Saving the day at the end of his wonderful martial-arts comedy Kung Fu Hustle, writer-director-star Stephen Chow sheds his shirt and flexes his muscles in homage to his idol, Bruce Lee. Never mind that it was freezing in Shanghai ''zero degrees,'' according to Chow, ''and it was no fun'' when he shot the scene. Striking a Bruce Lee pose ''is why I wanted to do the movie,'' laughs Chow, a superstar in Hong Kong, where Kung Fu outgrossed his 2001 supersmash hit, Shaolin Soccer (shelved here by Miramax till 2004).
''No matter what kind of movie I'm gonna make,'' continues Chow, ''Bruce Lee is there. Bruce Lee is so '' He stops himself and starts over, in his halting English. ''[He has] a very deep meaning for me. As a filmmaker, as an actor, as a kung-fu [practitioner], it's all because of Bruce Lee.'' Chow, primarily a comedy star back home, also loves American movies Kung Fu quotes everything from The Shining to Spider-Man but in January he seemed genuinely mystified that Sundance audiences liked his film. (Shaolin's fate, he admitted, ''may be one of the reasons.'') Last month, he sounded more confident. ''I met the director of one of my favorites what's the name?'' He confers with his translator. ''Taylor Hackford. Ray, a great movie. He told me he really loved the movie.'' If there's kung-fu justice, so will the rest of America.