Fri, Jan 10, 2003 - Page 17 News List

Leslie Cheung's new film gives him that eerie feeling

`Inner Senses' follows a line of successful Hong Kong ghost stories into the cinema, but the film may have put a jinx on its leading man

By Yu Sen-Lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Leslie Cheung finds himself in all kinds of trouble with Inner Senses.

PHOTO COURTESY OF GROUP POWER

Ghost films have become a trend in Hong Kong filmmaking and something a money making machine at the box office. But making all this "ghost money" might, for the superstitious Hong Kong film industry, have inauspicious effects.

In Inner Senses (異度空間), the most recent ghost flick to hit the screens in Hong Kong and Taiwan, there really does seem to be a ghost getting up to no good -- at least as far as Leslie Cheung (張國榮) is concerned. During the promotion of the film, in which Cheung plays against star-in-waiting Karena Lam (林嘉欣), there have been a few unusual happenings -- modern day versions of things that go bump in the night.

According to Hong Kong media, making this ghost film might have damaged Cheung's acting career, which is currently in transition as he angles to become a film director.

In the film, Cheung plays a psychiatrist who is treating Lam, a young woman suffering from constant hallucinations and panic attacks. Cheung convinces himself that the symptoms are caused by Lam's traumatized family life and her love affairs, and that by falling in love with her, he will be able to rescue her from falling into a psychological black hole.

Then the inconceivable happens. The psychiatrist starts to see the ghost of his high school girlfriend who committed suicide 20 years ago when he broke up with her.

In real life as in the film, Cheung (who established a reputation for his roles in Farewell My Concubine and Days of Being Wild), has been reported suffering from depression. Although his role in Inner Senses earned him a nomination for a Golden Horse award last November, this does not seem to have lifted his mood.

During the shooting of Inner Senses, the 46 year-old actor was reported as being "too involved" in his role for this film and was suffering from insomnia as a result. And now, Cheung has turned down all promotional appearances for health reasons even as the film is getting ready for commercial release in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. During his few public appearances Cheung has looked pale and weak.

Speculation has been mounting in the Hong Kong media. It's been reported that the actor has been worried that his screen image is not youthful and beautiful anymore, and signs of baldness have been commented on in recent years.

Cheung began his career as an actor and pop singer in 1978, and has always been portrayed as a handsome, clean-cut leading man. His current depression has been attributed to a crisis in his 17-year relationship with his boyfriend, the mysterious Mr. Tang. The official reason is that Cheung is taking a course of Chinese medicines and it is inconvenient for him to travel.

Whatever the reason may be, many on-going projects have been affected. Cheung recently canceled such filmmaking projects as Beautiful Shanghai (美麗上海), produced by Hsu Feng (徐楓, who also produced Farewell My Concubine) and 20, 30, 40, produced by Silvia Chang (張艾嘉).

His own production company, Dream Team (夢幻聯隊), was preparing to shoot Stealing Heart (偷心), to be directed by himself and starring two Chinese actors, Hu Jun (胡軍) and Ning Jing (寧靜), but even this personal project has been temporarily abandoned.

Has the making of Inner Sense put a hex on Cheung? This is what the gossip rags are asking, and ghosts and lost love are definitely more exciting than a career that has been involved in an extended downswing.

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