The star who was busy behind the scenes

Charlene Choi (above) plays a lawyer who abruptly leaves her boyfriend of 10 years in the movie, 77 Heartbreaks.
Charlene Choi (above) plays a lawyer who abruptly leaves her boyfriend of 10 years in the movie, 77 Heartbreaks.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

Actress Charlene Choi, the lead in 77 Heartbreaks, asked her friends in show business to join the cast and sought financing for the film

Hong Kong actress Charlene Choi is billed as the leading lady of the movie, 77 Heartbreaks, but it turns out that she played a much larger role - albeit behind the scenes - than that.

As Herman Yau, director of the romantic drama, points out, Choi had also pulled plenty of strings to help get the project moving.

In a telephone interview from his home in Hong Kong, he tells The Straits Times in Mandarin: "Charlene is not officially credited as a producer, but she did many things for the film behind the scenes."

For example, she made several telephone calls to get her best friends in show business to join the cast, including Yumiko Cheng, Candy Lo as well as Gillian Chung, her former singing partner from Cantopop duo Twins.

Reportedly, Choi, 34, also activelysought financing for the film.

Yau, 56, says: "Charlene liked the story a lot, so she really wanted to turn this into a movie and present it on the big screen."

The film is adapted from Hong Kong writer Erica Li's novel of the same name, with the screenplay written by Li herself.

Choi plays Eva, a lawyer who abruptly leaves her boyfriend of 10 years, Adam (played by Pakho Chau).

He is confused by her reasons for the sudden break-up, but finds clues in her old notebook, in which she wrote about the 77 times he broke her heart in the past.

Given the director's reputation for making cult horror movies such as The Untold Story (1993) and social dramas such as Whispers And Moans (2007), some would find it surprising that he would take on a pure romance flick.

But the challenge in exploring a completely different genre was precisely why he signed on to the project, he says.

"I've done a few romantic films here and there, but my experience directing this genre is very little," he says.

"So when Erica and Charlene asked me to consider doing this, I saw a great opportunity to try something fresh. We're all good friends, so it wasn't difficult to say yes."

Yau had previously worked with the two women on the erotic drama Sara (2015), which was scripted by Li and starred Choi.

That film had put Choi in the spotlight because her role was such a far cry from her usual goody-two- shoes image.

As a student involved with a man twice her age, she did several steamy sex scenes with veteran actor Simon Yam, 62. The role earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

Yau says: "Everyone is saying that she has improved so much in her acting and I cannot agree more. I think she is a very good and serious actress.

"Outside of work, she is also a very good person. There are stars who can be quite nasty on set, but she is nice to everybody. That's the truth."

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

•77 Heartbreaks opens in cinemas today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline 'The star who was busy behind the scenes'. Print Edition | Subscribe