Eddie Peng interview
Eddie Peng takes off his shirt again in the recently released MMA flick Unbeatable. Arthur Tam meets the handsome heartthrob
In the past two years, audiences have begun paying close attention to Eddie Peng – now grown-up, mature, ripped and ripe for the plucking. Now 31, the actor was scouted to be a teen idol actor in 2002 upon returning to Taiwan after his studies in Canada. Peng then spent the next several years in a series of formulaic chick-flicks and saccharine romance movies to limited fanfare until his first serious drama, 2011's Jump Ashin!, came along. Peng plays a talented gymnast who falls from glory and into the wrong crowd, but through some serious soul-searching, gets back on the pommel horse. The movie was met with mixed reviews, but audiences got to see Peng transform from an innocent, bright-eyed teen into a muscle-packed man of a character.
Since then, fashion magazines have mobbed Peng for shoots and directors have sought him out for a variety of roles – he's had seven since Jump Ashin!, including his latest release, Dante Lam's MMA action-drama Unbeatable. In the film, Peng plays protégé Lin Siqi to his MMA mentor, Chin Fai (Nick Cheung). Things are looking extremely bright for Peng's career, and he is already preparing for his next physically demanding role. Peng sits down with Time Out at the W Hong Kong to talk about his preparations as an MMA fighter and his thoughts on becoming a sex symbol.
Hi Eddie, great to finally meet you. You've been in the spotlight non-stop since Jump Ashin! How are you dealing with all the roles and all the attention? Are you stressed?
I am, but for roles, I'm not. I didn't make any new movies for a while, so now I treasure every role that I have. More movies means different roles where I can expand my acting experience, which is a good thing. Frankly, I think it's more exhausting not to have any jobs.
True. You're pretty big now, and literally too! Tell us how preparing for your role in Unbeatable differed from your role in Jump Ashin! Was it more challenging?
Well, it's definitely been a new challenge. Training to be a gymnast and training to be an MMA fighter is quite different. We have to transform physically to get even bigger muscles, which requires heavy weight training. On top of that, I've been learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu; I had to train daily for four to five hours. Building up physically is quite important, otherwise I cannot convince the audience that I can be an MMA fighter. For two months it was basically eat, workout, sleep; eat, workout, sleep. I felt like a pig. And after a day of shooting I still had to work out, so it was pretty tiring. It's different from doing Ashin. The only thing that is the same is the sense of accomplishment.
So you actually are unbeatable!
Well, my mind is unbeatable, but my body is not.
Did you get injured at all during training?
Yes! My opponent in the film is a real fighter, so sometimes he forgets he's actually playing a role. Whenever he sees an opening, he'll just go for it. One time I got hit by a left hook to my left ear. All I could hear was a ringing noise in my head, but we just kept on shooting. Afterward, my assistant gave me an ice pack. After every shot, my ear kept getting more and more swollen.
Were you a fan of MMA before this film?
I love watching MMA on YouTube. Before, I watched the matches without fully understanding what was going on, but now I totally understand what they are doing, how they are strategising their moves. [After making Unbeatable], I enjoy it more and appreciate it more.
Now that you're done with Unbeatable, are you still training?
I try to do at least an hour every day when I'm not working on a film, but it just so happens that I'm going to be in another action film… so I'm training again.
Do you think you will do more method acting?
Actually I've done quite a bit already. Have you heard about the movie Hear Me?
Yes, I've heard.
[laughs] Well, I spent a year preparing because I had to learn sign language. And I think this is a good way for me to learn how to act. As a gymnast [in Jump Ashin!], I had to go through six months of training, and I had to train extensively to be a fighter for this role [in Unbeatable]. However, I wouldn't mind doing a romance movie now, because it's much easier with way less preparation. Before, I yearned to do masculine, mature action-oriented roles. Now I'm ready for some highschool movies again. [chuckles]
How was it working with Nick Cheung?
Oh, he's crazy! He is truly unbeatable. His transformation was incredible. His change was so much more drastic than mine. Also, Nick is a super-nice guy and, honestly, he taught me a lot – how to relax and just go with the flow. When I was on set with him, I felt like he's the master and I'm the student.
Being featured in all these magazines lately and being known for your sexy bod, do you think of yourself as a sex symbol?
I don't have many feelings about it. I feel a bit strange, but I'll take it as a compliment if people think I am. I definitely don't have the best bod, either. I just hope I can be a role model for teenagers to just spend time to exercise and live healthy. When you occupy your time exercising, you won't do bad stuff.
What can we expect from Eddie Peng in the future?
Right now I just want to concentrate on acting. I'm going to take on as many roles as possible and maximise my abilities, so people can see I have range. I'm keeping my options open.
Unbeatable Dir Dante Lam Category IIB, 116 mins, opens on Thu Aug 15