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China Daily News

25 July 2010
American-born idol Wang Lee-hom's directorial debut is about to hit the screens with a little help from his friends, Liu Wei reports

In the opening scene of Love in Disguise, singer / songwriter Wang Lee-hom's directorial debut, the protagonist, a superstar, hits a paparazzo who has been bombarding him with questions about his girlfriend.

"Hit a paparazzo? No, I would not do that! That's what they want for the next day's headline," Wang laughs.

But, perhaps a secret desire? He smiles, "yeah ..."

"But I will not let them win," the 34-year-old star adds quickly. "I will give them the most official answer I can think of."

With looks as impressive as his Musical Talent, he has been given the title "perfect Idol", but it is not something he is comfortable with.

"I really want to know what is perfect about me?" He says.

He describes himself as rebellious, but believes the most rebellious thing he did was to persuade his father that he wanted to be a musician, not a doctor.

Born to a family of doctors in New York, he returned to Taiwan in 1995 to release his debut album after years of formal training at Williams College, and Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts. His parents are much more understanding about his job now, and Wang says he will invite his parents to watch the film.

When Wang was shooting a scene in a stadium earlier this year, he did not know his mother was sitting in the auditorium, watching him commanding some 4,000 extras with a loudspeaker. She left without any notice, but called him later to say: "Hard work and well done."

"They worried I would have no job when I stepped into this industry, but now they worry I have too many jobs," he says.

Adept in various musical instruments from piano to the erhu, he has never been afraid to break boundaries. His 20-odd albums explore Eastern and Western musical elements from rock to Peking Opera. Now he has tried his hand at filmmaking.

In Love in Disguise, which premieres on Aug 12, he stars as a superstar who disguises himself as a student in a music school to pursue the woman he loves.

"I do have wigs and a fake beard at home," Wang says. "Sometimes I also put on make-up when I go for a date or something." However, most of the time he prefers to be a "home boy", staying in his music studio at home for days, not shaving or showering, "like a mad scientist".

In the film he successfully escapes from the entertainment scene and leads a different life, but in reality he relishes new challenges.

The American-born singer was not an expert in writing in Chinese, he struggled through 54 drafts of the script, with generous advice from Wang Hui-ling, writer of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Chen Kuo-fu, writer and director of The Message.

He acted in Ang Lee's 2007 movie Lust, Caution and took heart from Lee's words of encouragement. "I remember Lee told me that if you really believe in something, it will happen," Wang says. He says that he also learnt from Lee to have the courage to touch a new topic and become an expert by learning. "Lee didn't know much about cowboys, but he was able to make Brokeback Mountain, and he even made Sense and Sensibility!"

Before making the film Wang watched many movies such as Mulan and Eddie Murphy's Coming to America, and noted their jokes and structures. He also spent several months sitting down with artists to make a storyboard of all the scenes before filming started in February. 

When he began filming he remembered the example set by Jackie Estate. Internet acted in Estate's Little Big Soldier. On the first day of the shoot, Estate used a Loudspeaker to tell the crew that they could not do any harm to the Forest where they were filming. And when they left, the location should be clean. "Chan told us that even if it was a rubbish hill when we arrived, we must ensure it was clean when we finished. I told my crew the same thing," he says.

After the post-production on Disguise was finished, Wang took the first copy on the plane to Beijing and handed it to the heads of the distribution company himself. At the company's test screening, he watched his work in a cinema for the first time. "I tried to imagine myself as an ordinary filmgoer, one watching a film with popcorn in hands," he says. "And I finally felt relaxed the moment it finished - it's really not bad."

Wang is not the first singer to make a film. Taiwan pop singer Jay Chou directed a tragic love story named Secret in 2007, which was popular with both viewers and critics. The two idols are always compared. Both are Asian heartthrobs, both found fame when young and both like to fuse Chinese and Western music. Now they have both tested their talent for filmmaking.

"I am not following anyone," Wang says. "I just want to be a versatile artist."


onleehom 王力宏 | TNB