Tony Leung broke down in tears while accepting the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement award Saturday at the Venice Film Festival.
“You want to make me cry!” the veteran actor said after director Ang Lee showered him with praise and presented him with the honor. The titan of Hong Kong cinema received the award after three of his movies — “A City of Sadness” (1989), “Cyclo” (1995) and “Lust, Caution” (2007) — previously won the top prize at the festival.
“I am so grateful to have been raised in Hong Kong, as well as being nurtured later by the Hong Kong movie industry … where my acting career began,” Leung said during his acceptance speech.
“I also want to share this honor and give thanks to all the wonderful people who I have worked with over the past 41 years, because this is a tribute to them as well — and of course, to Hong Kong cinema.”
The Oscar-winning filmmaker, who collaborated with Leung on “Lust, Caution,” also told a story about how the actor would stay on set to watch people work rather than relax during his downtime. Lee recalled urging Leung to conserve his energy so that he could “shine on camera,” but the actor insisted that he preferred to “watch people to see where” he could help.
“We always think that directors help actors, but sometimes it’s the other way around,” Lee said.
“It’s both terrifying and meaningful when someone that good and genuine embodies a hidden part of you. His willingness to constantly share that vulnerability is what makes him so great. And … he doesn’t do it for the credit.”
Leung was quick to thank Lee for all the compliments, in turn hailing him as his “most respected director” and good friend. The “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” star also thanked his wife, family, friends and fans for their support.
“Thank you, Venice International Film Festival,” he said. “This is really a great honor.”
Venice is one of the first major film festivals to open during the Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikes. Though SAG-AFTRA members are generally not allowed to promote their upcoming projects at industry events during the strike, exceptions have been made at Venice for cast members of films operating under interim agreements.
The guild issued a statement last week encouraging those actors to attend film festivals and to promote select titles that have agreed to abide by SAG-AFTRA’s proposed guidelines and aren’t affiliated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. At Venice, “Ferrari” star Adam Driver did just that while leveraging the opportunity to speak out against the major studios.
“I’m very proud to be here, to be a visual representation of a movie that’s not part of the AMPTP and to promote the SAG leadership directive, which is an effective tactic, which is the interim agreement,” Driver told reporters during the festival.
“Every time people from SAG go and support a movie that has met the terms of the interim agreement, it just makes it more obvious that these people are willing to support the people that they collaborate with, and the others are not.”
Times staff writer Mark Olsen contributed to this report.