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Peng power

Eddie Peng may not have a six-pack - for now - but the actor is known for going the extra mile for his roles, be they a gymnast or gongfu master

Taiwanese hunk Eddie Peng is well known for his buff bod, having displayed it multiple times before in films such as Jump Ashin! (2011), Unbeatable (2013) and Rise Of The Legend (2014).

But audiences will not be seeing his famous pecs and abs in his latest movie Cold War 2 - not that he has any to show off anyway.

"If I diet and work out, it would all be for a role. But since my role in Cold War 2 did not require a very athletic body or any shirtless scenes, I didn't go out of my way to do any special exercises.

"So I don't have my abs anymore - Aaron Kwok loves to tease me about that," the 34-year-old tells The Straits Times in Mandarin with a grin.

His co-star Kwok, despite being 16 years his senior, is a lot more serious when it comes to maintaining his perfect physique.

Every time Aaron saw me on the set, he would touch my belly and ask me if my abs were still there, as a joke.

ACTOR EDDIE PENG on how 50-year-old co-star Aaron Kwok would tease him about his fitness levels

Peng says: "Every time Aaron saw me on the set, he would touch my belly and ask me if my abs were still there, as a joke.

"Aaron really keeps to a strict exercise regimen. He loves to eat hotpot for supper, and no matter how late it is, he will still go to the gym to work out after he finishes his meal. He's pretty amazing."

According to Peng, Kwok's work ethic is as impressive as his workout discipline. So getting to work again with the Hong Kong veteran was a major reason he was so eager to take on this sequel, which picks up directly from where the 2012 hit film had left off.

In the new movie, Peng's villainous ex-cop character has been put behind bars for kidnapping police officers, while Kwok reprises his Hong Kong commissioner of police role.

Peng says: "You really learn a lot from working with such veteran actors - not just about acting, but also about professionalism and how you should behave around other people."

From Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun Fat, 61, who joins the cast in a new role as a legislator, Peng learnt all about the art of the selfie - including how to graciously oblige scores of fans with selfie requests.

Peng tells The Straits Times with a laugh: "Chow really loves to take selfies - so much so that he maxes out the phone storage.

"Sometimes, he'll borrow my phone to take selfies with other people and max out my phone storage too. Chow is everyone's idol, but the way he treats other people is like he's their friend."

At the Singapore press conference for this film held earlier this week, Chow, whom the Hong Kong press call "king of selfies", gamely hopped off the stage to take selfies with each of the 50 or so press members at the event. Peng says Chow's example has made him rethink such requests from fans.

"So if I am out and about, even on my own vacation, I would happily take selfies with my fans," he says.

"I've realised that it's just part of the job of being an actor. When I was at the Shanghai Film Festival this year, I also wanted to take a picture with Ian McKellen because I'm a fan of his, so I totally understand if fans want to take pictures with me."

Perhaps, Peng's eagerness to always learn and improve is why he is such a popular hire with film- makers and producers.

The actor, who debuted in the Taiwanese TV idol drama Tomorrow (2002), has since shot up to the A-list as one of the hottest Asian film stars of his generation, putting out an average of three movies a year.

This year, he stars in seven films, including the highly anticipated Zhang Yimou film The Great Wall, which also stars Matt Damon and Andy Lau.

It helps that Peng has a reputation for being someone who goes to extremes to hone the skills required for his roles.

In his acclaimed role as a gymnast in Jump! Ashin (2011), for example, he spent 12 hours a day for eight consecutive months training in the gym to perfect jumps and flips. To play legendary martial artist Wong Fei Hung in Rise Of The Legend (2014), he spent nearly a year to learn the gongfu styles required of the part.

Several respected industry players have openly praised his work ethic, including veteran actor Tony Leung Ka Fai, 58, who often refers to Peng as his "son".

Director Dante Lam, 51, citing the actor's diligence in previous reports, has also cast him in three of his films so far: boxing drama Unbeatable (2013); cycling movie To The Fore (2015); and the upcoming crime movie Operation Mekong, which is slated for release later this year.

Peng says in jest that he accepts director Lam's role offers only because he always feels "pressured into helping a friend".

Turning serious, he says: "But honestly, when a director is so eager to cast you in his film and thinks that a role is perfect for you, you sort of have to trust him. And I feel honoured by it.

"Whatever the role is, all I know is that I have to do my best. You only get that one short period of time to shoot a film, so why would I not give it my all?"

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

•Cold War 2 is showing in Singapore cinemas.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Peng power'. Print Edition | Subscribe