||Born 22nd May, 1979 in a pink hospital on top of a lush green mountain in Hawaii, Maggie Q started out life as unusually beautiful as she is today thanks to her Vietnamese mother and Irish American father. Naturally athletic, she honed her skills and toned physique through years of competitive swimming and track and field events.
At the age of 18 she relocated to Hong Kong to pursue a career in modelling where her unique fusion looks and style fast propelled her into supermodel status, with local press dubbing her ‘Maggie Q’. She has been seen on the covers of the biggest magazine titles including Cosmopolitan, Harpers Bazaar, Elle, FHM and Marie Claire. As well as publishing her own book, Wet and Wild with Maggie Q she has also been featured on the cover of Time magazine which recently interviewed her on her stunningly unusual looks and ability to appeal to cultures around the world.
Maggie’s first acting experience was with the TV drama House of the Dragon, which proved such a smash hit across Asia that she was asked to star in the horror film Model From Hell. Her next role was in the Jackie Chan produced action film Gen-Y Cops where she so impressed the action megastar that he had her cast in the multi-award winning Manhattan Midnight. He also made sure that he got her a cameo into the world smash hit blockbuster Rush Hour 2.
Having caught the eyes of US executives Maggie worked on the Dreamworks TV show Hong Kong Café before then returning to Hong Kong to star in the lethally enjoyable Naked Weapon. A heady mix of femme fatale action film in the mould of Charlie’s Angels, this 2002 production has stunned moviegoers across Asia by exceeding the stunts and CGI enhanced fights of recent Hollywood blockbusters like The Matrix.
Such was her impact on screen and breathtaking hand to hand combat fight abilities that Jackie Chan insisted she feature in his next global blockbuster Around the World in 80 Days, which has attracted cameos from the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sammo Hung.
Apart from the helping hand of Jackie Chan, Maggie can thank herself for her success thanks to her tremendously hard work ethic. It’s helped her overcome the incredible gangster culture in Hong Kong that controls the film industry. It’s the dark side to the only territory that rivals Hollywood for blockbuster movie production and Maggie Q is one of the few people who dares to speak out.
She enjoys a drink, likes a smoke and will not bow to the relentlessly intrusive Hong Kong media who are only ever interested in who she might be dating and not her career. She resents this aspect of the culture that treats women as inferior to men, and while never sacrificing an ounce of her gorgeous femininity she’s always doing her bit to speak up for the girls.
A massive celebrity in Hong Kong, a star across Asia, and soon the world, Maggie Q is set to become a femme fatale phenomenon and now is the chance to witness and showcase this rising star.
Maggie Q Interview
The Spinning Image(TSI): Maggie you’re coming to us as a Hong Kong star but in fact you were born and raised in Hawaii and the extraordinary result of the Vietnam War.
Maggie Q(MQ): I was a war baby. My Father was Irish American and my Mother Vietnamese. She came over to America with my Father, and didn’t speak a word of English. Something alright came out of that war I guess.
TSI: Coming over to America during such politically charged times must have been difficult for her?
MQ: It wasn’t easy for her.
TSI: You must have got a lot of inspiration from her.
MQ: A lot of the strength that I was able to conjure up to go to Hong Kong came from my Mother. It's almost innate in me. I'm used to the struggle, and willing to struggle to get the things I want in my life because that's what she did. We both at 18 left our respective countries to go to a strange country where we didn’t speak the native language.
TSI: Living in Hawaii would sound idyllic to many people.
MQ: It is really small, and something that looks like paradise is not always paradise to live in. I like being from there though because it grounds you in a way and gives you certain values in terms of people and the things to value in life.
TSI:Why then the move to Hong Kong?
MQ: I started university in Hawaii and simply couldn’t make ends meet. It was a private Catholic University so it was very expensive and very strict. Some friends suggested why didn’t I go to Hong Kong to try some modelling for a couple of months and earn some money? The problem with that was I had no experience as a model and couldn’t just go off for two months. So I thought the day after graduation I'll leave and see what happens during the summer, then come back and finish school. Once I got off the island and got a taste for what the rest of the world had to offer I couldn’t go back.
TSI: You’ve been on the cover of the Asian editions of Cosmopolitan, Harpers Bazaar, Elle. FHM, Marie Claire and even Time magazine! Can you remember your first cover shoot?
MQ: It was for a little teenybopper magazine called ‘Yes!’. I went to shoot for them just as a model for a girly fashion clothes feature that would go at the back of the magazine. A week later my manager calls up very excited asking me if I’d been to the newsstand? I’m like no, I can’t read any of the magazines. She said go to the newsstand so I did that and they’d put me on the cover of the magazine. My manager told me that was the first time they’d done anything like that because before only top pop stars would get on the front cover. From that I got to work with certain singers and the right people and got noticed that way.
TSI: How did you then move from modelling to movies and were you offered your share of lousy projects?
MQ: Oh yeah, and still am! I started off the first year in Hong Kong I was doing my bit and people were getting to know me. This company called EMG had an entertainment division called EEG. I did some work with one of their singers and at the time he was at the height of his popularity. EEG wondered who this girl was beside him? They then approached me to do TV series in Beijing for four months. I was like I don’t know if I can do this. They showed me my part in the script, which was a family drama, and so I shipped off to China for four months and almost died there.
TSI: Then came the movie Model From Hell.
MQ: After the TV series I was not sure if I wanted to go into acting. I needed the money at the time, got paid and that was it. Soon afterwards I met Simon Yam, who is a huge star in Hong Kong. He told me that he was doing a horror movie and that they’d want to use me. He said that it would be a lot of fun, we’d shoot for two weeks and it would be easy money. As I was planning to leave soon I thought why not? It was so bad.
TSI: How so?
MQ: The experience was good but the movie was so awful.
TSI: How did Naked Weapon come to you?
MQ: It came to me through MA, Media Asia, a company that I had already been contracted to work with to do Gen-Y Cops with.
TSI: Did you get training before the film or were you trained for each scene?
MQ: No I had no training before the film. The problem in Hong Kong is that there’s no time or money so you’re trained on set. I’d get to the set and they’d say “this is what we’re going to do”.
TSI: With Naked Weapon there’s quite a bit of CGI work in the movie and it certainly works well.
MQ: The CGI effects work really well, to the point where there seems to be a suspiciously similar fight scene in Daredevil with the flying glass, but I think we do it better anyway.
TSI: You were certainly put through your paces with the movie in terms of pain weren’t you?
MQ: Oh yes. I think my pain threshold went up ten notches after Naked Weapon.
TSI: Was there any memorably painful moment in particular?
MQ: In the end scene there’s a big fight between me and Andrew Lin which took a long time to film due to the complexity of it and large amount of wire work. In one of the stunts Andrew is suspended on a wire and is supposed to take a kick at my upper body. He was holding back so the director Ching Siu-Tung told him to go for it and he ended up accidentally kicking me really hard in the stomach. I’ve never experienced such pain and they didn’t even use that take because I flinched! People will get to see how tough the shoot was on the behind the scenes features on the DVD.
TSI: Were you given an overview of how the fight scenes would work?
MQ: No because Ching Siu-Tung doesn’t know how a scene will work until he’s on set and he doesn’t choreograph until he’s explored all the possibilities of the space and available props. He’s a storyteller with his action. He likes to have his elements in front of him before he gets to work.
TSI: Which action scene for you turns out best on screen?
MQ: The massive end fight scene.
TSI: It’s a spectacular end to the movie with its blend of lethal kung fu and extraordinary acrobatics.
MQ: Yeah it is. We worked so many days on that scene. When it was over I had to go back and reshoot some more because it’s such a long sequence. We went back and I was by this stage literally bruised from head to toe. My face, my legs my arms were black. One of my friends started crying when she saw me.
TSI: Can you describe for us a typical day on a Hong Kong film set?
MQ: There are no unions in Hong Kong film production to protect actors so starting a day at 6am and finishing at 2am only to start again at the crack of dawn is not unusual. In Hollywood you get trailers: in Hong Kong you’re lucky if you get a chair! I remember on the set of Naked Weapon I was so tired one day but there wasn’t even anywhere to sit. I found a basket of clothes in the wardrobe area, got in and went to sleep. You should have seen the expression on the face of the wardrobe mistress when she found me!
TSI: What’s the food like on a Hong Kong set?
MQ: You get three square meals a day in Styrofoam boxes. The choice is usually chicken or fish in sesame oil or lard. Really though it’s no more than a carbohydrate lump made up of thick rice with some kind of unidentifiable meat.
TSI: You’ll next be appearing in Jackie Chan’s next blockbuster Around the World in 80 Days. You do have a cameo though in his Rush Hour 2. Did you have fun doing that?
MQ: Yeah… I think I outlived my welcome there though. I was on set the day Jackie brought along his amazing new sports car. I asked him if I could give it a spin – he said no. I pleaded with him – he said no. Then the director of Rush Hour 2 started on Jackie as well: “let her have a go, Jackie, go on, let her have a go”. Finally Jackie relented, I got into the car, started it up…and promptly crashed it! Thankfully Jackie was in a good mood that day.
TSI: What’s it like working with Jackie?
MQ: He works you really hard and demands that things are done right. That’s fine but as I’m not an expert at martial arts like his stunt team it is harder for me. In Around the World in 80 Days I have a sword battle to do. I spent all night with a yummy stuntman teaching me how to do it right…which I quite enjoyed! Next day Jackie comes to check on us. He takes a look at my sword routine, then takes the sword out of my hand, shows me a different set of moves he wants and says, “Do it this way, not that way” and walks off! I’m like please! I’ve just spent all night learning the routine then he comes in at the last moment and just changes it completely. He wants things done right though which is why he’s so successful.
Naked Weapon is now available to buy on DVD