I came to know Leslie Cheung in HK. He sat opposite to me, smoking while listening to me talking about the story of Farewell to my Concubine. I noticed his fingers trembled as he held the cigarettes. His legs folded elegantly and he looked calm. I told him I was glad to have him played the role of Deiyi ~ but I wasn’t too confident that he could handle the role well at that time. He said he could give a good performance since Leslie Cheung is Deiyi ~ a person who cannot distinguish between acting and real life and a person having the characteristics of male and female. I only returned him with a smile.
A few months’ later, after shooting the scene that Shau-lou married to Juxin which had deeply hurt Deiyi, we went to the square outside the Imperial Palace for the next scene. It was shot in the night. This scene was about Deiyi accidental found the sword he promised to give Shau-lou as a gift in his childhood. He was bringing it back to Shau-lou and met the Japanese soldiers on his way. Leslie only had one shot in that scene. After the lighting was set, we let him get into the rickshaw. The camera started to roll… the Japanese soldier raised the curtain with his knife. Leslie was sitting inside the rickshaw in his smashed make-up with a long bloody red mark near his mouth. The despair and sorrow shown in his eyes are really terrifying. After shooting finished Leslie was still sitting there motionless with tears in his eyes. I didn’t bother to comfort him but signaled for the light to turn off. I let him stay in the dark. Until then I realize it should be an actor like Leslie who could give all his heart and soul into the role he’s going to play, could have attained such a standard of performance. It is exactly this expression from his eyes that explains fully the theme of the story i.e. obsession and betrayal.
As a director, Farewell to my Concubine is the film I ever made with the strongest emotions. After finishing it for some time I still couldn’t get myself out of it. I felt miserable and during that time I dreamt of Leslie in one night. He was wearing the costume of Deiyi, looking at me with the same familiar smiling eyes. He said, “I’m saying goodbye to you forever.” I woke up suddenly. I found my eyes were all wet. I couldn’t tell whether he’s Deiyi or Leslie. His farewell in my dream seems to coincide with his fate 10 years later. Yes, it’s true, Leslie is Deiyi.
I always think Leslie belongs to the past times. It is because he got a pair of eyes that could only be found in our vanity dreams of the past.