TAIPEI - Having conquered the local box office, home-grown film-maker Jack Neo is hoping to make a killing overseas with his next film.
At Grand Victoria Hotel in Taipei on Thursday (March 1), Neo announced in front of more than 30 media outlets from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore that he will be filming action comedy Killer Not Stupid in Taiwan.
Neo, 58, says: "I have always wanted to go beyond the Singapore market and I realised that Taiwan audiences have been supporting my films when they air on television.
"I hope to have a breakthrough with my 31st movie."
The cast includes familiar Taiwanese names such as actor and former Mandopop duo Awaking member Jay Shih, 34, actress-singer Amber An, 32, and actor-host Lin Yu-chih, 37, better known as Nadou.
The story revolves around two killers, played by Shih and Lin, who want to leave their profession.
Dressed in a black-and-white ensemble, Shih says he is happy to act with the "very beautiful" An for the first time.
An, who plays a princess-in-peril type of character, says: "I like comedies so I'm glad to take part in one."
The actress, sheathed in a femme-fatale-red trench coat, adds cheekily: "Shih's my idol, I listened to his songs when I was young."
The budget of the film is around NT$60 million (S$2.7 million) and 90 per cent of the movie will be shot in Taichung, including at locations such as the scenic Blue Road and the bustling Dadu Zhichang night market.
Taichung is a place that is dear to Neo as his comedy Money No Enough 2 (2008) has been screening at a second-run cinema there since May 20, 2009. That makes it Taiwan's longest-running movie.
Filming for Killer Not Stupid will commence in mid-March and is expected to be completed by May. It is slated to be released in Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia, hopefully for the next Chinese New Year, says Neo.
The movie is produced by Singapore's J Team Productions and mm2 Entertainment (Taiwan), in association with Hong Kong-based Turner Asia Pacific. This is Neo's first collaboration with a Taiwanese movie company.
The film's title is a nod to I Not Stupid (2002), a satirical comedy about Singapore's education system that was both a popular and critical hit.
Also, Neo received the Best Director Award at the Singapore International Film Festival in 1998 for his short film Replacement Killer.
He says Killer Not Stupid is a different genre from the family drama of I Not Stupid, but adds: "The comedy that people like will be there and comedy is what I'm good at."
His military-themed Ah Boys To Men 2 (2013) is the top-grossing local film of all time with $7.8 million earned.
Asked about box-office pressure, he says: "The priority is to make a good film first."