Perils of animal attraction

Easy camaraderie among Tong Dawei (left) as a chatterbox fellow tourist from China, Huang Xiaoming (centre) as a man dumped by his girlfriend, and Vicki Zhao Wei as the resourceful tour leader.
Easy camaraderie among Tong Dawei (left) as a chatterbox fellow tourist from China, Huang Xiaoming (centre) as a man dumped by his girlfriend, and Vicki Zhao Wei as the resourceful tour leader.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

Huang Xiaoming, one of Chinese cinema's top stars, had a monkey lick him and a pig poop on him in his latest action-comedy, Hollywood Adventures

Chinese actor Huang Xiaoming was involved in some monkey business during the making of the action comedy Hollywood Adventures. There was even licking involved.

But there is no need for his newly-wedded wife, actress Angelababy, to fret.

"I was hung upside-down for two to three hours and they had to smear some honey on me before it finally came over to lick me," Huang, 37, says of his scene with his simian co-star Chiquita, whose credits include the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies.

"But after we shot the scene, my face swelled up like a pig's head and I even burst a blood vessel. My face was covered in red spots," he adds.

He experienced more animal antics while shooting the film, which opens here tomorrow.

In an e-mail interview with Life, Huang recalls the pig he worked with was "extremely disobedient and didn't seem to understand humans at all".

He adds: "It was very energetic and kept running all over the place. It even pooped on me. I felt like I stank for days after that."

These on-set shenanigans give an idea of the crazy adventures that his character, also named Xiaoming, has when he goes to Los Angeles to win back his ex- girlfriend.

Joining him on the ride are tour leader Wei Wei (Vicki Zhao Wei) and chatterbox fellow China tourist Dawei (Tong Dawei).

Apart from working with the animals, Huang also faced the challenge of speaking a few lines in English, which he took it in his stride.

He says: "Communication on set was not a problem. I took the chance to speak more English, doesn't matter if it's right or wrong, at least it's bound to improve."

Nor was language a barrier when it came to figuring out what director Timothy Kendall wanted. "Even if you didn't understand what he was saying, you could absolutely tell from his body language what he wanted to express."

Part of the fun in making the movie was getting the chance to work with his Beijing Film Academy classmate, Zhao.

He says: "The last time we worked together was rehearsing for skits when we started film school. In the blink of an eye, more than 10 years have passed and it felt pretty good to collaborate on such a great and fun project."

There was also time to catch up and bond during the shoot in the United States.

During their free weekends, the three China actors - "we formed a Los Angeles Eating and Drinking Mini Squad" - would head out in search of good food.

During their free time on set, they would play a card game known as "dou dizhu" (literally, fighting the landlord).

Further adventures in Hollywood are not for Huang if it means small roles.

"Things are pretty good in China now and I don't have to go to Hollywood to 'da jiangyou'," he says. The phrase "da jiangyou" literally means to buy soya sauce, a slang for taking on acting bit jobs.

"But if there are suitable opportunities, I would love for there to be more collaborations."

Huang is one of Chinese cinema's top stars, with a resume that includes movies such as espionage thriller The Message (2009), romantic comedy Women Who Flirt (2014) and wuxia fantasy The White Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom (2015).

For his turn as a country bumpkin in the drama American Dreams In China (2013), he won prizes, including Best Actor for the Golden Rooster Award and Hundred Flowers Award.

Director Peter Chan, who helmed American Dreams, was initially worried that Huang was too good-looking for the part.

Call it a hazard of being handsome. While Huang admits that his looks opened doors for him when he was starting out, he now hopes that people can look past that.

He says: "Many people think that because of the way you look, you work less hard than others. That's not true, but it's easy for everyone to overlook that.

"But it's okay because I put in 100 per cent of effort to do each thing well and I have a clear conscience."

• Hollywood Adventures opens in cinemas tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2015, with the headline 'East meets West in madcap adventure Perils of animal attraction'. Print Edition | Subscribe