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9 September 2008, 5pm at Goodwood Park Hotel

Director Eric Khoo and his cast members were in Goodwood Park recently for an informal chat with us on "My Magic", a movie that was nominated for Best Picture in the recent Cannes Film Festival and will represent Singapore as an entry in the foreign language category in the upcoming Academy Awards.

Even though it had been stated on the official website that "My Magic" came about due to Eric’s own fatherhood experience, admiration for real life magician Francis Bosco and the post apocalyptic novel, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, the director shared with us another aspect that helped originate this movie concept. It turned out that during his multiple visits to the Korean Film Festival (for his Be with Me and retrospective), he was constantly asked by journalists about his next film project. Even though he didn’t have any concrete idea at that moment, he jokingly told them that it would be something about magic. The more he talked about it, the more the idea grew on him and eventually with the funding that he attained, everything just fell smoothly into place for "My Magic".

In fact, things went so smoothly that the scheduled 12-day shoot was reduced to nine. The dangerous stunts that Francis Bosco personally performed in this film went without a hitch. An abandoned house that was crucial to the movie was accidentally spotted by Eric’s assistant when they were in that remote area for another function. Even the weather cooperated by providing rain when a scene required one. It was the most pleasant shoot in Eric Khoo’s history of filmmaking.

The only difficulties he faced were related to the ending and the translation.

The original plan was to shoot the very last scene on the 9th day but after watching a rough cut, Eric Khoo felt that something was still missing. They had to reshoot all the scenes except the one where Jathishweran opens the chest.

Helping the two lead actors get the Tamil language right proved to be the toughest challenge. Fortunately, help came in the form of Grace Kalaiselvi. Initially she was cast as one of the supporting characters but when the production team had problem with the language, her experience with Tamil television programming made her the articulation police on set.

While Khoo kept a look out for general performances during the shoot, Grace was there to help spot pronunciation mistakes. She was practically a co-director and initially found it terrifying but quickly rose to the challenge.

She revealed that young Jathishweran had no problems in delivering his lines and it was Francis Bosco who made the most mistakes. Eventually, all her stringent quality control paid off as the local technician in India who were doing the 35mm conversion; found the standard of Tamil to be very good.

"My Magic" recently took part in the Cannes Film Festival and became a hit over there. Eric Khoo shared with us that after the screening of the movie, he and the cast were asked to attend a photoshoot cum interview. To their surprise, there were more than a hundred photographers waiting for them. He was later told that not all films get this kind of treatment and films that are deemed inferior by the reporters would have only a handful of photographers or zero request at all. He also told us that Francis was the most popular among them and he was so hounded by the photographers that he was the last one to leave the photoshoot session. Francis later joked that he should get the same treatment back in Singapore.

However the new found recognition wasn’t the only reward that Francis Bosco gathered after working in "My Magic". Francis shared with us that he had his own set of problems with his son and that they hadn’t been speaking for a long time. During the post production of "My Magic", the director of photography Adrian Tan who also had his own problem with his father was so moved by Francis’s portrayal as a dad seeking amendment with his son that he made a pact with Francis that they each mend their own relationship woes. By the time we had this informal chat session, Francis told us that both of them had broke the years of silence between father and son.

This 'most personal piece of work' about the kinship between father and son had not only improved the relationship of those who were involved. It will also be representing Singapore for the upcoming foreign language category in the Academy Awards. Before this chat session was over, Francis Bosco told us that it will be the best present for him if "My Magic" gets into the nomination round. Something to be proud of as it’s truly a home-grown effort.

Trivial Information

• Director Eric Khoo’s favorite magic trick from Francis Bosco was the glass-eating act. Eight years ago in a pub, Francis Bosco performed that trick with a thick brandy glass and he ate half of the glass. It shocked the people who witnessed that act and the scene was so memorable that it became the opening act for My Magic.

• According to Francis Bosco, there isn’t any video or film that features so many bizarre magic acts. He performed at least 15 of them and it had been cut down to nine in the final edit.

• Francis Bosco actually kept his diabetic problems from the director as he felt that Khoo would have prevented him from performing those extremely dangerous tricks.

• According to Eric Khoo, his son Christopher who had composed the central theme, Lonely Boy for My Magic was initially too shy to present it to his dad. It was only after Eric had heard the tune and asked if he could use it for the movie that his son revealed to him that it was written specially for his latest movie.

Check out their magic on 25 September 2008 when "My Magic" opens in cinemas.

Report/Photos: Richard Lim Jr
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