Jack Neo plays middleman to feuding actors at press conference for new movie

From left: Director Jack Neo, actor Wang Weiliang, getai veteran Wang Lei, actor Chen Tianwen and veteran singer-songwriter Roy Loi. An uneventful press conference on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, to promote Jack Neo's second lion dance-themed mo
From left: Director Jack Neo, actor Wang Weiliang, getai veteran Wang Lei, actor Chen Tianwen and veteran singer-songwriter Roy Loi. An uneventful press conference on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, to promote Jack Neo's second lion dance-themed movie took a surprising turn when the 54-year-old director decided to play middleman and get two feuding actors to make up. --  ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

An uneventful press conference on Tuesday to promote Jack Neo's second lion dance-themed movie took a surprising turn when the 54-year-old director decided to play middleman and get two feuding actors to make up.

The leading man of The Lion Men: Ultimate Showdown, Wang Weiliang, 26, made headlines in Feburary when his mentor, veteran getai singer Wang Lei, publicly disowned him on Facebook.

Rumour has it that Wang, 52, was mad at his disciple for not paying him a visit during Chinese New Year. The older Wang makes a cameo appearance in the movie, which opens in cinemas on Thursday.

The first part of The Lion Men opened in January and made $2.15 million at the box office. The Lion Men is a two-part film which cost $4 million to make.

The make-up session on Tuesday was an awkward affair as Neo goaded the reluctant Wang Lei into shaking hands with the sheepish Weiliang onstage in a conference room at the Resorts World Convention Centre.

The pair, who have not been on talking terms since the public falling out, each had their say onstage. Both were in shock, claiming that they had no idea what the director had in store for them.

Neo said in Mandarin: "The two of them have an unresolved dispute. I hope to see the two of them shake hands today. I think it's good to thrash it out. I hope disciple and mentor can go back to where they were before."

Wang had taken Weiliang under his wing a few years ago and was grooming him to host getai concerts in the heartlands. Then he recommended his protege to Neo for a major role in the two-part movie Ah Boys To Men (2012, 2013).

The army-themed flicks proved to be runaway hits, raking in about $14 million collectively, earning them the title of Singapore's highest-grossing films of all time. Their overwhelming success turned the cast, including Weiliang, into overnight stars.

That was when Wang said he noticed that his disciple was letting fame get to his head, and neglecting his older fans who had supported him since his getai singing and hosting days.

Wang said emphatically at the press conference: "Ever since Weiliang shot Ah Boys To Men, he only cares about the movie fans. He neglected the aunties that supported him since his getai days. The aunties really supported him by giving him his red packets when he just started out in getai."

Speaking to the media after Wang's remarks, Weiliang claimed that he only just found out the reason behind his mentor's fury.

It seems the veteran singer's resentment boiled down to the young actor's seemingly innocuous act of not "liking" his getai fans' comments on Facebook.

Weiliang said: "He feels that I'm a changed person. Previously, when one or two aunties will leave encouraging comments on my Facebook. I will 'like' the comments.

"But now there are too many comments, it's impossible for me to 'like' every single comment. So I just don't 'like' the comments. But when it's their birthday, I will still give them a call to wish them happy birthday."

Fellow Ah Boys star Tosh Zhang, 24, who also has a lead role in The Lion Men, jumped to Weiliang's defence. Zhang said: "Weiliang is not really so savvy with social media. He's not so active on social media. I will be the one reminding him to post things on his accounts."

The earnest Weiliang went on to explain that his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts were all started with the help of his friends.

Still, he confessed to feeling relieved that the first step had been taken in burying the hatchet. He intends to ask his mentor out for coffee.

It remains to be seen whether the feuding pair will make up.

All Wang wants is for Weiliang to go back to being the same person he knew from before.

In response, the actor said matter of factly: "He's angry with me because he loves me. He doesn't want me to go down the wrong path. But I want to clarify that I'm still the Weiliang you know from before."

nggwen@sph.com.sg