SINGAPORE – At the tail end of 2020, local actress and entrepreneur Selena Tan had been hit hard by the pandemic.
Live performances had been halted by safety restrictions, so she could not perform with Pamela Oei and Jo Tan in their three-woman musical cabaret troupe, the Dim Sum Dollies.
Selena Tan, 51, also could not work with performers such as home-grown comedian Kumar through her theatre production company Dream Academy.
Then she got the call: She had been picked to play hotel owner Margie in the action flick-slash-romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding, a movie that stars Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel, Sonia Braga and Jennifer Coolidge, and is now showing in cinemas.
Tan – who got her international feature-film break in romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians (2018) – would fly to the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean nation, in early 2021 for filming, at a time when there was little else for her to do in Singapore.
“It was a lifeline. It was a godsend,” she tells The Straits Times in a telephone interview.
In the film, Lopez and Duhamel play Darcy and Tom, a couple holding their destination wedding at a posh beach resort in the Philippines. Their families do not get along, but have been invited anyway.
Margie (Tan) and Ace (American actor Alberto Isaac) are the couple who own the hotel. When an emergency occurs, the feuding families must set their differences aside to survive.
Tan described the two-month stint in the Caribbean as surreal. Not only was she working in a Hollywood production, but she was also living with several of her co-workers.
The cast and crew were split into bubbles to avoid cross-infection. For two months, about a dozen of them shared a villa.
Tan says she would go to the film set even when she was not working, just to watch how the team worked.
“I got to see how shots were composed. It was quite fun and educational,” she adds.
She also spent time with villa mates such as American musician-actor Lenny Kravitz, and actors Coolidge, Braga, D’Arcy Carden and Cheech Marin.
Tan says: “It was glorious, like a summer camp. When we weren’t working, we went to the beach, ate together, watched movies together.”
Then someone came up with the idea of holding screenings of films featuring the villa’s residents.
For example, the Oscar-winning drama Kiss Of The Spider Woman (1985), starring Braga, was screened at the villa’s cinema room, followed by an onstage interview with the Brazilian actress.
For American comic actress Coolidge, the breakout star of Emmy-winning comedy-drama The White Lotus (2021 to present), the comedy Best In Show (2000) was selected.
“It was mind-blowing,” says Tan. “I never thought I would be sitting next to Sonia Braga watching Kiss Of The Spider Woman.”
But scheduling conflicts got in the way and shooting ended before they could screen one of Tan’s films, she says with a laugh.
Had they asked her, Tan says she would have picked the Jack Neo comedy I Not Stupid (2002), in which she plays Mrs Khoo, the rich and ambitious mother eager for her son to do better in school.
“I don’t know how well I Not Stupid would have gone down with the crowd,” she says of the film, which has Mandarin, Hokkien and English dialogue, and is peppered with references to class division and the education system that only Singaporeans would understand.
“I would have had to explain every scene.”
- Shotgun Wedding is showing in cinemas.