Cannes best actor winner Tony Leung Chiu-wai said he spent two months memorizing the script for the new Ang Lee spy thriller "Lust, Caution," a painstaking process because the dialogue is delivered in Mandarin, instead of his native Cantonese.
Leung is a Hong Kong native, where the southern Chinese dialect of Cantonese is most common. Mandarin is China’s national language.
"Mandarin is not my native tongue, so I have to spend a significant amount of time memorizing the script," Leung said at a news conference in Shanghai on Wednesday to promote another movie, "Confession of Pain."
Footage of the news conference was posted on the Chinese news Website Sina.com on Thursday.
Leung said the language-learning process took two months this time.
"I feel a lot of pressure shooting any film at the beginning, but once you’re prepared and immersed in the process, the pressure disappears," he told reporters.
Leung said shooting of "Lust, Caution" is on a tight schedule because some scenes took longer than expected and that he plans to work on New Year’s Day and Christmas Day, both holidays in Hong Kong.
He said Lee, who won the Oscar for best director earlier this year for the gay love story "Brokeback Mountain," aims to wrap up shooting by the end of January.
"Lust, Caution," an adaptation of a short story by famed Chinese writer Eileen Chang, is about a group of patriotic students who plot to assassinate the intelligence chief in the Japanese-backed Chinese government during the World War II era. Leung plays the intelligence official.
The movie also features Chinese actress Joan Chen from "The Last Emperor," Chinese-American pop star Leehom Wang and newcomer Tang Wei, also from China.
"Confession of Pain," directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak of "Infernal Affairs" fame, is about a police officer who seeks revenge for family tragedy.
Leung won the best actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000 for his performance in Hong Kong art-house director Wong Kar-wai’s "In the Mood for Love."