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Shang-Chi Director Reveals What It's Really Like Working With Michelle Yeoh And Tony Leung - Exclusive

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who is helming his first action movie after almost a decade of lower budget dramas. Though Cretton's previous movies were all significantly smaller than an MCU project, he's still worked with some big names. He has a long association with Brie Larson, who has appeared (and often starred) in almost all of his movies, that stretches back well before she won an Oscar or became Captain Marvel. He's also worked with Michael B. Jordan, Tim Blake Nelson, Woody Harrelson, Lakeith Stanfield, Rami Malek — most of whom are perennial award contenders.

But even compared to those big names, there's a credible case to be made that many of the actors Cretton has now worked with on "Shang-Chi" are on a higher level. Specifically, Cretton had the privilege of directing Hong Kong cinema legends Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung. 

"I'm always intimidated when I start working with a new actor," Cretton told Looper in an exclusive interview. "What I find more often than not, so far, is that after a day or so of working with these actors, it's an extremely pleasant and fun exercise."

Cretton added that "a lot of times I feel like I just have a front row seat to a one-man show of Tony Leung's incredible performance, and I feel very, very lucky to be sitting there watching him do his thing." As such, we had to ask more about what it was like directing these two talents.

Hard working and ... goofy?

Meng'er Zhang, who played Xialing, told us that Yeoh was "pretty goofy" and loved making jokes. As such, we had to ask Cretton to verify this account. "Yeah," he replied with a smile. "You would never guess how silly and fun Michelle can be. She really is such a vibrant personality to have on set, and it's so infectious, and it's just a constant reminder to everyone around her, everyone on set, that what we're doing is fun. Yes, it can be stressful sometimes, there's pressure but it's make-believe, and it's silly, and it's fun. She really helped remind us of that every day and it was such a joy to have her on set."

Cretton also confirmed another thing that Zhang told us: Leung never went back to his trailer. "I've never seen an actor who would, as soon as he's ready, he shows up and he sets his seat down next to the camera and he sits, and watches, and observes. And by the time we're ready to roll, he is so ready that it's like, I don't even have to tell him where to stand, or what the blocking was, or what the shot is because he's been observing everything. He really is a man who is very dedicated to his craft, and it was very inspiring to be around."

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is in theaters now.