Interview: Director Ning Hao's comedy drama 'Crazy Alien'
By Yang Ran

Science fiction was very much the theme of this year's Spring Festival cinema screenings. Following his blockbuster "Wandering Earth," Director Ning Hao's latest offering, "Crazy Alien," is also receiving rave reviews. 

Both films are adapted from short stories by Hugo Award-winning author Liu Cixin. So, let's hear why Ning Hao has been so inspired by Liu.

"Crazy Alien" has to date taken 2.2 billion yuan, or 328 million U.S. dollars, at the box office. The film is a very loose adaptation of science fiction writer Liu Cixin's, "Rural Teacher." In the original short story, four village school students survive Earth's destruction by aliens, thanks to what they learn from their teacher. But there's no village, students or teacher in Ning Hao's film. Instead, two frustrated urban youngsters play tricks on an alien and a group of FBI detectives.

A poster for Ning's new film "Crazy Aliens" /VCG Photo

A poster for Ning's new film "Crazy Aliens" /VCG Photo

"I spent a lot of time establishing the link between my film and Liu Cixin's book. Liu is a great author and I have my style. There's abundant imagination, romanticism and absurdity in his works. In "Rural Teacher," aliens representing the most advanced civilization in the entire universe, encounter a group of rural people. That's the key absurd and dramatic element. That's what inspired me," Director Ning Hao said.

It's taken Ning Hao nearly ten years to complete his "Crazy" trilogy, from "Crazy Stone" and "Crazy Racer" to "Crazy Alien." Extravagant acting and dramatic story lines are the hallmarks of his films. In an effort to shorten the distance between imagination and reality, his first attempt at science fiction doesn't begin in outer space, but in a city center.

"The secret to human beings' survival for thousands of years, has been tenacity. But we must be clever as well. In our efforts to survive, when friends visit, we offer them good wine. When enemies come, we get them drunk," Ning said.

Director Ning Hao (C) talks to actors Huang Bo (L) and Shen Teng at the filming site. /VCG Photo

Director Ning Hao (C) talks to actors Huang Bo (L) and Shen Teng at the filming site. /VCG Photo

In November 2014, Ning Hao was among a group of young Chinese directors who visited Hollywood, under a China-US filmmakers exchange program. He was impressed by the leading film studios and production companies he saw.

"I was very surprised by director Michael Bay's company, which has only nine people who produce one or two films a year. They have access to all of Hollywood's resources, and each person is highly professional and efficient," Ning said.

He also noted that Hollywood movies are more like industrial productions. Although he's keen to embrace some of what he saw in Hollywood, there are some principles he will not abandon.

Director Ning Hao is seen at the filming site. /VCG Photo

Director Ning Hao is seen at the filming site. /VCG Photo

Ning Hao insists that his films must be rooted in the life of ordinary people, and must be accessible. In "Crazy Alien", there's even a scene of an alien eating hot pot. It's a sci-fi comedy set against a backdrop of everyday life in China. Ning said that, although he embraces novel elements in his work, what makes his movies unique is that they are totally Chinese stories. As such, they will never be like anything made in Hollywood.

"I believe that as Chinese film-makers, we should adhere to our own culture. We should definitely study Hollywood's advanced technologies and movie-making experience, and close the gap in that respect. But we should still promote our own culture and make our voice heard and approachable," Ning said.

He noted that the Chinese film industry still has a long way to go, if it's to catch up with Hollywood in terms of technology and equipment. But far more important is that it tells good Chinese stories.