Aileen Tan chips tooth, but filming for Long Long Time Ago goes on

Director Jack Neo bans actress from fixing incisor, saying it adds character to her role


Photos: Teo Sijia
Video: Tan Shiqi, Vina Chia

Veteran local actress Aileen Tan will play her character in the new movie Long Long Time Ago while bearing her recently acquired broken tooth, after the movie’s director, Jack Neo, forbade her to fix the chipped upper lateral incisor because he said it gave her character a stronger personality.

Aileen, Jack and other members of the cast, including actor Mark Lee, were speaking at a press conference for Long Long Time Ago last week ahead of the start of filming.

In this latest project by Jack set in the 60s in Singapore, Aileen plays Mark’s older sister, who agrees to an arranged marriage so that she can use the bride price to support her brother in opening a store. She is soon widowed and kicked out, with five young children to raise. The story takes place against the backdrop of the 1969 race riots and other iconic post-independence moments.


Aileen related that before the three months of filming in Ipoh, Malaysia, began, she attended a send-off party a friend hosted for her, but fell down and broke her tooth.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh no, I have filming, what shall I do?’” she said. “So I sent a photo to Jack to tell him about my chipped tooth.”

“Who knew he would be so calm, and he even said it was a good omen!”

The cast’s latest challenge was the flooding scene, for which the production crew hired local construction firm Koh Brothers to build a 20 m x 12 m pool. With a depth of 1.2 m, the pool took almost 300 cubic metres of water to fill, which cost Jack a tidy five-figure sum and made Long Long Time Ago his most expensive movie yet.

The team even loaned from Mindef the boats used for rescue during the 1969 floods, to keep the film authentic.


The scene took three days to film, and for more than eight hours a day the main cast splashed about in the tap water–mud mixture. According to Aileen, the pool of water had not been refilled for two weeks, so it grossed her out having to get into it and the water made her skin itch. But the professional actress toughed it out.

Her co-star Mark wasn’t bothered by the muddled water, though. “I’m not worried about it, because my complexion was never OK to begin with!”

Long Long Time Ago boasts a budget of S$5 million and is slated to be released early next year.

This story first appeared on
Story by Teo Sijia

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