I remember the first time I told myself: “Wow! Here the most beautiful and perfect face I’ve seen in my life!” It was on Spring of 1984, I was 19 years old and I played my second film Behind the Yellow Line. Leading actors were Leslie Cheung, Anita Mui and me. 19 years again passed by, my memories of the film faded away, but there is an unforgettable thing: Behind the Yellow Line has been the starting point of a veritable career of a star for an actor who was at that time only average known. The lead song of the movie ‘Monica’ was a hit and also signed a new era of the Cantopop. Afterward many other Leslie’s songs reached the top of charts. And, it’s right to tell, he contributed very much to make Hong Kong movies so world-wide renowned.
In spite of our many collaborations during years, Leslie and me, we never became intimate friends, since, in a way, we didn’t share the same view of the world and we had very different personalities. This fact didn’t prevent me from admiring his beauty and his sensibility which he put at disposal of his movies and his talent as a singer.
Particularly I noticed one thing during the night-shooting of a scene on Days Of Being Wild. Morning was coming and we were ready to shoot the last scene of the night. In that scene my character must go to take back his personal stuff at the apartment of the man who broke her heart, played by Leslie. The camera was on me, you could see Leslie’s back only, but at the end of the shooting he must go out of the screen to return to his room. Everybody was tired and we wish for one thing only: finishing to shoot in a fast way and going to bed. While the staff prepared camera and lights, I looked at Leslie slowly rehearsing in order to obtain the most appropriate “sound of footsteps” to reach the corridor. This movie was one of the first films shot without dubbing in Hong Kong. But at that time Leslie was already conscious of the importance of this kind of details, for the sake of the project and of the character. I was very impressed and I must admit I secretly stole from him this trick. I’ve used it in movies I’ve played afterward.
I admire all his courage. There is only a very little bunch of celebrities in Hong Kong ready to openly admit their homosexuality. This is a very hard thing in a society where rules of beauty are a 22 years old woman with spotlessly clean complexion, a skin with no signs of suntan, hands and feet admirably treated and nail-varnished.
Leslie suffered for many years from the pressure of paparazzi who followed him continuously to force him to his coming out. Taking on him a great risk for his career (since almost the most of his fans were teenagers), he stood up with pride and no shame to talk about his sexual preferences. I remember I thought: “Happy for you, Leslie!”
From a personal point of view I would like to remember my last meetings with him. The first time was at the wedding party of one of my close friend, Anna, just one year ago, on April 2002. It was a huge party and it was rare for Leslie attending such a crowded event. I was both surprised and enchanted to meet him there. We looked for a way to avoid the crowd for some minutes and we went to chat near the bar. I was a bit worried because my assistant Teresa (who worked for him too at that time) told me before he wasn’t in a good shape. We chatted about his life, his health, about his depression which became more and more oppressive. At the end of our conversation he said: “I wanted so much to work with you again on another project, but I’m not handsome enough to play your lover any more”. I was shocked to hear this from him, I never could imagine a man like Leslie was losing his self-confidence. I tried to find right words to tell him he was always wonderful, but somebody came to take a picture with me. After I was hurried to join him at the bar, but Teresa told me he already left the party.
I met him for the very last time at the end of 2002, attending a dinner organised by Jackie Chan for some close friends. I went to the toilet and Leslie accompanied me. We had finally a long chat… Funny place for a funny conversation, but Leslie was made in this way. The day after, at the end of the morning, he asked Teresa to tell me to call him back. We continued our conversation - a conversation which he wished to keep it secret. He told me, at the end, that I deserved a wonderful life and I must take good care of myself. We say good-bye and we put down the telephone.
Well, that’s OK, my dearest Leslie, I will do my best… I promise.
Maggie Cheung (x)