Viet Nam News
Actress Hồng Ánh has returned to the silver screen after a long time working as director, businesswoman and producer. She talks to Minh Thu about the emotion and inspiration in acting.
Hồng Ánh was born Phạm Thị Hồng Ánh in 1976. She has been successful as a director. Her latest film, The Way Station, was honoured with the Special Jury Prize at the Eurasia International Film Festival 2017 in Kazakhstan and the ASEAN International Film Festival & Awards 2017 in Malaysia and was among the 16 best films screened at the 39th Cairo International Film Festival. Ánh has won many prizes both at home and abroad.
Inner Sanctum: Would you give a short introduction about the content of the currently hit film Tháng Năm Rực Rỡ (Splendid Years) in which you played a major role?
The film is about Hiểu Phương, a middle-aged woman who tries to fulfil her friend’s dying wish of reuniting their group of high school friends. The film alternates between two timelines: the present day where the women are middle-aged and the 1980s when they were in high school.
During the process of finding old friends, they revive beautiful memories when they were 16 and remember the sunniest moments of their lives.
The film is a remake of the South Korean drama Sunny, produced in 2011.
Inner Sanctum: The film was premiered on March 9. After a week, how has the audience received it?
The film was screened nationwide officially on March 9 but had some sneak shows since March 2. It received the appreciation of the audience and film critics so we decided to increase the number of screenings. By March 11, it had attracted 500,000 box office viewers. I think it’s a success for a Vietnamese film.
Many people have even gone to the cinemas to watch the film more than once. They said the film revived their memories of youth and friendship. Close friends who haven’t seen each other for a long time can reunite to watch the film together.
Inner Sanctum: How did you get involved in the project?
Director Quang Dũng is a close friend of mine, but this is the first time I have got the chance to be a part of his film. One day, Dũng called me up and asked if I knew about Sunny. I told him that I loved it and had watched it at least six times. Dũng was amazed and invited me to join his film. I asked Dũng which role he would give me. “Don’t tell me you will assign me the role of Nami (grown-up Hiểu Phương),” I said. “That’s it,” Dũng replied.
When I watched Sunny, I sympathised with Nami and realised she was similar to me. Dũng realised that too. We understand each other. So, he decided to give me a role most apt for me and I could guess before he spoke.
Inner Sanctum: You have also worked as director. What do you think of Dũng’s direction of the film?
Honestly, I don’t like two recent films directed by Dũng — Siêu Nhân X and Dạ Cổ Hoài Lang. I recognise some good points in the films but in a panoramic view, I don’t really like them.
So, when Dũng told me he would make this film, I was surprised and a little nervous because romantic and gentle drama is not his strong point. He was also under pressure as it was a remake of Sunny, a successful Korean drama. Audience and critics would certainly make a comparison between this film and the original.
But I still accepted the offer as Dũng is a close friend and above all, I loved the script and role of Nami.
Although I have worked as a director, I still respected and followed his direction because in this film, he is the "commander-in-chief". He actually did not require much from me. He just asked me to try the suitable costumes and makeup. He said he believed that I knew what to do. He was just concerned about the young actors and actresses.
He is an easy-going director in my opinion. He lets other actors discover the characters by themselves and feel the story. He will correct them at some parts and give suggestions when required.
Inner Sanctum: You said that you love the original version very much. How easy or difficult was it to act in the Vietnamese adaptation?
I had to forget everything. I tried to feel the story in my own way. For example, when Nami meets her friend at the hospital after 20 years, she smiles because she is happy. But as Hiểu Phương (in the Vietnamese version), I can’t smile like that because I meet my beloved friend in a sad situation; she is at the hospital with a deadly disease. I feel happy, too, but I just express the happiness through my eyes. I can’t smile.
It’s a short scene but it’s difficult because I have to express different complicated emotions in a short time.
Inner Sanctum: Did you have the pressure of making your part new, emotional and attractive compared to the Korean drama and compared to the part of young actress Hoàng Yến, who plays the role of Hiểu Phương at the age of 16?
The young actresses who play the roles of high school girls are innocent, exciting and calm. Meanwhile, middle-aged actresses like me create deep bass rhythm for the film. A beautiful symphony should have both high and low melodies.
The young actresses remind me of the time when I began acting. They inspired us to do this film.
Inner Sanctum: Would you share some interesting experience while acting in the film?
I have some funny scenes, like when I help my daughter exchange blows. I put on the high school uniform and go with my gang. There, I have an appearance of a 16-year-old girl. The film crew joked and named me ATR, the name of the aircraft manufactured in the 1980s, which means very old.
Inner Sanctum: Please tell us about your current project and future plans?
Last year, I was busy as director and in promoting my film, The Way Station. I presented the films abroad and at international film festivals. I also have my own business. Tháng Năm Rực Rỡ is the only project in recent times where I have worked as an actress.
Inner Sanctum: You have worked as a director, producer and actress. Which position do you like the most?
I prefer to be an actress because working as a director/producer is very difficult and painstaking for me, especially because I always seek perfection.
Besides, a director and producer often stand behind the scene. I want to shine on the screen, express myself and see the audience’s reaction directly: what they think about me, what do they say about my role and how I can touch their hearts.
Inner Sanctum: Do you think that adaptations of foreign films or films produced by foreign directors are more attractive than Vietnamese films?
No, I don’t think so. The most important element of a successful movie is a good script. When we remake a foreign film, we always try to make it suitable to the Vietnamese culture and lifestyle. We don’t copy the original film scene by scene, frame by frame. VNS