Leon Le Talks About his new romantic epic ‘Song Lang’

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The always-busy Leon Le gives us the 411 on his new romantic epic Song Lang, which dances onto digital and DVD this week from Breaking Glass Pictures!

Hi Leon. Where are you based?
I finally returned to my home base, New York City, after almost three years living in Saigon to work on Song Lang.

And were you working on anything when the coronavirus pandemic kicked in?
Lien Binh Phat, the lead actor and I were in Tokyo to promote Song Lang’s theatrical, then we were skiiing in Hokaido release when the pandemic kicked in. Luckily, we were able to get back to Vietnam. But then I couldn’t return to the States until end of July because there were no flights out of Vietnam. I took advantage of this time to do all the research needed for my next project, so it all worked out.

You must be excited to see Song Lang release in the states? – — congrats on the piece in Deadline announcing it!
Thank you. Yes, we are very excited to finally have the film release in the states. Though it’s a little disappointing considered the current situation with the cinemas. I do prefer to see the film on the big screen. But we already had the chances to screen the film in the theatre in many film festivals across the country prior to the theatrical release, so I shouldn’t be too greedy.

Upon release in Vietnam I believe the film won a bevy of awards. How much did that help get overseas distribution?
Yes, we were fortunate to get some recognition, especially in Vietnam, which is very important because, with a film like Song Lang, so much of it is about the Vietnamese culture; I need to get the Vietnamese audience’s approval. The studio and the sales teams are handling all the distribution, so I’m not involved. But I supposed the awards definitely would help to spark more interests.

The film, for lack of a better word, is dazzling. What was the hardest element to pull off?
Thank you. That’s lovely to hear. I was fortunate to have a wonderful team of production designer, costume designer, prop master, hair/makeup team, and cinematographer helped to bring my visions to life. The most challenging part was to recreate Saigon in the 80s on a minimal budget and still give the audience the most authentic feel of what it’s like to be in Saigon in the 80s. And to find an authentic cai luong theater, because most of them has been demolished, badly damaged or being used for other purposes.

Did you find it hard wearing multiple hats – – you’re starring in the film, but also directing it!?
The two lead actors were Lien Binh Phat, who was completely new to acting, and Isaac, a famous pop star. I did not star in the film though I did lend my singing to a couple of parts in the movie, but that’s about it.

You have a musical theatre background, I believe? When did you first start ‘treading the boards’, as they say?
Yes, I started as a dancer, singer, actor working mainly in musical theatre. However, my passion for theatre began when I was a kid. I was obsessed with
Cai Luong (Vietnamese Traditional Folk Opera), and my dream was to become a Cai Luong artist. When I moved to the States, I discovered musical theatre, and I thought, hey, this is American’s version of Cai Luong! Perfect! I was about 15 then. That’s when I started taking dance, voice, and acting lessons. My first professional job was The King and I national tour when I was 20. After that, I moved to New York City, and I’ve been here ever since.

And how did working on Broadway prepare you for feature films?
I think it is always a benefit for directors to have some acting experience background. My theater background became incredibly helpful with Song Lang since there are many stage performances in the film. I can specifically demonstrate what I want and offer specific techniques to achieve the needed result.

Anything new in the works?
I am currently writing two new screenplays with Nguyen Thi Minh Ngoc, my co-writer in Song Lang. All I can say at the moment is that both of the stories are about Saigon in the 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, Saigon of 2020 just not very inspiring to me. Quick note: due fans’ requests, we are about to release our limited English edition, hardcover photobook Song Lang: Behind the Curtain in November. Fans can go to www.songlangbook.com for more information.

Anytime Costumes

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