Team movieXclusive.com is proud to bring you our latest interview session
with talented local director Royston Tan, at a neighbourhood kopitiam,
savouring kopi and toasted bread in a noon brunch. We thank Royston for the
opportunity, especially since it's a Sunday! We discussed everything from
his upcoming release 4:30, his iconic, controversial past works in which he
had a brush against the censors, to theatre and his new work-in-production.
Read on to find out more!
movieXclusive.com (mX): What are your thoughts on critics comparing 4:30 to
Kim Ki-Duk's 3-Iron?
Royston Tan (RT): It was purely coincidental. I wrote the script, and
brought it to Korea to seek funding. I was then told to watch 3-Iron, and
was surprised at the similarities. I wanted to change it immediately but I
was told by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) not to change it and just
do it as it was my vision. Nonetheless, I still made some minor changes to
differenciate the similarities between 4:30 and 3-Iron.
mX: Is there any significance on the casting of a Korean in 4:30?
RT: It is my way of saying "Thank You" to the Koreans, and the Pusan Film
Festival. I'm the first Singapore director to be featured 5 times at the
festival, and it actually introduced my works to the rest of the world,
starting with "Sons".
Royston shared with movieXclusive.com about the affinity that the Koreans had taken to him, which included a particular housewife who will make cakes
for him each time he returned for the festival, and many fans who took
pictures with him, to return during the next season of the festival for him
to autograph their group pictures. Looks like Royston has a huge fan base in
Korea, and he's sincerely touched that they even broached the subject of
offering him citizenship if his controversial movies do get him into
trouble. (P.S. Royston don't go, Singapore loves you!)
mX: Whatever happened to the rabbit suit?
RT: I've done the gig for 2 years, and the rabbit has finally retired. I
still get requests about it though. (Referring to the earlier question on
Kim Ki-Duk) Actually he calls me "Rabbit", and I refer to him as "The
Drunkard" because he always seemed drunk!
mX: What went through your mind when you were named as a TIME Asian Hero?
RT: Actually they were very secretive about it! They requested for a picture
of me only a week before, and I was surprised that it was for that honour. I
was also told that they were witnessing what I was doing, and I felt that
recognition helped people like me to be more courageous about my opinions in
my films, and it also made the censors aware too that they are being watched
overseas as well.
mX: In 2001, you directed and produced two plays, "1969" and "Beyond the
Cage". How does theatre vary from film?
RT: In film, you can redo scenes again if there are mistakes. In theatre,
the state of mind is different, and I had to also train a group of amateur
actors, which was a challenge. The people element is also different in
theatre, as you begin and end the production as a group, and the
relationship is more intimate. In film, once it is "immortalized", it then
travels on its own.
mX: Was theatre your first love?
RT: Theatre is my first love, and I've liked it as a kid, but had no
opportunity of access to it.
mX: Will you go back to it?
RT: I'm too used to being behind the camera now! (laughs) Although two
months ago for the arts festival, I had a collaboration with the Drama Box.
mX: A Clockwork Orange, The Evil Dead, Battle Royale and 15. Was it an
insult or compliment to be placed in the same list as the other cult hits?
RT: Geneva actually had cult followers of 15! And in Sweden, it played at
the Royal Palace, and was one of the few films to have sold out there. In
the European screenings, there were the hardcore Euro version of the "ah
bengs" attending the screening. Initally I was worried that people from
overseas might find difficulties in relating to the material shown in 15 but
I guess I was wrong about that. At the end, they actually thanked me and
were full of emotion about that film. They also mentioned they were waiting
to see another one which I was very moved by their support!
mX: Are there any influence from your favourite directors?
RT: In the past, I can distinctively identify and tell you who. However, I
find that these days everyone is influencing each other, like how Eric Khoo
mentioned that I've influenced him too. In the film festival circuits,
directors usually meet up and have an exchange of ideas. I liken it similar
to "universal ideas orgies" (laughs). Stephen Chow remains one of my
favourite directors, as beneath the laughing and the slapstick, his movies
explore people issues. It's toughest to create comedies which can make you
laugh and cry at the same time.
mX: Any favourite movies?
RT: I enjoy the Three Colors Trilogy (Blue / White / Red) by Krzysztof
Kieslowski, and it remains my favourite of all time. If there's a such thing
as a perfect movie, the Three Colors Trilogy will be my choice. i love it
for the way how the layers of stories are intricately woven together, and
its tip top cinematography.
mX: If you had the choice to watch ONE last movie before you die, which
would it be?
RT: That's a new question that's never been asked before. (Pauses) It'll be
15, and not for ego's sake. While an audience watch the film at its surface,
I look at it and recall memories of behind-the-scenes, of friends coming in
to make things work. I view it at a personal level, and how it all started,
how it has the most personal resonance with me. So it'll be 15.
mx: If you were given a choice to cast any actors for your next movie, who
would you choose to work with?
RT: Fann Wong and Phyllis Quek... (cheekily) in a porn movie!
We discussed a bit about censorship, and how Royston noticed that it's
rapidly changing, and he even have Ministers talking to him about what can
be improved with our censors, which he thought that more protection and
respect should be accorded to our local filmmaking industry. We also dwelt
into how his run-ins with the censors started (and his response in his short
film Cut, where it had many people in the industry hamming it up) and how 15
cannot be screened at the local theatres, as there were concerns of "people
fighting in cinemas" !
mX: What will your next movie be?
RT: It'll be a surprise for everyone, as it is something fresh. The audience
will not expect this. The production will start soon, sometime in December
or January. I can't divulge more!
mX: (trying to probe more) What's the genre?
RT: It'll probably not be horror as I cannot do horror. I've tried it before
for Channel U, but bizarre things kept happening on the set!
mx: Where do you see Royston Tan 5 years from now?
RT: I should have at least 2 more films out by then. In 5 years, there
should be a new generation of young filmmakers emerging. I belong to the"3rd generation" of filmmakers, so by then I could probably retire when the
4th generation becomes established!
mX: Someone mentioned that a Singapore film can win the Oscar in 5 years
time. What are your thoughts?
RT: I do not think it's possible in 5 years, as the confidence level in our
films is not there yet, in terms of having world class stories, scripts,
direction, etc. We haven't reached that maturity yet, so probably not in 5
mX: (still trying to probe more into his next movie) Will it have a
RT: Yes it will, another 3 numbers, and it'll fit the subject. It'll be the
most accessible film I ever did, and will be featuring an all female cast.
Here's an additional big clue - "many chickens will be sacrificed in the
Anyone dare to warrant a guess at the title?
To qualify, simply watch Royston's new movie 4:30, then email us at
firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject
- "I Know What the Title Is!", with:
1. your guess of the title
2. a one-liner of what you think of 4:30
The prize will be 1 x Royston's Shorts DVD.
Should there be more then one correct winner, then the judges will select the best
one-liner, and the decision is final.
Royston's Shorts, a compilation DVD of his award winning and most talked
about short films, is available now at stores. You can check out our review
by clicking on this
4:30, Royston's latest feature film, premieres this Thursday in local
cinemas. You can read our review of the movie by clicking on this link.
A Royston's Shorts DVD to be won!
Read on with the interview and get a chance to win!