VENGEANCE IS SWEET
The fictitious rivalry between two bak kwa stores became the perfect opportunity for a regional cast to get together in Penang for a one-month shoot, and the experience, going by the star-studded cast assembled at a press conference to promote the movie, proved the age-old adage that vengeance can indeed be sweet. The conference was also the first time that the regional cast- among them Hong Kong TVB actor Ha Yu, Malaysian actor Josh Lai and Taiwanese singer Stanlyn Hsu- had gotten together after the shoot, and they took turns reminiscing fondly about their experience of many ‘firsts’.
For one, this is veteran Ha Yu’s first in a Singapore movie, and he thanks Irene Ang for giving him the chance to be part of this collaboration. When asked how it compared with shooting in Hong Kong, he said candidly that although the style and pace of filming was similar, there was still some room for improvement. “You need a lot of preparation work before you start filming,” he said. “And I think there were certain details that, with experience, you’ll realise you need to prepare for in advance.”
Ha Yu though was unprepared for a new record that this shoot would set in his filming career. In order to get the Hokkien phrase “when the trees fall, the monkeys scatter” right, the Cantonese-speaking Ha Yu broke his own record of the number of NGs. He explained: “I had to utter that phrase at the end of a long take, and because the earlier part was quite emotional and intense, by the time I got to the last part, I realise I had forgotten how to pronounce it properly!”
In fact, getting that scene right was more difficult than having to endure a dead mouse in his mouth- and yes, the animal was real. While it was definitely another first for him, it wasn’t revolting as you may have thought. “The mouse had been sterilised in wine,” he said, adding that it was not much different from a health tonic the Chinese have called ‘baby mice wine’ which is made from baby mice fermented in rice wine (for the record, it was a Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not moment that sparked not one rejoin from the crowd of journalists).
Irene Ang, who plays Ha Yu’s romantic interest/ business rival in the movie, was slightly more squeamish about it. If anything, she managed to get through that scene by looking towards Ha Yu, whom she describes as a serious and very good actor. According to Irene, Ha Yu was very professional and unruffled when filming that particular scene, which went a long way to help her steel her nerves- especially since it wasn’t always the plan for her to have to go through that experience.
When “Perfect Rivals” was conceived as the maiden film project of Fly Entertainment’s A.I. Pictures, Irene was supposed to be the director of the movie. However, the Malaysian investors wanted her in front of the camera because of her popularity with Malaysian audiences from Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd and its spinoffs. So in turn, Irene went from behind the scenes to in front of it- though as her first Mandarin film, it meant that she had to spend extra time after the day’s shoot was concluded to memorise her lines.
But Fly’s foray into filmmaking was more than just an attempt for the multi-hyphenate star to direct her own movie- it was also a chance to bring together her Fly Entertainment artistes, among them “881’s” Mindee Ong and “Point of Entry’s” Pamelyn Chee. Mindee and Pamelyn had not worked together prior to this and confessed to being just “work acquaintances”. But the pair bonded with each other and their Fly CEO Irene when director Han Yew Kwang told the three ladies to improvise on set to dress Mindee up as a guy, in line with her character’s story in the film.
That experience sparked off a lively exchange among the trio, after Irene first remarked that she “cannot find” when she had to wrap Mindee up across her chest with cling wrap and later added that the wrapping finished quicker than expected. Mindee’s reply? Don’t you detect a hint of jealousy in Irene’s tone of voice? Mindee’s maiden cross-dressing role has won praise from her male co-stars, Josh and Stanlyn- Stanlyn says she resembles one of those effeminate-looking guys right out of a Japanese anime.
For the Taiwanese singer making his screen debut, acting has proven to be more challenging but also simultaneously more fulfilling than singing. “When I sing on stage, I just have to be myself,” he said. “But when you act, you have to get to know your character, and it’s almost like getting to know someone else, so to me that was more difficult than singing.” In particular, Stanlyn most enjoyed the scene where he carried Pamelyn on his back while walking along the beach (lucky him, we say!).
“Perfect Rivals” is also acclaimed local director Yew Kwang’s first commercial movie, and he said that he was initially quite unsettled about it- especially after the first meeting with Ha Yu. “He had first stepped off the flight to Singapore, and I remember his eyes were red and he was extremely laconic,” Yew Kwang said. “It got me worried the whole night that I couldn’t sleep. Ironically, after that night’s sleep, Ha Yu was much more cheerful.”
Very often, Yew Kwang made the effort to check in with Ha Yu and seek the veteran’s advice on how the shoot was proceeding. “He would always give me the same answer, but I was equally reassured every time. He would say, ‘You’re not the fastest, but you’re definitely not the slowest’. I was very gratified whenever I heard that, and we would continue filming at our pace,” said Yew Kwang.
If anything, the banter among the regional cast gathered there was only further evidence that the shoot, with its litany of ‘firsts’ for each one of the actors, was more than pleasant. Of course, the free flow of ‘bak kwa’ on set- which Ha Yu, Josh and Stanlyn said they loved eating- would only have made things sweeter and more delightful.
By Gabriel Chong