Cooling period

I think that it takes five years for people to be somewhat accepted back into a fold. For unforgiving people, half of a decade is half-measured. There are four examples in the film industry which illustrate this – Conan Lee, Victor Salva, Ellen Chan and Gerard Depardieu. As it turns out, a credit provider will have you blackballed for five years if you have unpaid bills for a certain amount of time. Once you’ve amended your ways, your record will be admonished after five years.

It needs to be noted that Bruce Lee’s Game of Death was released five years after his death. Realistically speaking, it shouldn’t have taken so long to find a lookalike (especially given how long that it took to find a Jackie Chan lookalike for Ninja in the Dragon’s Den). The truth of the matter is that Bruce burned a lot of bridges and alienated potential allies by the time that he died in 1973, so it took five years for the dust to settle, so to speak. Coincidentally, that’s how long his second insurance policy lasted.

Conan Lee became a big star in Hong Kong after Ninja in the Dragon’s Den became a sleeper hit. He looked at his contract and claimed that he was underpaid. He was not sympathetic as to how much money was invested in him i.e. travel fares, training, nourishment, accommodation, the budget of the film and publicity. What made matters worse was that the nurturing producer was already badly beaten by gangsters because he refused to lend him out to a studio until the sequel was filmed (they had a script and pre-production began).

What led to the contract review was that Conan was tempted by another producer who would later abandon him due to the loss of face that the injured producer had received. Deflated, Conan had no choice but to move back to the U.S. in the 1982 summer. He returned to Hong Kong in 1987 because a film company wanted to experiment with the idea of combining a Chow Yun-Fat movie with a Jackie Chan one, which allows 1988’s Tiger on the Beat (much like Ninja in the Dragon’s Den) to be perceived as a Chansploitation movie.

In 1988, Victor Salva had been arrested due to literally gross misconduct with a minor during the making of Clownhouse (which was released in 1989). It didn’t help matters that he owned pornography of a similar nature, so he was sentenced to three years before being released after 15 months. For five whole years (i.e. the entirety of 1990 to the entirety of 1994), no-one wanted to finance a Victor Salva film. It was only because of Francis Ford Coppola (the initial supporter) that Victor got work.

In 1995, Ellen Chan appeared in her last classic film (Eternal Evil of Asia). From 1996 to 2000, she was blackballed for accusing Wong Jing (one of China’s most lucrative film-makers) of using a casting couch. Jing is not one to hold grudges. In 2012, he would eventually cast Ellen in Naked Soldier. When talking about why Ellen’s career wasn’t as prosperous as it could have been, he claimed that too much of her effort was placed on romance. It’s common for H.K. actresses to retire after obtaining matrimony with a rich man.

In 2015, the Ukraine barred Gerard Depardieu from entering the country for five years. Prior to the blackballing, the iceberg’s tip was his friendship with Vladimir Putin. To make matters worse, he refused to see Ukraine as being separate from Russia. If this had happened in the `80s, Gerard would’ve been more popular in Hollywood. Imagine an English actor getting barred from Northern Ireland for seeing it as part of Ireland. To make everything come full circle, I should point out that Gerard’s Green Card could be seen as inspired by Paper Marriage (a H.K. movie).

Even in the world of H.K. TV, 5 years is like a prison sentence when barring someone. Francis Ng Chun-Yu found out the hard way as he was barred by the TVB network in 1992 and only re-emerged on there in 1997. The reason for the blacklisting was that he criticized their casting policies. He must have drank liquid courage after he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards (regarding his histrionic historic role in Handsome Siblings).


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