HK director basks in Oscars glory for "The Departed"

HONG KONG (Reuters) - The stunning Oscars showing of “The Departed” will give Hong Kong’s ailing film industry a much-needed boost, said a co-director of the hit “Infernal Affairs” on which veteran director Martin Scorsese’s thriller was based.

Hong Kong director Andrew Lau poses with a poster of the movie "Infernal Affairs", featuring actors Tony Leung (R in poster) and Andy Lau, in Hong Kong February 26, 2007. The stunning Oscars showing of "The Departed" will give Hong Kong's ailing film industry a much-needed boost, said Lau, co-director of the hit "Infernal Affairs" on which veteran director Martin Scorsese's thriller was based. REUTERS/Paul Yeung

“I was really excited,” Andrew Lau, one of two directors on the popular 2002 gangster flick, told Reuters on Monday.

“I’ve never been so happy watching TV before, seeing your movie remake doing so well,” he added in a telephone interview after catching the glitzy ceremony unfold live on local TV.

“Infernal Affairs” came to be a rare bright spot in a Hong Kong film industry that spawned the likes of Jackie Chan and “Face/Off” director John Woo.

But it has languished in recent years partly because of rampant piracy and after being overshadowed by regional rivals such as South Korea.

“This will suddenly raise the profile of the Hong Kong film-making industry,” Lau said of the Oscars success. “And there may be more opportunities.

“There’ll be more financing. But most of all, there’ll be more chances for (Hong Kong) films to achieve fame and success overseas.”

“The Departed” picked up four Oscars on Monday, including for best film and a long-awaited director’s prize for Scorsese.

Lau, a local impresario who just finished filming his debut Hollywood feature -- “The Flock”, a crime thriller starring Richard Gere as a federal agent -- teamed up with Mak Siu-fai to helm his gritty thriller about the machinations of two rival undercover operatives.

The hit was remade by Scorsese, who transplanted bits of the plot and criminal themes to Irish south Boston in the United States.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon played roles in a criminal syndicate and police force respectively: roles made famous by Andy Lau and Tony Leung.

“It was part luck and good timing, that Hollywood was open and was scouting for Hong Kong films and scripts,” Lau said.

Some die-hard fans of the Hong Kong original relished the moment in Internet chatrooms, but also expressed a degree of bewilderment at just how well Scorsese’s remake did: views echoed by some prominent film critics.

One chatroom participant on popular movie Web site IMDb ( said he was blown away by “Infernal Affairs”, but left utterly disappointed with “The Departed”. Another flatly dismissed Scorsese’s effort as “boring as hell”.

Lau, who said with a laugh he preferred his own film, respected Scorsese’s remake.

The trend of Hollywood remakes of Asian film has been described as the “outsourcing” of the industry and as an inevitable byproduct of globalization that will end up benefiting Asian cinema as well as American audiences.

“Many years ago, Hollywood insiders didn’t have a chance to see Hong Kong films, so this meant very few remakes,” Lau said.

“In these past few years, Hollywood’s had much more open eyes in Asia to search for many things, and take the good things back to be remade.”

The hit horror flick “The Ring” (2002), with Naomi Watts, was based on the Japanese “Ringu” of 1998. Other films whose screenplays have been adapted from Asian versions include 2006’s “The Lake House” and 2004’s “The Grudge”.

Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai” (1954) was adapted six years later into the Western “The Magnificent Seven” (1960).

“In future when we go to Hollywood, it will be much easier,” Lau said.