Taiwanese author-director Giddens Ko says that working with Gingle Wang for the first time on his new movie Till We Meet Again reminded him of working with lead actor Kai Ko on his feature film directorial debut, the coming-of-age romance You Are The Apple Of My Eye (2011).
The 43-year-old says in a video conference with local media: "Gingle is obviously a genius actress. If I had worked with her on my first movie, I would have mistaken myself for a genius director because she can so successfully portray whatever emotions I want her to capture.
"That's how I felt with Kai working on my first movie. I thought, 'Man, I'm awesome.' Now, I know that it was because he's a genius actor. I didn't know how to cherish him then, but I know to cherish Gingle."
The director's "genius actor" reunites with him for the third time in Till We Meet Again, a romance with supernatural elements.
Kai Ko, 30, says of working with Giddens Ko again: "I think he has more things he wants to say now through his works and he's also more sure about what he wants to make. The rest is quite familiar, his directing style has not really changed. People who understand and believe in his vision can immerse themselves into his universe quite easily."
Aside from You Are The Apple Of My Eye, Kai Ko also had a cameo in Giddens Ko's Mon Mon Mon Monsters (2017). He also starred in A Choo (2020), which was not directed by Giddens Ko but was written by him.
Till We Meet Again opens today. In it, Kai Ko and Wang are A-Lun and Pinky, who both had traumatic deaths. In the afterlife, they team up as cupids who are able to bind people together in love. They run into Xiaomi (Vivian Sung), A-Lun's girlfriend, and try to find someone new for her.
There are plenty of scenes where Sung and Kai Ko weep for their untimely separation. Sung, 29, says: "I feel like I fell in love with A-Lun even before we began filming, so all the scenes of me missing him and his cremation - all those emotions flowed very naturally."
Ko adds: "It was also very easy for me to cry because it's such a familiar team that I'm working with this time, who have seen me grow up over the years. I let down my defences readily."
Sung, Kai Ko and Giddens Ko have all previously worked together as the actress, too, had a cameo in Mon Mon Mon Monsters. She also starred in Cafe. Waiting. Love (2014), another Giddens Ko adaptation which was produced and written by him.
And Wang, 23, says that history was intimidating at first.
"I was very excited to do the movie because I had read Giddens' books growing up, but I was pretty nervous because everyone else had worked together before and I was worried it'll be hard to assimilate."
She jokes: "I also heard that Kai can be quite a diva."
Kai Ko fires back: "I also heard that Gingle is very hard to work with, but she turned out to be kind and sincere."
The movie is based on one of Giddens Ko's earlier books, published in 2002, and it is his first romantic story.
Asked why it took so long to adapt Till We Meet Again, the writer says: "The supernatural elements of the story call for a lot of computer graphics and Taiwan doesn't do a lot of films in this genre. But the Taiwanese film industry has matured a lot over the years and that's why it can finally be adapted. If someone comes out of the cinema thinking the visual effects are good, then I'm very honoured."
Just days after the interview, the film, which was nominated for 11 awards at the prestigious Golden Horse Awards held in Taipei, won three: for best visual effects, best make-up and costume design, and best sound effects.
Giddens Ko had hoped to bag the best visual effects accolade.
"It'll have an encouraging effect on other film-makers to be more imaginative when it comes to visual effects because there are great teams behind the scenes who can realise those visions. We shouldn't be avoiding scenes which will require huge amounts of computer graphics from the scripting stage, thinking that they can't be made, because they can."
• Till We Meet Again opens today.