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Wayne Wang / Director

March 29, 1998|Steve Hochman

Hong Kong-born Wayne Wang explored the Asian immigrant experience in films ranging from his micro-budget 1982 debut "Chan Is Missing" to the 1993 hit "The Joy Luck Club." Now Wang, 49, turned to Hong Kong's hand-over by England to China last year as the setting for "Chinese Box," starring Jeremy Irons and Chinese actress Gong Li. It opens April 17.

CHANGING IMAGES: "We're past the days of Fu Man Chu and Charlie Chan. People are aware of the stereotypes and are doing their research. But there is a perspective that treats [Asian subjects] as more exotic than anything else."

ACTION FIGURE: "I'm curious about all the Hong Kong action directors coming here. A friend of mine, Kirk Wong, has a film at TriStar with Mark Wahlberg ["The Big Hit"]. Francis Ford Coppola and I have a company, Chrome Dragon, making similar kinds of films, but still low-budget and in Asia, rather than making them here."

GRASS ROOTS: "The excuse a lot of young filmmakers use is how hard it is to raise money. But if you really want to do it, you can, even if it's for $20,000 and shot on video--just something you're passionate about and not care whether it gets distribution, like Jim Jarmusch or Spike Lee or me."

DARE: "There's a producer challenging me, saying, 'Can you still make a film for $20,000?' I say, 'Yeah.' 'Blue in the Face' was a little like that. We shot 'Smoke' and at the end we still had energy and said to Miramax, 'Give us a little more money and we'll shoot it in five days.' "

CHINA WATCH: "Films are very much scrutinized [in Hong Kong] now. It will be interesting to see what happens with 'Seven Years in Tibet,' 'Red Lantern' and 'Kundun.' They say they're going to let Hong Kong be free, and if so, let 'Kundun' be shown--or 'Chinese Box,' for that matter."

TOURIST TIPS: "You can go to B-Boss, the prostitution place as big as a football stadium. When we filmed there they were dancing onstage to the song 'I Want to Be Your Underwear,' a big hit inspired by Prince Charles' illicit phone call to his lover. We put the song on the soundtrack album."

NEXT UP: "I'm working with [writer] Alvin Sargent, who won Academy Awards for 'Julia' and 'Ordinary People.' He's adapting a book that was popular in the '80s, 'Anywhere but Here' by Mona Simpson, a mother-and-daughter 'Wizard of Oz' story about coming to L.A."

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