TRIUMPH IN THE SKIES Singapore Press Conference

Julian Cheung may have the least screen time compared to Francis Ng and Louis Koo in the movie version of ‘Triumph in the Skies’, but the actor, who made the series popular all over again three years ago playing a caddish pilot nicknamed ‘Captain Cool’ in the sequel close to a decade after the first premiered, is unfazed. Indeed, he is just happy to be part of the movie, which he said directors Matt Chow and Wilson Yip decided to film as a romance rather than a drama.

“The movie version of ‘Triumph in the Skies’ is really just a collection of three different love stories… In the movie, my character gets to fall in a love with a free-spirited girl named Kika played by Taiwanese actress Amber Kuo, and he gets to care for her in a way that none of the other characters do for their respective romantic partners,” revealed Cheung. “That to me was something really special.” He added that one of his favourite scenes was when Captain Cool sends Kika to the hospital after discovering that the latter had been diagnosed with cancer and given less than a year’s time to live.

“To me, that scene was especially moving because Amber was so committed to her character, and in turn that really made me get into the scene,” Cheung said. “I was so ‘into’ the scene that I was actually tearing up!” To have such chemistry is certainly quite amazing, especially when you consider that Cheung and Kuo had never met before – until both of them found each other on the set. “The first time we met was when we were eating, and she came over and introduced herself as Amber, and we shook hands politely.”

Yet there was little awkwardness between him and Kuo, even though one of the first scenes that they filmed was with them in a bathtub. “It was more tiring than romantic actually!” said Cheung. “She kept sliding beneath the water’s surface, so I used my foot to help support her so she wouldn’t slip in.” While one may think no actor would prefer otherwise, Cheung said that he ultimately preferred if his character had less romancing to do and more flying to show off.

“If I get to be in this role again, I hope Captain Cool can actually do more flying than kissing!” said Cheung. “I thought it would be just as cool, if not more so, to be able to see him perform some acrobatic stunts in the air.” In addition, he said he would like the chance to have more screen time with Francis Ng and possibly even Louis Koo, which he revealed had been the original intent of the movie before directors Yip and Chow decided to omit these. He also hopes to have a chance to date Elena Kong, who plays head stewardess Heather Fong and is romantically linked with Kenneth Ma’s character in the TV series as well as (just very briefly) in the movie.

It is somewhat telling that Cheung doesn’t mention his co-star Charmaine Sheh, who was also in town with him to promote the movie. Rumour has it that TVB had switched around Sheh and Kuo’s roles after fearing that Cheung’s wife Anita Yuen might get upset at Sheh playing Cheung’s romantic partner, especially since Cheung and Sheh had once been romantically linked in real life since the classic TVB series ‘Return of the Cuckoo’. Asked to share if she has had a similarly moving relationship as her character in the movie, Sheh chose to mention a high-school boyfriend that she broke up with after she went overseas to study.

“Life is like that sometimes – it has a little of the sweet, the sour and the bitter – and it is only from these experiences do we truly grow up as a person,” Sheh opined. In the movie, she plays a flight attendant at Skylette Airlines who gets to rekindle her love for an old flame and the new CEO of the company (played by Louis Koo), whom she had broken off a relationship with when the latter was asked by his father to take over the family business. She said that she liked the part in particular because the love which her character shared with Koo’s went much deeper and more enduring than a high-school crush.

One of the most eyebrow-raising scenes in the movie has her with Koo kissing passionately in the latter’s private swimming pool. But contrary to what you may think, she said that filming the scene was not as pleasant as what you would see it to be. “It was very cold in England then when we were filming,” said Sheh. “So we were practically freezing under the water. But I think when audiences watch it that they will see something which they probably have never in the TV series, and I think what the directors have managed to do is to evoke a very intimate, romantic and heartwarming feel to the scene.”

Though this is her first time acting with Koo, Sheh is all praise for the former TVB alum. “He’s like a big brother to everyone on the set,” she said. “When we were filming in London, he would take the trouble to arrange for us to have dinner at this restaurant and that restaurant. He will also go out of his way to make sure that the scene and its actors have everything it needs. In fact, during the Mid-Autumn Festival, he brought mooncakes for everyone on the set!”

So enamoured is he with Koo that she hopes to settle down with a partner like him. “Looks or money don’t matter that much; what really matters is that the person is committed to me,” she answered when asked what kind of lover she wants in real life. “I think communication is very important in a relationship and I hope to be able to find a partner who can also be a best friend to me.”

Text and Photos by Gabriel Chong  

Our review of TRIUMPH IN THE SKIES right here.