When Yeo Yann Yann met her idol Tony Leung and his wife Carina Lau at the Golden Horse Awards in 2013 (the year she was crowned Best Supporting Actress for her role in Ilo Ilo, which will be shown on Channel 5 and Toggle tonight [May 7] as part of Mediacorp’s Lights. Camera. Singapore campaign), she said, and we quote, she “was such an embarrassment”.
The Malaysia-born, Singapore-based actress recounted that “crazy night” at the prestigious ceremony to us in an interview a few weeks ago, recalling memories as vividly as if they had just happened the day before. “I was shaking Carina’s hand, but my eyes were glued to Tony the whole time!” she exclaimed. “It was so bad - if I were her, I would be furious.”
Still, that didn’t stop her from continuing to gush about Tony like an adorably lovestruck schoolgirl. “He’s so charming! When he smiles it’s like, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to die!’” she cried dramatically. “I was lucky he was there because I don’t think he goes every year.”
Yann Yann was just as mortified as she went on to describe her reaction to seeing screen siren Maggie Cheung at the same event. “I was stunned. I don’t think I remembered to smile. I was just in a daze when I saw her.”
“Stunned” seems to have been a recurring emotion for the 42-year-old that evening: it was how she felt when she heard her name being called as the winner of Best Supporting Actress (“I never dreamt that I would one day be on stage getting a trophy at the Golden Horse Awards”), and it was how she felt at the after-party (“Ang Lee was sitting beside me”). Can’t say we blame her, though.
Six years later, her stallion-shaped prize now sits along with several other gongs she nabbed from various other ceremonies - such as Russia’s Vladivostok Film Festival - on the top of a bookshelf at home, after being scattered between a couple of other places. Must be quite an impressive sight to her 6-year-old daughter Vera… right?
“She doesn’t seem to care,” Yann Yann chuckled. “But she’s clear about her mum’s job.” After all, it’d be hard for a kid not to wonder why complete strangers keep coming up to their mother to say hi on the streets, or why her classmates keep telling her, “Your mummy was in Ilo Ilo!”
Vera herself, we were a little surprised to learn, had yet to see the film at the time of our chat with Yann Yann, who revealed, “I’ve only shown her the part where I give birth to her at the end.”
For those who don’t know, Yann Yann was really pregnant with Vera while shooting Ilo Ilo (she clarified that it wasn’t planned), and that’s genuine delivery suite footage of the latter being brought into the world, right before the credits start rolling. Being an expectant woman on set certainly had its perks: she says she was “very well treated”, as she was always the first to eat, and always had a chair brought to her between takes.
The only downside? “I was very sleepy all the time,” she said. “I think every woman has different reactions to pregnancy, and mine was pure sleepiness and hunger.”
Yann Yann also brought up one particularly memorable incident while filming the scene where she canes her onscreen son, played by Koh Jia Ler. “As soon as I hit him, my baby started shivering [inside my tummy],” she recalled. “I’d never felt her react that way before; it was a very weird sensation.”
However, unsatisfied with the fact that the boy did not cry, director Anthony Chen requested another take. When they were done, Yann Yann reported that both Jia Ler, who suffered real blows, and the unborn Vera were shaking. “We nearly had to do it a third time but thankfully, the assistant director stepped in to ‘negotiate’ on our behalf.”
Yann Yann now believes her daughter may have been subconsciously affected by her feigned fierceness. “Until now, she is still very scared when I raise my voice,” she said. “I think she’s also afraid of watching the film because I told her about the caning scenes, so she’s worried it might be a horror movie. (Laughs)”
Don’t worry, little one, we can assure you - and everyone else - that it is not.
Watch ‘Ilo Ilo’ on Channel 5 and Toggle at 10pm tonight (May 7).
Visit the Lights. Camera. Singapore microsite for more information and to watch past films.