Janice Man is man enough to be an action star in Helios

Actress Janice Man learnt mixed martial arts and how to fire a gun for her role in Helios. -- PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES
Actress Janice Man learnt mixed martial arts and how to fire a gun for her role in Helios. -- PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

Hong Kong actress Janice Man trained for six months to take on the brutal fight scenes in Helios, a thriller with a cast of hunks

In the testosterone-heavy thriller Helios, Hong Kong actress Janice Man more than holds her own, playing an accomplice to Chang Chen's ruthless criminal.

Her bone-crunching, face-bruising slugfest with Nick Cheung's counter-terrorism agent is an action highlight. There were only two rehearsals before the scene was shot over half a day in a back alley in Macau.

While the fight comes across as brutal with her getting slammed into a stationary car and Cheung getting pinned by a chokehold, she assures that no one was hurt while filming.

"The rhythm of the action was very fast, but we were very careful," says Man, 26, in a telephone interview with the Singapore media from Wuxi, China, where she is filming a television series.

Still, she "breathed a sigh of relief" when the scene was in the bag because she knew how pivotal it was to the film, which is currently showing in cinemas.

To prepare for her physically challenging role, she trained for six months, three to four hours a day, learning to fire a gun and picking up "quite vicious" mixed martial arts moves.

One of her two trainers was formerly with the United States army.

Sprains and minor scrapes were unavoidable, but she took them all in her stride and proclaims that the fight scene was "pretty fun".

Her fighting spirit is admirable considering that she has a hereditary condition where if she "gets hurt or gets stitches", a lump of flesh will grow over the scar.

Even so, she is keen to venture further down the action star path.

"As an actor, I think it's good to try different kinds of things."

Such as, perhaps, playing a villain, which she does for the first time in Helios.

"There's a surprise for audiences in watching me play a villain, but there was some pressure on me at first because my roles were previously more genteel," says Man, who started modelling at the age of 14 and later acted in television shows and films such as Love Is Not All Around (2007) and Basic Love (2009).

She enjoyed the atmosphere on the set of Helios, which was as convivial as it was multilingual, with snatches of Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and English used in communication.

Man notes: "It was pretty fun as this was new to me and it felt very international to have all these languages used on the set."

The cast included Korean hunks Choi Si Won, of popular boyband Super Junior, and Ji Jin Hee, star of Jewel In The Palace, and also top Hong Kong and Taiwanese actors.

Who was the best-looking of the lot to her?

She laughs and says diplomatically: "So many are my idols and the movie can't do without any of them, so it's too hard to pick just one."

It is proving difficult to pick the one in her personal life as well given how busy she is with work.

"I'm filming over 10 hours a day and I don't even have enough time to sleep, much less think about romance.

"But when destiny beckons, I would be very happy to have both work and love. That would be perfect for a woman."

She is a firm believer in fate and chemistry.

"In the past, I would have listed conditions for the perfect boyfriend," she says.

"Now that I'm more mature, the most important thing is that he loves me dearly and supports me no matter what. It's not about looks at all."

bchan@sph.com.sg

Helios is showing in cinemas.