SINGAPORE - In Taiwanese romantic comedy My Missing Valentine, which opened in cinemas here on Thursday (Nov 12), female lead Patty Lee's natural performance makes her look completely at ease as a post office worker looking for love.
But Lee, in her first lead role in a feature film, was actually feeling so stressed that she had anxious dreams.
"I was under a lot of pressure every day. I felt like I wasn't performing well and I felt sorry to everyone... I'll have dreams where I'm lying in bed and I see the entire crew in my room. Everyone is ready and they are just waiting for me," says the 32-year-old in a telephone interview with local media.
And it was a challenge for the actress, better known as a travel host, to land meatier acting opportunities in the first place.
"The toughest thing was that people know me only as a host, no one knows I can act too. But there are benefits too - being a host, you have to treat the camera either as invisible or as a friend so that helped me to be natural and comfortable on-screen."
Her efforts paid off. My Missing Valentine picked up 11 nominations at the Golden Horse Awards, with nods for Lee and her co-star Liu Kuan-ting (right). Lee is also nominated for Best Original Film Song as she is the lyricist and singer for the movie's theme song Lost And Found. The awards ceremony is on Nov 21.
Lee says: "I was nominated for the Golden Bell for three years when I finally won, so I know the feeling of losing out. If you go in with no expectations, then there's no harm done."
She nabbed best lifestyle programme host at the television-focused Golden Bell Awards last year for her travel diving show, Underwater 30 Metres.
Her co-star Liu, 32, won a Golden Horse for Best Supporting Actor last year for family drama A Sun.
My Missing Valentine has been a unique filming experience for both stars - they have few scenes of interaction together, though they play the leads.
Lee says: "It's really a pity that we don't have more scenes together. We don't get the chance to bounce our chemistry off each other."
The first half of the movie is dedicated to Lee's character, who has quirky scenes, like the one in which she sings with abandon in her bedroom. She says: "The singing was quite difficult. I had to go all out because it had to be like a little girl's crazy fantasy in her own world."
While some scenes were out of Lee's comfort zone, her character's impatient personality and brave pursuit of love reflects herself too.
She says with a chuckle: "I'm the kind of person who if I like someone, I'll find chances to speak to him and see where I can make my move."
For Liu, playing an awkward bus driver, who is always one step slower and lagging behind his peers, gave him a new perspective on life. "I tried to slow down my pace of life for this role and I do feel more peaceful. I can see, hear and feel more. I think there's a tendency in people now to blindly speed through life and when you ask them what they've done, they can't really answer."
Asked if he felt his character, who follows Lee's female lead secretly, could be seen as creepy, he says: "He just wants to protect her when he follows her. I think that's the challenging part of the role - he's very pure and, sometimes, things he does are on the line of pure versus creepy, depending on who's looking at them.
"Things you may find wonderful as a child, you might think they are scary and creepy when you're older because in that process, we've lost so much pure, genuine humour."
Aside from his Golden Horse Award win last year, Liu, who is only four years into his acting career, also picked up best supporting actor at the Golden Bell Awards for A Boy Named Flora A (2017).
Besides My Missing Valentine, his streak with critically acclaimed projects continues this year with The Silent Forest, which is nominated for eight Golden Horse prizes, though Liu is not individually nominated. He plays a teacher in the movie, which is based on a true story of sexual assault cases against hearing- disabled students at a school in Tainan.
Does he have competing loyalties? He says: "Winning is a matter of good fortune, so I just want to wish everyone the best."