Photos: Camelia Ting, Clover Films
Video: Tan Shi Qi, Teo Siew Eng
Having been sidelined in a string of supporting roles over the years, veteran Channel 8 actor Chen Tian Wen, 52, is finally getting his shot at a leading role — in a movie, no less.
“I’m nervous,” he said. “To be this old before I land a lead role, or, I should say, I’m this old and yet I still have the opportunity, I’m excited.”
At the Mr Unbelievable movie press conference yesterday, Tian Wen was joined by director Ong Kuo Sin, co-stars Liu Ling Ling, Marcus Chin, Roy Loi, FLY Entertainment artiste Jaime Teo and Ah Boys to Men star Tosh Zhang in announcing the feature film project.
“When I was young and I sang, people would tell me to get off the stage,” Tian Wen continued. “To think now I’ve sung a song that’s become so popular — last week my brother’s domestic helper told him the song ‘Unbelievable’ has reached the Philippines and even got featured on their local news programme.”
That one song raised the actor from relative obscurity, and has now spawned a film based on its singer Eric Kwek, Tian Wen’s character in Channel 5 sitcom Spouse for House.
Kuo Sin, who directed Tian Wen in Spouse for House and penned the lyrics to the “Unbelievable,” said: “To go from one music video to an entire movie is beautiful and fortunate.”
In Mr Unbelievable, Tian Wen reprises his role as Eric Kwek, an 80s singer who comes up with the idea to sing Hokkien songs with English lyrics to keep the music alive, in response to the government’s anti-dialect language policies — Tian Wen described the film as a comedy on the whole, but with a tragic lead character.
Tian Wen’s 3-month-old son, Genghis, will make an appearance (“in a basket, packed in with broccoli,” Tian Wen said) as Eric when he is a baby. Tosh plays Eric’s only fan, Marcus is his singing mentor and Ling Ling takes the role of his love interest. Jaime, now far better known for her cupcake business than her time as an actress and host, joins the cast as Marcus’s daughter, who ends up with Roy’s character, another of Marcus’s mentees (“Jaime looks like she could be my daughter!” Roy quipped.)
To be sure, the Twelve Cupcakes owner isn’t taking on this film project because she’s bored of running her business. “[Kuo Sin] SMSed me, and I thought [the movie] would be fun,” she said. “And we’ve worked together before (on 2009 Channel 8 drama Mr & Mrs Kok), so I know he’s fast and he’s clear about what he wants.”
Since the entire film is born of a song, music will feature prominently, with three to four original tunes composed for it and other cover songs thrown in. Jaime will also lend her vocals to some Hokkien songs, which she is training for with the help of online videos — the only thing she knows in that dialect for now is a phrase that cannot be published.
Kuo Sin has big plans for the movie to live up to its title. “Besides unbelievable, we want it to be unexpected,” he said. “Not to say it will be absurd, but to surprise audience at every turn and to keep such surprises going in every scene.”
He maintains he’s not giving himself any pressure to replicate the runaway success that was “Unbelievable.” “We’re treating this practically, we can’t be wanting to create another hit intentionally,” he explained. “We’re making a movie, telling a story, so we’ll focus on portraying the characters well.”
“If there are songs that get popular, all the better, but if not, audience are here for a show and not to listen to songs.”
The comedy will be produced by mm2 Entertainment and Clover Films, and released in Singapore this December 3.