Singapore's efficiency, food a hit with stars

Hitman: Agent 47, starring actress Hannah Ware and Rupert Friend (both above), was partially shot in Singapore.
Hitman: Agent 47, starring actress Hannah Ware and Rupert Friend (both above), was partially shot in Singapore.PHOTO: TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Ask the director and stars of Hitman: Agent 47, which was shot in Singapore last year, what they think of the island-state and you will get some wildly contradictory answers.

First-time director Aleksander Bach says he was drawn here by the stunning backdrop afforded by Gardens by the Bay.

"I was really looking for locations that would be so different. We were shooting in winter time in Berlin, which was grey and, sometimes, depressing, and then in Singapore," he tells Life in an interview in New York.

"When I heard we had the opportunity to shoot in Singapore and that it had never really been featured on the big screen, I went there a year before to scout it.

"And, wow, Gardens by the Bay - I had never seen these views before. That's why I chose it for this core emotional scene where a character sees her father again."


A good chunk of the movie, which is inspired by the Hitman video games, is set in Singapore, where the characters go to find a scientist who has fled after cloning a series of assassins.

Yet as beautiful as the setting was, Bach says it was logistically "very difficult" to shoot in the Republic.

"They were very helpful, but they just don't know how to do it, so it took so much more time and it was challenging," says the director, who shot one of the key action scenes in the middle of Robinson Road, with Comfort taxis and an MPH bookstore in the background.

"But I'm very happy that we have these images now on screen."

Hannah Ware, the British actress who plays the scientist's daughter, Katia, has a different take on the country.

Speaking to Life in a separate interview, the 32-year-old, who appeared in the television drama Betrayal (2013 - 2014), says: "Everyone was amazing and helpful and great. There's a real efficiency to Singapore that I love and I think it's really conducive to movie-making. So hopefully, more is going to be shot there."

One of her best memories was filming a scene in Chinatown.

"There was something so inexplicably glamorous about that and it really hit me that not only was I a lead in a really cool action film, but also that there I was in a country I'd never been before.

"Everything I could hope for and imagine out of movie-making was happening in that moment."

Co-star and fellow Briton Rupert Friend was tickled by the country's strict laws on the sale of chewing gum and littering.

"You can't chew gum, so luckily there were no kissing scenes in this movie," quips the 33-year-old who plays the titular hitman, making the common mistake of thinking that it is illegal to chew gum in Singapore.

"And there was this thing where we had to gather up the empty shell casings," he says, puzzled. Apparently, he was told he was the first civilian legally allowed to fire a gun in Singapore.

The cast got to further explore the island in their free time, but some enjoyed the experience more than others.

Friend remembers the street food and hawker centres fondly and asks this reporter to remind him what those "little fish parcels wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked on coals" are called.

"Otak - that's it! That was amazing, that was the best."

Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto, 38, was not quite as enamoured with Singapore, comparing the city unfavourably with Berlin, the movie's other major filming location.

"I didn't find it particularly gritty. It didn't draw me in with its energy like Berlin, which is one of my favourite cities after New York. I feel like Singapore lacked a kind of depth, if that makes sense?

"I know it's got great food and it's a real convergence of different ethnicities, and I liked Little India and Chinatown and the different neighbourhoods. But I didn't feel like it was a place where I could see myself spending an extended period of time."

Alison de Souza

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'Singapore's efficiency, food a hit with stars'. Print Edition | Subscribe