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23 September 2008, 2pm at Orchard Cineleisure KBox

One call may be all that connected Louis Koo and Barbie Hsu’s characters in the movie; but the stars had no such luck most of the time while filming.
At the press conference here in Singapore to promote their latest film, “Connected”, the stars revealed that except for the final scene, the actors did not have any contact on the set of the film. In fact, they pretty much relied entirely on the assured direction of Benny Chan to guide them on how to portray their respective characters.

Billed as the first Chinese remake of a Hollywood movie, Connected is Hong Kong’s take on the movie “Cellular” headlined by Hong Kong actors Louis Koo and Nick Cheung, Taiwanese star Barbie Hsu (aka “Big S”) and Chinese actor Liu Ye. The movie’s central conceit is the single phone call between two strangers, Louis Koo’s character, Bob, and Barbie Hsu’s character, Grace, that may very well be the only lifeline Grace has of surviving after she is kidnapped.

As the first to film her scenes, Barbie Hsu likened her filming experience to that of an “examination”. It was that challenging because director Chan would capture several takes of a single scene, each take with her acting out a different emotion. Lest you think it was unprofessional, this was all so Chan could more properly calibrate her performance to match that of Louis Koo’s character on screen.

Sharing the same sentiments about his role, Louis Koo said that it was not easy acting in many of his scenes with just a phone, devoid of the interplay with a fellow actor. “We had to reshoot some of my scenes after we looked at them side by side with Barbie Hsu’s so that the interplay of the conversations between the two characters would be more real,” he said.

But both Louis Koo and Barbie Hsu were effusive in their praise of director Benny Chan, who also flew into town with the stars. In fact, one of the reasons Barbie Hsu said yes to acting in this movie was the chance to work with renowned director Chan, whose work she liked and admired.

Working on the set of Connected was also an unpredictable experience day after day. “I was not sure what the director wanted for my scenes the next day,” she explained. But she added that Benny Chan’s firm direction on set was immensely invaluable in helping her shape her performance.

Their second collaboration after last year’s Rob-B-Hood, Louis Koo similarly credited Chan’s sure hand at steering him confidently through both his dramatic scenes as well as action scenes in Connected.

And indeed, the action scenes were no easy feat for Louis Koo. This was nowhere more apparent than in the film’s climax, where his character and Liu Ye’s character were engaged in a fistfight on a platform in a warehouse eight stories above ground. It was, he added, one of the most frightening action scenes to film.

But why do a Hollywood remake, you may ask? For Benny Chan, Connected represented an opportunity to do a personal take on a story which he was intrigued by since watching the movie “Cellular”. What attracted him most was the human element within the story, that of a person willing to risk his life to save that of a complete stranger.

Transporting the story from its original sun-soaked location of California, Benny Chan said that Hong Kong also presented some unique means of developing the human element in the story. For one, he pointed out how social relationships between people in Hong Kong are necessarily quite dispersed because of the sheer number of people in Hong Kong within a small land area.
In this context therefore, he hopes that Connected may inspire people to lend a helping hand more readily to those in need.

Still, one shouldn’t count on Louis Koo to be the real-life persona of his character anytime soon. The actor said that he is “no hero, and just an ordinary person”. In fact, if you find yourself in a similar situation as Barbie Hsu’s character in the movie, you’d better hope that your random dialling hits Benny Chan’s number. Because only Benny Chan admits keeping his phone by his side.

For Louis and Barbie? Well, Louis said that he usually either does not carry his phone with him or leaves it off. And Barbie said she ignores anonymous calls that she receives on her phone most of the time.
Again, that’s probably another example of how the stars may be connected on-screen, but quite the opposite off-screen.

Click links below for more:

"Connected" opens on 1 October and is reviewed here

Report & Photos: Gabriel Chong & Richard Lim Jr
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