JACK LIM’S 2013 CNY MOVIE ONCE UPON A TIME FIRST LOOK
‘Once Upon A Time’ created buzz when the production started principle photography on 9.11 (9 September) at 5 am, as it was an auspicious time to pray for smooth production as well as to wish for successful box office collection. Two weeks later at a night market in Taman Connaught, a beggar was spotted and he looked remarkably like Jack Lim.
The public being aware that Jack Lim was starring in the upcoming movie ‘Once Upon A Time’ was open to the possibility that this was perhaps a scene in the movie and took a closer look. When the public couldn’t spot any camera or production crew around, they had second thoughts of whether the ‘beggar’ was really Jack Lim or Jack Lim’s doppelganger?
In ‘Once Upon A Time’ the story starts 6,000 years ago and time travels to 2013. Jack Lim’s character of the Emperor is the same as the one in the radio skit on MYFM’s breakfast show. He is the Emperor with his legion of servants, concubines and generals. It is hard to believe how an emperor ends up being a ‘beggar’.
Even with the size of production crew and casts that is 8 times more than Jack Lim’s record breaking movie ‘Ah Beng The Movie: Three Wishes’, everyone on board ‘Once Upon A Time’ has been very tight-lipped about the whole production. Hence even when Jack Lim received phone calls from friends and fans asking if the beggar was indeed him and what happened, he said, “You will have to wait for the movie to be released next year to find out”.
Another highlight was the special visit to the set in Ipoh, where a selected group of media and guests were invited to have their first look at the RM1million palace and surroundings that serve as the backdrop for the 6,000 year-old scenes. There they got to feast their eyes on the elaborate and detailed costume designs for some of the beloved characters that will be a treat for fans who have been following the radio skit, to see them this time on the big screen.
“People ask ‘Why Ipoh?’ and I say, ‘Why not?’ I have been on location shoot to Kuantan, Kedah and, I cannot think of a better place to bring the ‘Once Upon A Time’ production to, Ipoh, my hometown. Coincidentally when we were scouting for various locations that were possible to build the set, we managed to secure interest of a local Ipoh contractor who was happy to sponsor the space for the set.” Jack Lim added, “Though the space is sponsored we still needed to invest funds by putting in more than RM20K just to pave the road with rocks to the set in the hill and 2 days before shooting started, heavy downpour washed away most of the rubble and we have to spend the same amount of money just to repave it again.”
The location on top of the hill allowed the production team to be very creative with the set. “The story of ‘Once Upon A Time’ sets back to 6,000 years as we did not wish to be meticulous with the details that could be traced back to any recorded Dynasty on costumes, sets, etc. Given unlimited restriction for the set and costume designs, we came out with mind-blowing and believable backdrop for the story”. The set of ‘Once Upon A Time’ does reflect a bit of the stone-age ‘Flintstone’ environment, from bamboo flooring to tree branch roofing and from animal hide ‘carpet’ to wooden-craved throne, establishing an environment that is very much believable about how people lived 6,000 years ago, should there be any recorded history.
It was revealed that the production budget for ‘Once Upon A Time’ hit close to RM4million and was more than the initial budget of RM3million. Jack Lim insisted on carrying on despite the over budget. Director Silver added, “Of course with the higher budget, there was more pressure for me during production to make sure the movie would be good for better box office”. With Silver’s well-established quick and perfectionistic work ethics, 10 days into the production 50% of the movie was already completed and so far there had not been any incident that required the crew to work longer than 10 hours a day or even extend working hours to overtime. The production team estimated that they may even be able to put a wrap on the production within 24 days instead of the initial allocated 28 days.
“The one major headache in this production is the juggling of the casts’ busy schedules. With majority of the key casts being full time radio announcers or TV hosts and with other committed obligations, it was a nightmare to plan all the different shoots.” Silver added, “I really respect the production manager that managed to pull off the scheduling and think he/she can handle anything after this”.
At the press conference during the site visit in Ipoh, the main casts were present to share with the media about each of their characters and the production so far. Vivian Tok as Eunuch – fell down twice and even broke her big toe. She could bear all the hardship but could not handle being ‘scolded’ or told off. Hence whenever she made a mistake, Director Silver, known for being impatient and hot-tempered, would just take a deep breath and explain nicely how to improve, which she was very grateful for. She was also happy that in this movie Jack Lim gave her character quite a lot of scenes but with minimum dialogue as Vivian was also bad in memorizing dialogues.
Gan Mei Yan on radio is voice of the servant girl who is cute, adorable and gullible but in the movie, Mei Yan looks so pretty that those unfamiliar with the radio skit would likely mistake her character for a princess instead of a servant. Mei Yan was just so happy to be playing a ‘pretty girl’ in this movie (after so long being the unattractive vegetable seller “Ah Lian” in Ah Beng series and movie) that she wasn’t in the least affected when her boyfriend complained that she was spending more time with Jack Lim than him.
Jeff Chin’s General character was also an eye opener with very feminine mole and long hair. This gave him a very sleazy look that reinforced the public’s dislike for the General similar to Jack Lim’s Emperor character.
Jack transformed into the Emperor with ‘karipap’ braided long hair and moustache and in 4 layers of cloth with the top being a fake fur coat that was a tell-tale sign of a lazy self-absorbed Emperor. “The first day I did almost 20 shots in the full attire I nearly fainted from heat stroke.”
The most surprising transformation was perhaps the role of the ‘yes man minister’ played by Chen Keat Yoke. A totally different and refreshing role from her previous female characters, Yoke had to put on a beard/moustache to look the part!.
Jack Lim also revealed a 7 year-old ‘child beggar’ who would be one of his co-stars. When the production team hosted auditions, it drew massive turnouts from all ages, races and walks of life, among them was 7 year-old boy called Tan Zheng Kang. Tan stood out from the rest at the audition. His ‘happy-go-lucky and very active’ personality caught the attention of both Executive Producer Jack Lim and Director Silver, who cast him on the spot. Tan also won the crew over with his natural and impressive ability to bring his character ‘Katt Chai’ to life.
This 7 year-old character was vital to the storyline of ‘Once Upon A Time’. Raised by his grandfather as an orphan and a beggar, Katt Chai was a highly intelligent boy with a high IQ. Despite his young age, Katt Chai was self-sufficient and took care of not just himself but his grandfather. Jack Lim commented, “It is astonishing how sometimes things like this can happen, as though it is fated. It is as though the role was written with him in mind.”
Tan was honoured and happy to be given the role and took the role very seriously. He has had martial arts background which allowed him to learn to control his emotions, body language and memorize the script. With so many more experienced casts playing well-known and colourful characters in ‘Once Upon A Time” from the beloved and familiar roles of the Emperor, the servant girl, the eunuch, the general to new and modern characters, Jack Lim believed that Katt Chai’s character might just take the spotlight in the movie and become the highlight when the movie is released next year.
Tan was not present during the site visit and mid-production appreciation dinner. “He is having his final exams soon and we wanted him to focus on his studies now. With a child of my own and a Form Four drop-out myself, I don’t want him to be a child star. Education is important and I want him to put that as his first priority, though I have no doubt he will also make it far in this industry if he chooses to. But in life, especially in the entertainment line, nothing is a guarantee and a good education will at least allow him to have something to fall back on, should it not work out,” Jack Lim commented. Both Silver and Jack did not want Tan to be heavily involved in the movie promotion but strongly predict that when the movie is released next year, it will change Tan’s life forever. They can only hope that Tan can still enjoy his ‘childhood’ despite the attention he will receive very soon.
From the sneak peak of movie highlights and movie stills revealed during the mid-production period, ‘Once Upon a Time’ does show that it is off to a very promising start, with many interesting scenes to incredible sets and variety of characters.
It certainly promises to be one of highly anticipated movie of 2013. The public will have to wait patiently until Chinese New Year next year to know more when “ONCE UPON A TIME”, produced by The Film Engine and distributed by RAM Entertainment, hit Malaysian cinemas 7th February 2013. For more information about ONCE UPON A TIME log on to www.ram-ent.com.my or follow us on RAM Entertainment Facebook and Twitter as well as Once Upon A Time Facebook.
ABOUT ONCE UPON A TIME
Jack Lim plays the playful, lazy and glutton Emperor who has many wives, concubines and so many children that he cannot recognize many of them. He is also terribly afraid of death and thus is continuously seeking for ways to live forever.
Jeff Chin plays an important person to the Emperor; an intelligent and cunning Prime Minister known as Lord Turtle. Lord Turtle practically runs the kingdom on behalf of the Emperor.
Vivian Tok assumes the role of Eunuch Tok whom the Emperor loves to hang out with. Eunuch Tok always comes out with new ideas and games for the Emperor and plays with him. Eunuch Tok is also very fond of wine.
Yu-Fa who is the Imperial Servant, is played by Gan Mei Yan. She keeps the surroundings of the palace clean and tidy, making the Emperor very fond of her.
6,000 years ago, in the land where The Emperor was the sole ruler of a kingdom, lived many unhappy poor people who were bullied by the rich. In the Imperial Palace, lies a forbidden room, in which a concubine of a previous Emperor vanished many years ago. Nobody ever found out the truth behind her disappearance.
One day, a rebellious group attacks the palace and tries to overthrow the Emperor. Lord Turtle being the devoted Prime Minister protects the Emperor, Eunuch Tok and Yu-Fa by pushing them into the forbidden room. While shielding the enemies away, Lord Turtle stayed behind and sacrificed himself to guard the doors. In this room, the trio vanishes into the future… year 2013.
It is in this present era that the Emperor and his 2 companions create many humorous scenes such as their encounters with modern technology. The trio also discovers their new gift after going through time – supernatural powers and immortality…
Will the Emperor and his 2 companions survive in the new era? Will they ever be able to return home?