Photos: Teo Sijia
Videos: Tay Yixuan
Last Friday (May 29), local film actor-director Jack Neo announced the main cast of an SG50 themed kampung film Long Long Time Ago about the post-independence life of Chinese kampong dwellers from the 60s and 70s.
The 55-year-old director cracked a joke before the announcement: “As this is an SG50 film to remember our post-independence life, I have invited people from that generation to act in this movie! (laughs)”
Veteran actress Aileen Tan, 48, getai entertainer Wang Lei, 53, and comedian Mark Lee, 46, form the main cast of the film.
The movie will portray kampong life to modern life, weaving in big historical events such as the 1969 racial riots and flood.
The film is slated to begin filming in July and will not only be shot in Singapore but also in Ipoh, Malaysia. The production cost of the movie is almost SGD$5 million, Jack’s most costly film to date.
In Long Long Time Ago, Aileen plays Zhao Di, the unwanted second wife of an older man who is forced to return to her own family. Her father (played by Wang Lei), under the advice of a match-maker, married her off to a coffee shop owner Xiao Qie, but after his unfortunate death, she was chased out the door with five young children to look after.
The actress revealed that she has made a lot of sacrifices for her role in the film, but wishes to keep the details a secret for now: “To sum it up, this will definitely be a breakthrough performance for me.”
As most of the film’s dialogue is in Hokkien dialect, alongside Malay, Mandarin and English, this has posed a challenge for Aileen yet again. The first time she needed to speak Hokkien for a role was playing Lobang’s drug addict of a mother in the recent Ah Boys to Men 3: Frogmen.
At the press conference, she revealed that her Hokkien probably sounded so broken that a lot of people misunderstood that she was from Guangdong, when she’s actually a Hokkien. Apart from Hokkien, the actress also had to pick up Malay. “It’s a big challenge, because I had to learn from scratch but thankfully I have a very good teacher,” said Aileen in an interview with Toggle.
Click on to the next page to read more and watch the interview.
Just how much is Mark being paid?
Mark plays Aileen’s self-centred younger brother in Long Long Time Ago who is also a male chauvinist. The local comedian added about his character, “He’ll do everything, but succeed in nothing.”
He also expressed that he is very happy to be able to work with his mentor Jack again and also get the opportunity to star in such a meaningful film.
Mark noted that he had always wanted to be in Jack’s movie Ah Boys to Men 3: Frogmen, but he had already accepted the offer to act in King of Mahjong at the time and was unable to do both.
When asked about how much he is getting paid for the film, he simply replied, “That’s not important.”
Mark also joked that being in a Jack Neo film is equivalent to being in a thriller movie – you never know what to expect. He continued to say that you have to mentally prepare yourself to be pranked on.
He gave an example of when he acted alongside “Ah Jie” Fann Wong in Ah Long Pte Ltd – Jack had prepared to spill chocolate sauce on them and almost caused them to be raided by the ants.
Wang Lei complains about looking like an old man
Wang Lei’s father character needs to look around 60 to 70 years old, and him being just a little over 50 means that he has to spend a lot of time and effort in the hair and makeup room (and he’s dreading it!).
He wears prosthetic teeth and facial hair for the role and has gone through the trouble of dyeing his hair white. He also ranted that even the gas station workers call him “Ah Bo” (a name to call an elder) and his getai friends don’t recognise him anymore. His dog, too, had difficulty recognising him and poor Wang Lei was barked at by his own pet.
When Mark heard this, he poked fun at his cast mate by saying: “If it’s so troublesome for you, you shouldn’t have accepted the role!”
Wang Lei immediately refuted, “I originally didn’t want to accept, but just for the sake of hearing Mark Lee calling me ‘Dad’… (laughs)”
Long Long Time Ago is slated to premiere next Chinese New Year (February 4).