Philip Ng stars in ‘Birth of the Dragon’

Kam Williams | 9/8/2017, 6 a.m.
Martial arts master and television and film actor, action director and fight choreographer Philip Ng talks about making his North ...
Philip Ng stars as Bruce Lee in “Birth of the Dragon.” BH Tilt

How did you prepare to play the role? Did you watch all of his films?

PN: I would say I’ve been unwittingly preparing to play him my whole life. My extreme interest in and curiosity about the legendary Bruce Lee and his ideas encouraged me to read all of his available writings and to watch all available footage of him. I have trained Wing Chun extensively with his instructor [Wong Shun Leung] under Grandmaster Ip Man. Plus, having worked in the action movie industry in Hong Kong for the last 15 years as both an actor and martial arts choreographer on over 35 film and television productions afforded me not only the skill set to confidently film a kung fu movie, I have also worked with many people who were close with Bruce and shared with me many of their anecdotes. After being selected to play him, I began preparing by specifically studying his speech patterns and how he moved while not engaged in combat, as I was already familiar with the way he moved when he fought.

What was harder to get down, his personality or his fighting style?

PN: I’m pretty comfortable with filming onscreen combat, since I’ve been doing that professionally in Hong Kong for the last decade and a half. So, merging what was written and what I had been preparing to do justice to his cinematic personality was the greater of the two challenges.

You started studying martial arts at an early age. Did you have an icon who inspired you back then?

PN: Outside of people I watch on film, the ones that really inspired me were the people who actually taught me, hands-on, and guided me into the martial arts world.

You have done stunt work, choreographed fights and acted. Which is your favorite?

PN: That’s like comparing apples and oranges. But, at the same time, they’re just different cogs in the same engine. I like performing and also like designing the performance.

What message do you want people to take away from “Birth of the Dragon”?

PN: See with your eyes and not with your ears.