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Anita (Chinese: 梅艷芳) is a 2021 Hong Kong biographical musical drama film about Cantopop star Anita Mui directed by Longman Leung, with a script written by Leung and Jack Ng. Louise Wong, in her screen role debut, stars as the titular singer, depicting her life from childhood until her last moments before her death of cervical cancer in 2003. The film features an ensemble cast, including Fish Lew, Gordon Lam and Louis Koo in supporting roles.

Anita
Theatrical release poster
梅艷芳
Directed byLongman Leung
Written by
  • Longman Leung
  • Jack Ng
Based onAnita Mui
Produced by
  • Bill Kong
  • Ivy Ho
  • Tang Wai-but
Starring
CinematographyAnthony Pun
Edited by
  • David Richardson
  • Cheung Ka-fai
  • Ron Chan
Music by
Production
companies
  • Edko Films
  • Huaxia Film Distribution
  • Irresistable Films (HK)
  • PCCW Media
  • One Cool Film Production
Distributed byEdko Films (HK)
Sony Pictures Releasing International (Asia)
Release date
  • 12 November 2021 (2021-11-12)
Running time
140 minutes
CountryHong Kong
LanguageCantonese
Box officeUS$18.5 million[1][2][3]

Production of the biopic began in the 2010s when Bill Kong, president of Edko Films, initiated the project to commemorate Mui's legacy. Leung signed on the project and took over a year to write the script with Ng, as well as finalize the cast. Principal photography took place in 2018.

Although its initial 2020 release date was delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic, Anita was released in Hong Kong on 12 November 2021, followed by some Southeast Asia countries in the same month. The film received mixed to positive reviews, and made its HK$12M box-office debut with previous preview screenings.

An extended director's cut, featuring 1 hour of extra footage, was released digitally as five-episode miniseries on Disney+ through Star starting from 2 February 2022.


Plot


The film follows the life of Hong Kong Cantopop singer and actress Anita Mui. The film begins from her life as a child performer with her sister Ann Mui in the now-demolished Lai Chi Kok Amusement Park, and follows her relationship with her fashion designer Eddie Lau, fellow singer Leslie Cheung, ex-boyfriends Goto Yuki and Ben Lam, her career and up till Mui's death in 2003.


Cast



Production



Development


Hong Kong film producer Bill Kong had pushed for the making of a biographical film of his friend, whom he had struck a friendship with during the 1980s.[8][9] He attributes his devotion as the film's producer and biggest investor to be a returned favor for when Mui helped his then-fledgling film company, Edko, promote The Adventures of Milo and Otis in Hong Kong.[10] Years later, Mui had asked Kong to help her get an impactful, memorable movie role in return, and he had her lined up to star in House of Flying Daggers before her death.[10] Regretful that the singer died before the film's production, Kong thought about producing a biopic about Mui's life for over a decade. However, he had difficulties finding an appropriate script for the project, and could not find a suitable actress to play Mui.[9]

Determined to bring the project to life, Kong decided to approach Longman Leung in 2015 about the biopic project.[10] Kong initially wanted to work with screenwriter Lilian Lee, who had written the screenplay for Rouge, which Mui starred in. However, Lee turned the offer down.[11] Leung wrote an initial synopsis, conducted a year of interviews with Mui's inner circle, and developed a script with co-writer Jack Ng.[12]


Casting


For Anita, Leung took notes on how historical drama The Crown portrayed its subject matter. He was inspired by the television series' focus on casting actors for their ability to evoke a historical figure's personality.[13] Casting calls for the film began in late 2016,[14] with Kong and Leung spending a year deliberating on who should play Mui. According to Leung, the production team auditioned over 3000 actors during the process.[15] After multiple rounds of auditions, the team eventually decided to cast model Louise Wong in her first film role.[9] In her auditions, Wong performed a Cantonese nanyin song, a wenxi Chinese opera performance, the theme from Rouge, and Anita Mui’s song “Life Written in Water” (似水流年).[12] According to Kong, the production team were moved to tears by Wong's performance during her final audition, where she sang Mui's "Sunset Melodies" (夕陽之歌) in a full dress rehearsal of the film's final scene.[9] Wong was initially stunned by her casting, as she had never considered becoming an actress. After coming to terms with the magnitude of the role, she began training in acting and performance for six months.[14]

In addition to Wong, the production team cast Louis Koo to play fashion designer Eddie Lau, and Gordon Lam as pianist-friend So Hau Leung. For the role of Leslie Cheung, the production team went with Terrance Lau,[16] who was positively received for his work in the 2019 romantic drama Beyond the Dream.[13] While he eventually accepted the part, Lau nearly turned the opportunity down due to the pressure he felt of portraying Cheung.[17]


Filming


Anita entered production in 2018, with principal photography lasting 80 days.[13] As the movie depicted scenes mostly in 1980s Hong Kong, the production crew secured permissions to film in Hong Kong landmarks, such as the Hong Kong Coliseum before its renovation and Hong Kong Stadium.[10] Leung, who had previously directed effects-heavy action films, used his post-production experience to leverage computer-generated Imagery to produce settings of the past.[12] The Hong Kong visual effects company, Free-D workshop, was tasked with recreating various Hong Kong landmarks from the 80s and 90s. The visual effects team worked with the art team to reconstruct demolished buildings like the Lee Theatre, or places where the scenery had changed a lot, such as the East Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront.[18]

Filming in Thailand took place ostensibly in a secluded villa called Lanna Hill House, in the Mae-On district of Chiang Mai.[19]

Although Leung had members of his crew dedicated to obtaining the rights to Mui's music from the company that held them, he still found difficulty finding existing masters of her recordings and was only able to locate four originals.[12] Taking inspiration from the recording process of the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, Leung's audio team blended vocal tracks of Mui, Wong, and a session singer in order to recreate Mui's singing style.[13]

After getting feedback from friends in the industry, the cast and crew did an additional 10-day shoot in 2019. The film was in post-production during the COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong.[13]


Release



Marketing


The first trailer and poster for Anita was released in May 2021. However, Wong's involvement with the project was kept a mystery until 8 July 2021, when she was officially announced as the actor to be portraying Mui.[20][21][22]

Following the film's release, Edko Films would continue to promote Anita by offering free tram rides in Hong Kong on the 18th anniversary of Mui's death on 30 December.[23]


Box office


Anita had its world premiere as the last film shown at the 2021 Busan International Film Festival.[24][25] The film was released on 12 November 2021 in Hong Kong and mainland China. Sony Pictures Releasing and Buena Vista International will distribute the film in five Asian countries, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam by the end of 2021.[26][27] The film topped the box office in Hong Kong upon release, and debuted second at the Chinese box office with $6.3 million in ticket sales and earning more than 10 million yuan on its opening day.[28][29]

On 5 January 2022, Disney announced that an episodic adaptation of Anita would be available on Disney+ Star content starting on 2 February of that year. The series, titled Anita (Director's Cut), is composed of five 45-minute long episodes.[30] It rearranges existing scenes and contains over an hour of unreleased footage.[31]

On 6 January 2022, the film was screened in Thailand nationally.


Reception


Richard Kulpers of Variety wrote, "Longman Leung’s nostalgic drama has a soft center but should still please the late star’s worldwide legion of fans.[32] Edmund Lee of South China Morning Post wrote, "There are notable – and understandable – omissions. While the film elaborates on Mui’s ultimately futile romantic relationships and highlights her charitable endeavors, it shies away from mentioning her fabled political activism in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. Mui’s bloodsucking mother and brothers – a key part of her tragic backstory – are also conspicuously absent."[33]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 60% of 5 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.3/10.[34]


Accolades


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result Ref.
Hong Kong Film Awards 17 July 2022 Best Film Anita Nominated [35][36]
Best Director Longman Leung Nominated
Best Actress Louise Wong Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Louis Koo Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Fish Liew Won
Best New Performer Louise Wong Won
Best Cinematography Anthony Pun Nominated
Best Art Direction Pater Wong Nominated
Best Costume and Make Up Design Dora Ng and Karen Yip Won
Best Original Film Score Chiu Tsang-hei and Andy Cheung Nominated
Best Sound Design Tu Duu-chih and Wu Shu-yao Won
Best Visual Effects Yee Kwok-leung, Garrett K Lam, Raymond Leung, and Candy Hung Won

References


  1. "China Boxoffice-EntGroup". Endata. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  2. "Mei Yanfang (梅艷芳) (2021)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  3. "Anita (2021)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  4. 許育民 (7 November 2021). "《梅艷芳》披露與近藤真彥戀情 胡子彤飾徒弟︰戴上假髮便有感覺". 香港01. Archived from the original on 2 December 2021. Retrieved 2 January 2022.
  5. "Canto-pop queen Anita Mui was the 'Madonna of Asia'". South China Morning Post. 10 October 2019. Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  6. "Don't send me to HK, begs 'dead man walking'". South China Morning Post. 19 September 2004. Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  7. Halligan, Fionnuala. "'Anita': Busan Review (Closing Film)". Screen. Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  8. Asia, Breaking (10 July 2021). "Long-Awaited Anita Mui Biopic to be Released the End of 2021". Breaking Asia. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  9. Lo, Zabrina (9 November 2021). "Louise Wong and Bill Kong on Canto-Pop Legend Anita Mui's Final Wish and Filming "Anita"". Tatler Asia. Retrieved 15 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. Lee, Edmund (9 July 2021). "Anita Mui biopic paints a loving portrait of Canto-pop superstar and features vivid period details of 1980s and 90s Hong Kong - South China Morning Post". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 9 November 2021. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  11. Chan, Ga-cheung (8 July 2021). "【一代天后】開拍《梅艷芳》重現香港黃金年代 導演梁樂民:王丹妮是最適合人選 - 香港經濟日報 - TOPick - 娛樂". Hong Kong Economic Times. Retrieved 15 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. "A Star is Reborn: Anita Mui On the Big Screen". Zolima City Magazine. 13 November 2021. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  13. Shackleton, Liz (14 October 2021). "Longman Leung on how 'The Crown' helped him research Busan closing film 'Anita'". Screen Daily. Retrieved 15 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. Mok, Laramine (10 November 2021). "'I am not Anita Mui': Louise Wong on playing the Canto-pop legend in Anita". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 15 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. Seung-hyun, Song (14 October 2021). "Director Longman Leung hopes to shed light on legendary Hong Kong star Anita Mui's life". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  16. "Anita, biopic of late Cantopop legend Anita Mui scheduled for release in 2021". CNA Lifestyle. 10 July 2021. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  17. Hsia, Heidi (5 November 2021). "Terrance Lau nearly turns down "Anita"". sg.style.yahoo.com. Retrieved 15 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. "電影《梅艷芳》VFX製作專訪" [VFX Production Interview for the Film "Anita"]. CGV Space (in Chinese (Hong Kong)). CG Visual, which publishes CGV Space. 20 January 2022. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  19. Rhodes, Richard (10 September 2022). "Film Location". Lanna Hill House. Retrieved 10 September 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. Chow, Vivienne (27 May 2021). "Anita Mui Biopic Completes Production at Edko Films". Variety. Retrieved 15 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. Lim, Ruey Yan (9 July 2021). "Cantopop legend Anita Mui to be played by model Louise Wong in biopic". The Straits Times. ISSN 0585-3923. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  22. Kho, Gordon (9 July 2021). "Trailer for Anita Mui biopic reveals actress playing the late Cantopop diva". The Star. Retrieved 15 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. "Free tram rides to mark Cantopop star Anita Mui's death anniversary". The Standard. 22 December 2021. Retrieved 25 December 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. Noh, Jean (15 September 2021). "Busan Film Festival sets 92 world premieres, will close with 'Anita'". Screen Daily. Retrieved 15 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. Seung-hyun, Song (28 September 2021). "BIFF ticket sales open". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  26. Brzeski, Patrick (8 July 2021). "Cannes: Sony Takes Anita Mui Biopic for Five Asian Territories". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. Wong, Silvia (8 July 2021). "Sony swoops for Anita Mui biopic from Edko Films (exclusive)". Screen Daily. Retrieved 15 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  28. Brzeski, Patrick (15 November 2021). "China Box Office: Disney's 'Jungle Cruise' Flops After Delayed Release". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  29. Auto, Hermes. "Actress Louise Wong felt Anita Mui's presence while filming biopic | The Straits Times". www.straitstimes.com. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  30. Frater, Patrick (6 January 2022). "Disney Plus Asian Production Slate Expands With Chinese and Korean Series and 'Anita' Adaptation". Variety. Retrieved 6 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. "《梅艷芳》導演版分5集Disney+年初二上架!從未曝光片段交代梅姐與張國榮、梅愛芳情感" [Anita Director's Cut: 5 Episodes Releasing on Disney+ the Second Day of New Years! The Never-Before-Seen Footage of Anita Mui's Emotional Relationship with Leslie Cheung and Ann Mui]. Yahoo! News Hong Kong (in Chinese). Retrieved 6 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  32. "'Anita' Review: Splashy Biopic Looks Great but Lacks Soul". Variety. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  33. Lee, Edmund (10 November 2021). "Anita: Louise Wong shines as pop diva Anita Mui in emotional biopic". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 15 November 2021. Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  34. "Anita (2021)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  35. Wong, Silvia (16 February 2022). "Soi Cheang's 'Limbo' Leads 2022 Hong Kong Film Awards Nominations". Screen Daily. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  36. "第40屆香港電影金像獎提名名單" [Nomination List of The 40th Hong Kong Film Awards]. Hong Kong Film Awards. Retrieved 26 February 2022.



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