China Diary

Day 117: …and for the birthdays yet to come.

Last shooting day of the week, and tomorrow would be a day off! Annika had been planning my birthday party for quite some time, and asked a bunch of people from the production to join, and now the day was here! We did have some shooting to do, first, that’s for sure, but I was already antsy (no relation to our steadicam operator Ants) the whole day.

The shoot was all things weird, to begin with. Those of you who’ve read the whole diary may remember we had to stop shooting in Beijing on the fourth shooting day quite abruptly, as the local officials were a bit nervous on large gatherings during then-ongoing National Meeting in October. The issue was that the hall we were using for the shoot would be taken down after we left, so the set wouldn’t be there anymore afterwards. So the decision was made that we preserve the set, ship it to Qingdao and rebuild it exactly the same way to the Wanda studios. I was slightly skeptical that it would be similar but lo and behold, as I stepped in to the studio on the first of December, it felt like a time warp back two months and several hundred kilometers north. The set was an exact facsimile of the one we had in Beijing, although I did feel like the room was just slightly smaller, but everyone claimed it was the exact same measurements; maybe it’s just that I’ve gotten that much bigger. Damn that Qingdao seafood.

The day was a beautiful one. Sun was shining bright on the sky and I took few rounds with my skateboard around the studios, just to keep myself in motion. The shoot was also pretty easy: we did two scenes, with the kids (Liang, Yi and Vivienne) and wrapped early. Then, we jumped on the car and headed over to my hotel where Annika had donned up in a sexy little number, and then off to experience the Qingdao nights!


First stop was seafood. I had found this lovely place which I call Big Tits Seafood, thanks to the painting of a huge-breasted woman on the wall, but what took me there again and again is the amazing seafood hot pot which is like something I’ve never had before with anywhere. A massive bowl filled with seafood, swimming in a slightly chili sauce: a dinner to die for. Vivienne joined me and Annika and Roope and Pekka and we enjoyed the dinner thoroughly.

Vivienne Tien (who plays Fang Qing) and Annika brewing some nasty thoughts

Then, back to the car and towards the next stop: New York Bar. We were blasting Finnish music and singing along, my driver wasn’t that excited about it, but took us to the Qingdao’s hottest bar… Which was, thanks to Chinese non-existent bar culture – practically empty. A band was playing Alanis Morissette quite well, and we had a bunch of nice drinks and enjoyed an added company of Jonathan, Mika and few others from the crew who joined the party slightly later.

And then, it was time for the rumoured KTV experience. KTVs are practically Karaoke hotels here in China. Some of them have girls there who join the partygoers and sing and dance with them, some of them are just simply rooms you rent and get served beers and snacks with music. Ours was the latter kind, and we arrived there around 1 am. The whole house was empty, but that didn’t matter: we lined up a nice set of Metallica and David Bowie songs and started belting loud and absolutely wrong, and partied until five in the morning. Turns out Jonathan, the 18-year-old kid who’s kinda shy, is an excellent singer and killed Eye of the Tiger like a champ!

At five am we eventually decided to head back home. There wasn’t much to be achieved anymore, we had already gained ourselves a great momentum for the hangover on the next day, celebrated my birthday quite enough thank you very much and headed back to the hotel.

Just as we were leaving, a strange commotion ensued: my driver refused to drive my friends back to the Qingdao anymore, although he had already agreed to drive us as much as its’ needed due to my birthday; he decided to change his mind as we were just about to step out and ordered everyone out instead, that he’d go sleeping now. It was not a very nice surprise, for the hotel was fully booked, we were quite far away from Pekka’s and Roope’s hostel and everything was supposed to be OK until last minute the guy ditches us and drives away.

I got pissed off and called David my assistant to tell the driver to come back. He refused, until finally he did drive back after the transportation coordinator called him up. He was really furious and we nearly got into a fight with him, and I was very uncomfortable on sending my friends with the car back to the city and offered to get a taxi, but the production said it’s OK, so off they went (and arrived safely, no problems there). It was an uncalled-for incident, especially since we had been very clear that today it would go late, but apparently the guy had had some issues with the production already before, and after that day, I never saw him again. Either he quit or was fired, I don’t know, but my new driver is now in and he is awesome.

All in all, a great fun birthday, save the little incident in the early morning hours; the next day would be quite an interesting one, because I had the first meeting with Andy Garcia, whom I had never met before, to talk about the costume and the character, and I was already boasting a nice post-birthday hangover. Also, Annika would leave tomorrow, which made it even worse day for this… but such is life sometimes.

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