Dan Gross: James Hong: 'Safe' and sound

Hong
Hong
Posted: December 14, 2010

JAMES HONG has been turning heads for several weeks since the veteran character actor arrived in town to work on "Safe," an action thriller that wraps filming here on Friday. Hong, 81, whose hundreds of credits include "Blade Runner," "Chinatown" and "Big Trouble in Little China," plays the leader of the Triads, the Chinese mafia. He speaks Mandarin in his several scenes in the film starring Jason Statham.

The Minneapolis-born actor spent time sightseeing with local businessman Alex Wong, who served as a liason to the local Chinese-American community and organized a Sunday afternoon lecture that Hong gave about his career at Joy Tsin Lau (1026 Race).

Hong enjoyed touring the Liberty Bell, lunching at the Reading Terminal Market and dinner at the City Tavern (138 S. 2nd).

He moved to Hollywood in 1953 and graduated from USC with an engineering degree that he put to use building roads for Los Angeles County. His first taste of show business was appearing as a contestant on a 1953 episode of "You Bet Your Life," in which he got a great response for his impression of host Groucho Marx. He soon appeared in "Soldier of Fortune," with Clark Gable, and "Blood Alley," with John Wayne and Lauren Bacall, and, he said, "They kept calling me.

"Doing comedy is still in my veins, that's my first love," Hong said when asked if he prefers comedy to drama. His comedic roles include "The Chinese Restaurant" episode of "Seinfeld, and "Revenge of the Nerds 2."

The octogenarian has no plans to retire.

"As long as I have the talent and there's a demand for the old Chinese man - whether he's a philosopher, or a master, or an old-time restaurant owner, or a villain, or a so-called good guy - I will always be working," he said.

"And nature, God, Buddha - someone has given me this health," Hong told us. "I can breakdance still, I can run, I can play basketball. In my mind I can do anything. As long as I have that spirit I'm going to keep doing it."

In other movie matters . . .

_ "The Dark Fields," which Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro shot in town last year, has been retitled "Limitless" and is currently scheduled to open March 18.

* Speaking of titles, "How Do You Know," the James L. Brooks comedy that Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson and Owen Wilson shot here last year, opens Friday.

We reported the film's title on the first day of shooting, but a film spokesman long insisted there was no title, and it came to be known as "The Untitled James L. Brooks Comedy."

The boob tube

_ Viewers have noticed that one local meteorologist on an even-numbered station seems to be broadcasting in 3D courtesy of her new breast implants.

* George Mallet, former Fox 29 "Good Day Philadelphia" anchor, just left Milwaukee's WTMJ for a job at WPTZ, which is based in upstate New York and also seen in parts of Vermont.

WPTZ, by the way, were the call letters of Channel 3 many moons ago.

Out and about

Daddy-to-be Nick Cannon played a few cuts from his wife, Mariah Carey's, Christmas album at Borgata's mur.mur nightclub, where he was DJ on Saturday night. The "America's Got Talent" host had a packed house . . . Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel and fiancee Missy Martin had breakfast yesterday at Ponzio's Diner (7 W. Rt. 70) in Cherry Hill. He hosted a 610 WIP show from Ponzio's last season . . . Actor Joseph Siravo, who played Tony's father, Johnny Boy Soprano, on "The Sopranos," stopped for dinner at Le Virtu (1927 E. Passyunk) Saturday between performances in "Jersey Boys," which closed Sunday at the Forrest Theatre. Siravo's cousin Joe Cicala is the new chef at Le Virtu. He made Siravo a feast of antipasto and several pasta dishes and dessert . . . Mr. "Invincible" Vince Papale got a sausage-and-egg sandwich at Talk of the Town (3020 S. Broad) yesterday.

Breakfast giveaway change

The one free breakfast sandwich per week for a year giveaway we mentioned yesterday has been changed to Dec. 28. The first 100 people (age 18 and over) in line when Manhattan Bagel (524 S. Oxford Valley Road) in Fairless Hills opens at 6 a.m. that day will receive the coupons.

Visit PhillyGossip.com for Dan's latest updates or follow PhillyGossip on Twitter. Have a tip? Call 215-854-5963, or e-mail grossd@phillynews.com. For recent columns, visit go.philly.com/dangross.

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