artists/actors like Nic Tse, Joey Yung and Nick Cheung.

I've been meaning to bring this book in (to where I have my Internet connection) to post some quotes from it. This is where I first learned several stories on triad encounters in HK film. There is so much filler in the book though, but the interviews are great to have (still nowhere near a top 10 film HK book though, there are so many better books.)

But I've also wondered about some of the data in it (I will elaborate on several of these points later when I revisit the book.)

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(1.) Raymond Chow, film producer, long time Shaw Bros. associate, had a prior curious background (CIA equivalent) before entering the film business in HK.

(2.) Lo Wei, former matinee idol, movie director, originally, for The Shaws, joined GH and Chow in the early 70's. Later it was revealed he was a high ranking member of Sun Yee On Triad organization, same of which producer and former chop sockey star Charles Hueng's dad, headed. Interestingly, Hueng later married the woman whom apt. Bruce Lee's body was found dead in.

************************************************************

Bruce Lee apparently slugged, punched, shoved Producer Raymond Chow over a sofa in the GH studios office, after allegedly feeding the media and Lee conflicting reports over box office distribution and revenue (apparently, there were two sets of books for the production company he and Lee partnered. Lee wanted no Triad involvement, though they were hot after his services)...

Lee was to do a 3rd film with Chow and Lo directing, but pulled out at the eleventh hour, for a myriad of reasons. This pissed the party off, to no end, due to his hot box office. When Lo hired Jimmy Wang Yu to replace Lee, it agitated the situations even more so, Lee thinking NO ONE could replace him... Egos everywhere. Lee then, with Chow's support, wrote, produced, directed, and starred in his own film; along the way, stealing some of Lo's planned actors. Also he pulled a knife on Lo Wei, in front of witnesses, threatening to kill the man, even going on HKTVB that evening to further insult Lo, without mentioning his name. Ten days later, Bruce Lee, "King of Kung Fu", died and his body was taken from a woman's apt. of which he was presumably having an affair.

Something funny about all this to anyone?

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Was wondering when the "Bruce Lee killed by Triads/Mafia" myth would be brought up...

Though it's interesting and makes sense (we never hear much of the Bruce Lee/Raymond Chow/Lo Wei relations), The Dragon's story seems a bit too close to what happens to the actor in the 1978 version of Game Of Death - unless what happens in the movie was a sort of ironic statement about Triad involvment (and a warning to other HK actors) ?

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Was wondering when the "Bruce Lee killed by Triads/Mafia" myth would be brought up...

Though it's interesting and makes sense (we never hear much of the Bruce Lee/Raymond Chow/Lo Wei relations), The Dragon's story seems a bit too close to what happens to the actor in the 1978 version of Game Of Death - unless what happens in the movie was a sort of ironic statement about Triad involvment (and a warning to other HK actors) ?

Bingo, GHW... Ask yourself this single, question;

If you're Chow, and respected Lee as a friend, associate, partner, so much, how could you throw out his storyline, write this paticular story mirroring his actual life circumstances, and include his actual corpse in the finished product?

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Rather than "how", I'd consider "reasons for" doing it - like avoiding some of my relatives or even myself an early trip to meet our maker...

This seems rather grim - but it would explain why there was apparently some strange stuff going on with the body (there's a thread mentionning that on here).

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GOD is truly a weird film. Everything about it, with the exception of the main star not using drugs or having a mistress, is Bruce's life. Down to him driving a Mercedes; his confidant is an American journalist named Marshall (Lee's attorney was named Adrian Marshall, fired shortly before Lee died, and was having an affair with Linda )

* The main character wears beard disguise in public (Lee did this)

* He has encounters with Triads ( Lee faced Challengers on set of ETD and at his home.)

* Man character threatens to "break this wide open-the police have got to get in to it..."

(Lee told several close friends of run-ins with Triads, and said "HK is getting bad, I've got to get out..")

This film, in retrospect, seems exactly like a message to the industry; pay or lay... in the grave.

:crossedlips:

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... his confidant is an American journalist named Marshall (Lee's attorney was named Adrian Marshall, fired shortly before Lee died, and was having an affair with Linda )

...

This was asked at another forum by Chris Richards but never answered:

Is there another source other than [Tom] Bleecker that claims Adrian Marshall wasn't Bruce's attorney at the time of Lee's death?

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