What makes Jack Neo explode on set?

The renowned local director says there will “definitely” be a fifth ‘Ah Boys to Men’ film

Jack Neo (and a tank behind him)
Jack Neo (and a tank behind him)
06 Sep 2017

Jack Neo (and a tank behind him)

Photos: Tammi Tan
Video: Genice Ooi

Jack Neo doesn’t seem like a guy who would easily lose his cool, but the renowned local director admitted to us that that is far from the truth, especially when he’s at work.

Toggle visited the set of his upcoming movie Ah Boys to Men 4 yesterday afternoon, where we got to see the 57-year-old working together with a crew of about 100 people – including personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces – to bring an onscreen battle to life.

Although the Ah Boys themselves were not present (filming had already wrapped for them), there were several bigger – literally – stars on the scene: three Bionix II Infantry Fighting Vehicles, two Leopard 2SG main battle tanks and two M113 armoured personnel carriers, all ready to deal some heavy damage for the cameras.

However, the site already looked like it had been through Michael Bay-worthy levels of destruction by the time we arrived. Rubble, broken furniture, small fires and even wrecked cars were scattered throughout what was once the parking lot of a now-abandoned HDB estate. The only damage we got to see dealt was one of the tanks turning a poor sedan into flattened pile of scrap metal (or as Jack put it, “roti prata”).

There was also a real explosion scene that took place much later in the day. When we squeezed in a brief interview with Jack between takes, he admitted that although he and the team were well-prepared to stage the blast, he was also feeling a little nervous – and we don’t blame him – as it’s not something he gets to do every day.

“It’s a challenge because there are a lot of things we’re not familiar with, plus, I’m not Jackie Chan,” he said, chuckling. Thankfully, the spectacle was a success, and most importantly, there were no unwanted injuries or accidents.

(Continued on next slide)

Jack Neo poses with a car that's been run over by a tank
Jack Neo poses with a car that's been run over by a tank
06 Sep 2017

Jack Neo poses with a car that's been run over by a tank

We didn’t witness any “explosions” a.k.a. furious outbursts from the director either (not that we were expecting to), although he did admit that he does vent his frustrations every now and then when things don’t go his way (which is perfectly normal).

“I do occasionally lose my temper [on set]; who would dare to say that they never get angry?” he said. “If an actor keeps messing up the script even after you’ve given them 10 chances to get it right, of course you would go crazy, right?”

Of course, we had to ask which thespian is the most frequent offender when it comes to NGs (no good takes), hence incurring his wrath. To our surprise, it turned out to be showbiz veterans Henry Thia and Wang Lei, whom he worked with on local film Take 2 (the latter also makes an appearance in Ah Boys to Men 4).

“Every actor will have NGs, even the most established ones,” Jack explained. “There could be certain lines that make them completely tongue-tied, and no matter how many times you explain it to them, they just can’t get it. But I think it’s quite normal – I might be like that too! (laughs)”

That said, Jack clarified that his rage is always directed at things, not people, and that he calms down very quickly. “There’s no use staying mad or you won’t be able to finish your work properly; just be angry for a short while, then move on.” Wise words indeed.

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Jack Neo goofs around with a fake rock on set
Jack Neo goofs around with a fake rock on set
06 Sep 2017

Jack Neo goofs around with a fake rock on set

On the other hand, Jack had nothing but high praise for the young Ah Boys (made up of Tosh Zhang, Joshua Tan, Wang Weiliang, Maxi Lim, Charlie Goh, Noah Yap and Jaspers Lai).

“They’ve improved a lot [since the first film], from being completely clueless to becoming complete professionals who maintain high standards for themselves,” he said, sharing that they will even discuss certain plot points with him.

Perhaps that is one reason Jack is so eager to dive into a fifth Ah Boys to Men flick, even before the fourth one is even ready to hit theatre. “I don’t know what it will be about or when it will be released, but there will definitely be an Ah Boys to Men 5 and I hope to begin working on it next year.”

Does this mean that he’s confident that Ah Boys to Men 4 will triumph financially at the box office – despite going over the production’s original $2.7 million budget by a six-digit sum? (Fun fact: it cost $280,000 to make this war scene alone.)

“I believe a lot of people will come and support us,” he said. “We want to present audiences with a fresh storyline; for example, in today’s scene, we look at how the Armour and Infantry units would work together in a warzone. We’ve done our research and will do our best to be as accurate as possible in our portrayals.”

Ah Boys to Men 4 opens in cinemas on November 9.

Click through for more photos from yesterday’s filming!

Boom! The explosion goes off with a bang
Boom! The explosion goes off with a bang
06 Sep 2017

Boom! The explosion goes off with a bang

Photo: mm2 Entertainment 

The tank and the car it's about to destroy in a while
The tank and the car it's about to destroy in a while
06 Sep 2017

The tank and the car it's about to destroy in a while

The powerful tank reduces a car into a flattened pile of scrap metal
The powerful tank reduces a car into a flattened pile of scrap metal
06 Sep 2017

The powerful tank reduces a car into a flattened pile of scrap metal

Jack Neo explains more about the scene to the media
Jack Neo explains more about the scene to the media
06 Sep 2017

Jack Neo explains more about the scene to the media

Jack Neo, a director hard at work
Jack Neo, a director hard at work
06 Sep 2017

Jack Neo, a director hard at work

Jack Neo goes to speak to the driver of the tank between takes
Jack Neo goes to speak to the driver of the tank between takes
06 Sep 2017

Jack Neo goes to speak to the driver of the tank between takes

Camera crew members sit on top of the tank to get a
Camera crew members sit on top of the tank to get a "first-person" angle
06 Sep 2017

Camera crew members sit on top of the tank to get a "first-person" angle

We felt like we had walked right into a warzone
We felt like we had walked right into a warzone
06 Sep 2017

We felt like we had walked right into a warzone

Crew members keep the fires going with... egg cartons
Crew members keep the fires going with... egg cartons
06 Sep 2017

Crew members keep the fires going with... egg cartons

Watch:
Does Jack Neo get angry while filming on set?!

Related:
What’s different in Jack Neo’s Ah Boys To Men 4
Ah Boys go gaga over Maxi Lim’s butt?

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