With over 70 film credits, Yuen Woo Ping is one of the foremost authorities on kung-fu movies. In addition to directing such genre staples as Drunken Master and Iron Monkey, Woo Ping has also enjoyed much success as a martial arts choreographer, crafting the stunts for high-voltage action sequences in movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Kill Bill, The Matrix trilogy and The Forbidden Kingdom (on which he was also an executive producer). Woo Ping’s latest film finds him taking on both roles—director and choreographer—with True Legend, the epic tale of General Su Can (Vincent Zhao), who leads a military force to save a prince from a horde of enemies in the mountains of China. The film also stars Jay Chou (The Green Hornet), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and, in one of his last roles, the late David Carradine. Just before the movie’s release on May 13, MM caught up with Woo Ping to discuss the making of True Legend.

Kyle Rupprecht (MM): Can you tell us a little about True Legend? This is your first feature in 15 years. What brought you back to the director’s chair?
Yuen Woo Ping (YW):
The story of Beggar Su has been translated to the big screen many times. But the character is often portrayed in a supporting role. For example, in Drunken Master, my dad [Yuen Siu Tien] played Su as the master of Jackie Chan’s character. True Legend gave me a chance to depict this legendary character as a leading role and in a more detailed way. I liked the story and wanted to pay homage to my father.

MM: In addition to directing True Legend, you also served as the movie’s martial arts choreographer. Was it difficult to assume both roles? What were some of the challenges along the way?
It’s not too difficult for me. I’ve done it before in some of my past movies. And in traditional Hong Kong filmmaking cultures, it is not rare for one to assume multiple roles. In terms of the challenges, as a director you have more responsibility and more work to look after, while as a choreographer you only have to cooperate with the director’s vision.

MM: You’ve worked with some amazing moviemakers over the years, including Quentin Tarantino, Ang Lee and the Wachowskis. As a director, what were some of the most important lessons you learned from them?
All of them have different personalities and different styles. For me, every shooting experience is unique. From each of them, I learned something different and wonderful.

MM: What’s up next for you, both as a director and a choreographer?
I am currently working on Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmasters as martial art choreographer.