Hong Kong's queen of comedy meets Singapore's king of comedy in an upcoming local movie, Little Medium Boy.
Veteran star Sandra Ng, 47, will star in her first Singapore movie opposite the ever-popular Mark Lee, 45.
Lee, who remembers watching Ng's movies as an 18-year-old national serviceman, says: "I've watched her movies and seen her go from a comedienne to a serious actress. I'm not really nervous about working with her. I'm more excited and looking forward to it."
Little Medium Boy is the story of a young superstar medium, who is hired to find a spouse for a dead teenage boy. The chosen bride turns out to be an unexpected person, and this snowballs into a series of events culminating in a Chinese ghost wedding.
With such a plot and comic talents such as Ng and Lee, who plays the young medium's father, Little Medium Boy could easily have been scripted as a laugh-a-minute farce.
But this is not the case. Its writerdirector, Meng Ong, says: "The movie will definitely be funny, but the audience will get a nice surprise. The plot is more realistic and dramatic, in addition to having more human, funny moments. Our overall approach is to have a dramatic base that is full of heart."
He adds that his inspiration was the Hong Kong drama-comedy Golden Chicken, for which Ng won the Golden Horse Best Actress in 2003 in the titular lead role of a world-weary prostitute.
"I loved her in Golden Chicken, where there was a bit more drama," says Ong, who made his feature film debut in 2001 with Miss Wonton.
Lee agrees that the role, which will require him to rely more on his acting chops, will be a change, but he says he is confident of pulling it off. "It shouldn't be that big of a problem," he says.
The Chinese-language production, which also stars Hong Kong comedian Jim Chim, is produced by Scout Pictures, which has offices in Singapore and Hong Kong. It will be filmed entirely in Singapore starting at the end of the month, and is slated for release early next year. Scout Pictures declined to reveal the budget.
The film-makers are currently casting for a young boy to star in the movie in the titular role.
In a telephone interview with Life!, Ong sounded excited to be working with the two comedy heavyweights, Lee and Ng. He says: "Never in a million years did I think we would be able to get her, but she liked the script, and when I went to Hong Kong to meet her and we discussed the project, she was pretty much on the same page as us."
Ng, whose long-time life partner is director Peter Chan, even contributed ideas and made points about the script, which Ong says helped make the script and plot flow better.
According to him, the project has been in development for more than 10 years.
Before Little Medium Boy, Ong produced local English-language comedy series Police And Thief, which aired on TV from early 2004 to mid-2010.
Having spent six seasons working with Lee on the sitcom, Ong considers him "a friend, more than a colleague".
While the Singapore actor is obviously a familiar face to him, he is thankful that he and Ng hit it off at their first meeting, during which they chatted about fitness routines and personal trainers.
He had noticed how she was "supermodel skinny" in person.
Another good sign during that initial meeting was how Ng showed her appreciation of the script.
Ong hopes that with a big regional star like Ng in the cast, the movie will help elevate the local film-making scene to a "more international scene".
"I'm definitely nervous about it. But I'm also very excited, truly excited.
"So far, so good."
Scout Pictures is casting for a Chinese boy aged eight to 12 to play the lead character in the film. He has to be fluent in Mandarin and available for filming next month. Acting experience is not necessary. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with recent photos (close-up portrait as well as full body shot), full name, height, age and contact details.
This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 30, 2013
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