Film fans at a recent screening of director Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster were treated to tales of broken bones, illness, extreme weather, and one man’s triumph over adversity.

And that was just in the question-and-answer session after the movie.

About 300 film fans and industry professionals came to the ArcLight Cinemas® in Sherman Oaks, California, for an advance screening of the film in Dolby Atmos. The Grandmaster is inspired by the story of Ip Man, the martial arts master who trained Bruce Lee.

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Tony Leung, who plays Ip Man, spoke to the audience after the screening to give his unique perspective on Wong Kar Wai’s filmmaking process and how it affected him as an actor.

“For an actor, I think… the more I experience… the character, the deeper I can get into the character. And I think especially this project… it doesn’t mean only a movie to me,” Leung said. “The process, I think, is very enjoyable. Although we go through many, many difficult times and obstacles: I broke my arms twice, suffered several minor injuries, and [was] getting very sick every time I finished an action scene. I don’t know how I can do that, but it’s just a very memorable and inspiring process.”

The movie is frequently intense, with action sequences that see Leung single-handedly fighting off over a dozen opponents in a crowded, rain-soaked alley, and a Dolby® Atmos™ soundtrack that puts the audience in the middle of the experience.

Fighting a Champ

Leung trained in kung fu for years to play the iconic role, but even he wasn’t quite ready for what Kar Wai threw at him during some of the scenes.

“I didn’t know I’d have to fight a real champion,” Leung explained. “The guy in the rain scene is a champion of the MMA [mixed martial arts]. And after I fight all these stuntmen and then the last man who comes out is this champion. I was looking at him like, ‘Oh my God!’ And Kar Wai said, ‘If you can manage to fight with him, you can fight with anyone.’ OK. That’s my first fighting scene.”

While the fighting scenes are spectacular, at its heart the movie is about two masters of kung fu and the period in which they lived, which included the Second Sino-Japanese War and the depredations that visited upon China. As much as The Grandmaster is about combat, it is also about the spiritual side of kung fu. To the actor who plays him, martial artist Ip Man is more than a fighter.

“I think what makes this man great is not… his physical ability,” Leung said, “I think it’s because of his wisdom and his understanding and knowledge of kung fu. This is how I worked on this character before shooting.”

The result is a film that uses every tool at its disposal, including a detailed Dolby Atmos soundtrack, to bring audiences into its world in a way that few martial arts movies have done before

“I have been extremely impressed by the powerful enhancements to storytelling that Dolby Atmos makes possible,” director Wong Kar Wai has said. “The Grandmaster in Dolby Atmos will use sound to transport audiences right into the film action.”

The Grandmaster is released nationwide in the United States on August 30. Find a Dolby Atmos theatre to experience The Grandmaster.

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