I Don’t Bite – Ma Chun Wai
Ming Pao Weekly October 2005
The initial concept was: Steven wanted to use a sled dog in his photo shoot as an analogy to himself; that what is perceived as aggressive in nature is actually docile and dependable. But no sled dog could be found, and so a golden retriever was used in its stead. Not too bad. Anyway, a golden retriever was Steven’s second choice. It never bites, and it aptly fits the bill.
On July 1st of this year, he signed a management contract with TVB, thereby, symbolically returning to the fold; back to the hotbed of rumors. Of interest to people would be his interactions with the divas (fa-dans), with whom he has had scandals with in the past.
“I will be a most polite Ma Chun Wai.”
When reporters requested snapshots of him and Sonija together, he politely declined. In the end, Virginia Lok had to step in to ease the tension. Later, he was reported as being ‘stuck onto the top brass’.
“I don’t bite, but it doesn’t mean others won’t.”
After the interview, Steven would have his head shaved off in preparation for a Qing TV series. (LoW) Reality dictates that be you a gentle golden retriever or a fierce looking sled dog, and notwithstanding your unwillingness to have your hair sheared off, at your master’s command, how would you not obey? Therefore, the theme for this photo shoot of man and dog is aptly entitled ‘Loyalty’.
Back to the Hotbed of Rumors.
Upon his return to TVB, even before any of his series was aired, he was already inundated with new and old rumors, alike. While attending a Mid-Autumn festival event, he was even asked for his thoughts and reactions to the rumors alleging Sonija of relieving herself casually on the filming grounds. Returning to the hotbed of rumors, the first hurdle faced was the eloquence test. “From a regular person’s perspective, I would say this: “It’s wrong to covertly snap pictures of any actress doing it.” (Note: In the same interview, Steven blithely dismissed the rumor as baseless.) He answered with poise and discretion. The second hurdle faced was the expression test. For instance, always avoid being photographed wearing a ‘fierce’ countenance or having lips curved suspiciously in disdain. Still, what finally hit the tabloids were: ‘mutually transparent’, ‘right turn vs left turn’. Clearly, much work is needed to pass this hurdle.
“The reporters wanted to snap Sonija and my pictures together; I found that too contrived, so I declined. To break the awkward moment, Ms. Lok suggested: “Let’s all do a group photo,” and propelled us to the center. Subsequently, what ran in the tabloids was that I clung tenaciously onto Ms. Lok; holding tightly onto a good thing. To this end, the pictures were used as proofs to speciously support their stories. I felt detached.”
These kind of tell-a- tale pictures reports were but child's play; for in the past, Steven was dubbed a rumor spirit.(非精) His most titillating scandal involved Sonija. The man said they dated for three months; the woman fiercely denied: “I’m the kind of person who will admit to it if it was so.” Ultimately, Steven ended up being accused of propagating rumors for self-publicity. And then there was Ada Choi, on whom he allegedly had a crush on. (see video & footnote1: Steven’s takes.)
“…These past years, I have become more wary with engaging my emotions.”
Won’t Fight Tooth and Nail for Vindication
As to the Sonija scandal: one admitted to it, one refuted it; an impasse. He blames it on his Chiu Chow male’s disposition; in situations where the man had to take the fall, he would voluntarily suck it up and keep his silence.
“Every man should behave this way. There are many situations where a man finds it inexpedient to explain. I would choose not to explain. If I had to fight tooth and nail for vindication, I would much rather not do it. So what if I’m finally vindicated, people would still look down at me, as it is but a hollow victory if a man had stoop to such tactics.
“I believe in this saying: Heaven knows, earth knows, you know and I know. I would not squabble back and forth. The more you explain, the more people will get suspicious. Anyway, all things will come to pass. Time will tell the truth."(Note: Amen to that, esp. on this kind of he says, she says scenarios. I applaud them both for burying the hatchet to collaborate professionally in LOW & The Chinese Hamlet. Bravo! Now if only the media would let them be. )
Take the fall for the women, as well as, for the men. Not long after signing Frankie Fan as his manager, rumors abound of their alleged gay relationship. That too, he believes actualities will prevail over explanation.
“Wrote he bought me a car, a flat, and provided for me; all these published without a shred of evidence. These rumors persisted until I left his company. And then, the rumors stopped. At the time when the rumors were rampant; should I then drag out a female to repudiate? Furious, sure; but I’d no interest to do that.”
Heavy Eye Bags Ridiculed, Unhappy
When his July 1st TVB management contract came into effect, Steven went to work on a Qing series, Safe Guards for three months straight. All’s well and quiet; so far no rumors, yet.
“My present attitude is that everyone is my colleague; a mature artiste. I try not to think too much. I will not bring along my private feelings into the production arena. This should also help my performance.
“After work, I won't have much contact with entertainment. When I have the time, I will play badminton with Evergreen Mak (麥長青) , Gwok Fung(郭鋒,) or Ho Kai Nam (何啟南). Right now, they are my closest friends. I’m comfortable with them....
“The past two years proved that I can live a rumor free, quiet lifestyle. “Do not involve me,” these four words are my sincere plea.
Steven grew up amidst negative publicity. When he first started in the industry, his then record company used this slogan, “He’s not Hok Yau; he’s not Lai Ming” to promote him. For that, he suffered the ire of Leon’s fans.
“The bags under my eyes are naturally obvious. During one photo shoot, under the bright lightings, the bags were extremely conspicuous. At that time, because I was still being promoted as “Lai Ming” look-alike, plus the reporter didn’t like me; so beneath the photo, he wrote this caption: “Even with such a light workload at present, Ma Chun Wai’s dark eye circles are already so obvious, what if his workload were to increase in the future, how could he show his face to the public?” I was unhappy to read that.
“I had to shave my head for DOMD, and for me that was already a big sacrifice. Several newspapers ran this “clad in a dragon robe, but didn’t look like a crown prince. How to compete with Andy Lau?” TVB assigned me the work. It’s not my fault. Obviously, situations that are outside our control, we’ll still get blamed and criticized for them. Anyway, there’s no point getting upset over it.”
Threatened while Filming in China
In 2003, Steven finished shooting “Better Halves”; in 2004 his contract with Frankie Fan expired. He took this opportunity to venture outside on his own. Without an agent, he took the reins of his own career.
“The best part is that there’s no cut for management fees. 100% of the earnings went straight into my own pocket. Last year, my one year’s earnings are equivalent to three years’ worth. Truly, the management fees can be very hefty.”
Out on his own, he experienced for the first time of being owed money, and had to personally call up those debtors. “The fact was they should pay up, but turnaround, I had to beg them to pay up. It’s like I was being heartless. Decent people are often bullied while the fierce ones are feared.”
Even debt collecting is chalked up to new experience; Steven really had his eyes opened. And then there was the incident in Guangzhou, where he was threatened and was almost assaulted. (Note: translation of this incident skipped. 「这是我入行以来遇过最荒谬的事，原本是拍片，到了的士高场地，才知拉起横额，变成了演唱会，一百二十元一张门票。他们把我和女助手锁在卡拉OK房，一个男人站在我旁边，凶神恶煞的，问我可不可以上台唱几首歌，我说不唱，他好像想打我，我打电话向电影公司老板求救，才能脱险。结果报了公安，接 那十天，有两个公安跟 我出入。」 Read previous translated article.)
Album Release: Too Time-Consuming.
Outside, trials and tribulations abound; but, more importantly, freedom beckons. February, this year, TVB sought him out to sign a management contract. After pondering for five months, he decided to sign up.
“Ultimately, freelancing is not for the long run. People recognize me because of TVB series, more so than my albums. Even though, I started out as a singer, but I should know my own designation. People relate me to acting, not to singing-maybe to just singing some theme songs here and there, that’s all. Forgot that I started my entertainment profession as a singer. Which is why, in the end, I had to sign up with TVB, only then can I maintain my status.” (Note: A sense of helplessness & resignation?)
Few years back, Steven severed his 10-year work relationship with Frankie; the rumors were that the parting of ways was due to the break up of their ‘relationship’. He says it was actually due to differences in opinions.
“He wanted me to concentrate on my singing; ; whereas, I preferred performing in TVB series. A dilemma divided us. During that period, I had to decline several series because I was working on new albums. Actually, I had really wanted to accept them. In the former company, the album sales weren’t that ideal, anyway. To have to decline series for albums just wasn’t worth it. I preferred using the album production time to act in TVB series. Moreover, when the recording was done, there’s still lots of outside work to do. They also overpriced my fees. Many potential jobs fell through because the initial asking fees were set too high. Actually, I felt the fees needn’t be so high. They would start off with an exorbitant number, and then slowly came down on it, but by then many people were already frightened off.”
Now in TVB, he believes the company will not set exorbitant fees; and at month end, he need no longer have to chase after debtors to collect his fees. Zhen Jie (TVB executive) reassured him: “Now, you don’t have to worry la. We’ve a team of lawyers here; nobody would dare to repudiate a debt.” Steven reaffirms, with TVB he feels relieved and reassured, therefore, loyal; so TVB has gotten itself another golden retriever.
Six years ago, Steven was diagnosed with having panic attacks. Six years ago Steven was inflicted with an anxiety disorder. Because of his mother’s nasopharyngeal cancer, Steven took care of her for twenty-two years. Even during filming he constantly worried about her and was in and out of hospital to visit her, consequently because of accumulated pressure, he became inflicted with a mood disorder.
“No reason whatsover. Suddenly the heart beats wildly. Once almost fainted, conscious but couldn’t draw in breath."
Whenever the attack happened, the heart rate accelerated to150 - 160 beats. (Normal range is 60-100 beats/min). He carried his medicine with him at all times for unexpected attacks.
"Doctor says there’s no cure for this condition. It will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Many incidents will also follow us for the rest of our lives. Like the slogan from twelve years ago “He’s not Hok Yau; he’s not Lai Ming”; like right now, will still invoke it for laughs.
“Made me shed buckets of tears, and suffered public censure,” says Steven, self-deprecatingly.
Even the more discomfiting rumors, be they love affairs or gay affairs; he can now blithely dismiss them all with a laugh. When talking about Ada or Sonija or Frankie, his heartbeats will not abruptly leap to 150; at least in this aspect of his panic attacks it could be cured.
Journalist: Wang Zhi Qiang 王志強
Photographer﹕Qi Qi Ling 戚其麟
credit: mingpao - shall we talk?
Per his recent diagnosis as reported in the news, his panic attacks might actually be symptoms of a congenital heart disease that accelerates his heart palpitation to as high as 160 beats. Normal range is 60-100 beats. The only cure to this problem is surgery, which Steven has put off indefinitely)
Note 1: On his alleged crush on Ada Choi.
In this interview, Stars Steven denies ever saying he has had a crush on Ada. True, he admired her but that’s as far as it went. The rumor originated with this reporter who did an over-the-phone interview with him as a publicity write-up on the series, On the track or off . The reporter asked him to comment on his co-stars, including Ada.
Steven’s response in Stars (Ming Xin) interview(in Mandarin)
Steven: I said Ada is a good actress, very hardworking. I admire her. That’s all. And the reporter asked: "How long have you guys worked together?" I said in all, about three years or so. Somehow, that became I’ve had a crush on her for three years. That’s the truth, really. ….later, the reporter apologized to me.
马浚伟原名马志伟，改名马浚伟是唱歌老师戴思聪的意思。因被宣传为「翻版黎明」，被黎明歌迷指骂，他觉得连记者也针对他。郭羡妮和马浚伟三年前跳拉丁舞，贴身表演，现在，拍张合照也要高层来拉隆。签华纳时公司要他扮可爱，动作生硬，他说那段时期是「一壳眼泪」。拍《鹿鼎记》做康熙，报纸说他穿起龙袍不似太子，令他伤心了好一阵子。马浚伟成长於白田 ，见惯屋 吸毒、斩人等现象，但他是一名戴金丝眼镜的斯文学生。刚出道做歌手，排舞唱快歌，但他承认出唱片成绩不好，太浪费时间了。随 与经理人范志荣的合作关系结束，其「绯闻」亦告一段落。
「这是我入行以来遇过最荒谬的事，原本是拍片，到了的士高场地，才知拉起横额，变成了演唱会，一百二十元一张门票。他们把我和女助手锁在卡拉OK房，一个男人站在我旁边，凶神恶煞的，问我可不可以上台唱几首歌，我说不唱，他好像想打我，我打电话向电影公司老板求救，才能脱险。结果报了公安，接 那十天，有两个公安跟 我出入。」