Thursday, May 27, 2010

Simon Yam - Famous


Because I thought it would be of interest, I've tried to summarize this Simon Yam article/interview with Famous. Portions are unclear to me, so I hope it's not too far off the mark. Corrections and clarifications welcome. ;D

Simon Yam


  • Simon recalls living in a small police dormitory housing growing up in the '60s. Because his father was hospitable and had a 14" b/w TV which was a sensation, 30 some people would gather every night to watch. Because of these cheerful memories, Simon since then has wanted to be on TV.
  • At the age of 11 years-old, Simon's father, a member of the Marine Police was shot and killed by a crazed colleague. To help his illiterate mother, he made plastic flowers, bead and leather shoes to make money.
  • Because his father died when he was young, Simon was often bullied at school but he never called his brother, also  a cop, for help. Rather, Simon held back, and never fought but would apologize and walk away. Now decades later, he is better off than they are. Being tall and thin, in the '70s Simon began to model in his spare time. By taking a bus and eating bread, he managed to save enough for tuition and books.
  • At only 17, Simon entered the TV and film business. In his second series, he played a homosexual but his family supported him despite society's lack of acceptance at the time.
  • In the '80s, fair-skinned actors like Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Ken Tong were popular and Simon had no choice but to play only supporting roles on TV in assembly line productions. These were hard times but Simon began to learn English by watching a TV program.
  • Fortunately, Taiwan cinematographer, director Chen Kun-Hou invited Simon to Taiwan at the peak of Taiwan's 'new wave'. Despite the Mandarin-Cantonese language barriers, Simon signed a contract and renewed his love of acting again. He was impressed by the sincerity, writing, ideas and foundation of culture in the filmmaking. It made him relfect on Hong Kong films and its concentration on guns, fighting, triads and lack of vitality.
  • In 1988, Simon made two films, Osmanthus Alley Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Film and Burning Snow, directed by Patrick Tam. So, when people think of Echoes of the Rainbow and Night and Fog as atypical roles, Simon says old timers Chen Kun-Hou and Patrick Tam would remember.
  • In 1992, the Hong Kong entertainment world brought attention to the world with its 'anti-triad march against violence'. Even during the darkest times, the triads dared not to bother two artists. [a bit unclear on this next] One was a member of Jackie Chan's Stunt Team. One was Simon Yam whose brother was a high police official. Originally, he was forced to make 16 films in one year and owed $7M in debt. Despite that, he did not turn to his brother for help. He decided to face it alone and not trouble his brother.
  • [still a bit fuzzy] Josephine Siao Fong Fong was once forced at knife point to make a film. Simon, as in the past, did not resist the triads but did what he had to do. He did his best to support the director and to help him make money for the triads and repay the $7M debt. Now, in 2010, I am welcome everywhere and have many friends, no one causes me trouble because I helped them make money.Because I acted with integrity earlier and not seek retaliation, everything ends well.
  • Simon praises Wong Jing for producing Ann Hui's The Way We Are and Night and Fog. Although he has made many bad movies, he invested on these films when no one else would.
[There's still more, but I'm too exhausted to continue...Maybe I'll pick it up another day.]


2 comments:

beyondasiaphilia said...

Great job so far on the Simon Yam article! Lots of stuff I didn't know, although I suspected he was under the thumb of the triads at one point, poor guy. He briefly alludes to this in an interview for Fred Ambroisine that's on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9hs76NIx4Q

Looking forward to more!

dleedlee said...

Thanks, it was a challenge I really wasn't looking forward to but simply couldn't resist. ;D