An Interview with Composer Elliot Leung

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To call Elliot Leung an overnight sensation would be incorrect, as it would be ignoring several years of praised work in video game, advertisement and documentary music. And yet there is indeed something meteoric about his arrival in the A-List of Chinese film composers: his thrilling score for Dante Lam’s spectacularly successful Operation Red Sea – now second only to Wolf Warrior II on the list of highest-grossing movies in China and still the fifth highest-grossing film worldwide for 2018 – marks the beginning of a promising big screen career, with no less than four high-profile films already on his dance card. A busy schedule in spite of which he graciously agreed to answer our questions.

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An Interview with Composer Leon Ko

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Leon Ko Sai Tseung’s lineage seemed to predestine him to writing music for stage and film: the son of legendary Hong Kong actress Lucilla You Min – who won ‘Best Leading Actress’ at the first ever Golden Horse Awards – and the grandson of Cantonese Opera artist (and occasional silent film actor) Bak Yuk Tong, his career as a composer of Cantonese musicals has been rich in awards and popular acclaim, with all of his four creations, The Good Person of SzechwanThe Legend of the White SnakeField of Dreams and The Passage Beyond, having won best score at the Hong Kong Drama Awards. This, in addition to being a driving force in the recent revival of Cantonese Opera and an occasional musical director for Jacky Cheung’s  world tours. Ko’s works have travelled as far out of Hong Kong as London’s London’s Stratford East Theatre and New York’s Carnegie Hall.

That’s not even mentioning his career in film scoring, which is the topic of the following interview, and equally successful as his other musical ventures. After only eight film scores – for major directors like Peter Chan, Derek Yee or Dante Lam – Leon Ko is already a Golden Horse Award winner and a two-time Hong Kong Film Award winner, with four additional nominations. You can sample his work for film and stage at his website. You might be struck by Leon Ko’s versatility: there’s a world of difference between the atonal thrills of That Demon Within and the epic whimsy of Monster Hunt, or between the lyrical anguish of Dearest and the old-school playfulness of The Great Magician. Now as busy and in-demand as ever, he nevertheless graciously agreed to answer my questions.

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