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Friday, December 23, 2005

Nicholas Tse Is "Charmingly Cool"

Nicholas Tse strolled into the dim Zeta Bar, Hilton Kuala Lumpur, sporting his trademark aviator shades. The 25-year-old, casually dressed in black shirt and jeans, looked like a rock god – cool and aloof.

As the press conference got under way, he took off his shades to reveal a boyishly handsome mug. Almost immediately his demeanour changed.

When A Chinese Tall Story co-star Fan Bing Bing praised him for being like a big brother to the cast and crew, he gave a silly grin. He became serious again when she playfully chided him. Both stars were in town to promote their latest movie.

Later, as Fan was busy answering questions from the media, Tse made himself useful pouring her a glass of water. Pleased with his deed, he gleefully directed her attention towards the glass of water. Fan rewarded him with a nod of approval.

This is a side of the Ferrari-crashing bad-boy that I have never seen. Just when I thought I had him figured out, he blows me away again with his philosophical musings.

When asked what lesson he learned from A Chinese Tall Story, Tse answered: “The movie is about a beautiful love story between a monk and an imp. The monk is a martyr while I am just a regular guy although I do agree that the greatest love is one where we forgive and set free. But how many of us can do that?

“Love is blind, selfish, crazy ... there is no one definition. In this story, we are talking about infinite love. Monkey King Sun Wukong says, ‘I love you 1,000 years’. Come the 1,001st year, does that mean you don’t love me anymore?”

After that dizzying reply, he seemed out of words when queried about his love life. He just smiled sheepishly and whispered: “It is still the same. I’m still very chap cheok. (single-minded in Cantonese).”

Asked if his maturity was the result of him working at a young age, he says he never thought about it. “It has just made me have higher expectations of myself. Being a Virgo, I tend to take things seriously and am quite hard on myself.”

In a recent interview with Malaysian magazine TV Times, Tse revealed that he missed out on a lot of things during his childhood. He had never played Monopoly and doesn’t remember the happiest moment in his youth.

Although during a group interview later that evening, Tse was quick to stress that he did not lose out on his childhood.

“Just that maybe there are things that I could have done more of, for instance sports. I could have been in a soccer or basketball team. But these are all just possibilities. Even if I were given a second chance, I will still do the same. It is destiny. At the time I thought that I could start working early and earn money. I didn’t see it as a problem.”

Tse, however, admitted that working on A Chinese Tall Story brought back a piece of his childhood, thanks to co-stars Chen Po Lin, Kenny Kwan, Steven Cheung, Charlene Choi and Fan. He recalled how they taught him to play Monopoly.

“I am really thankful to them because they gave me a feeling that I never had, pure happiness. We ended up playing Monopoly for three months. It is a beautiful memory,” he said, nodding appreciatively.

In his latest role as Tang monk Tripitaka in A Chinese Tall Story, Tse’s character, to some extent, mirrors his real life – where he has to assume responsibilities that he is unprepared for.

Tripitaka may have successfully obtained the Sutras (religious texts) but he is far from ready for a monk’s life as he is still weighed down by human emotions, in this case his love for the imp Meiyan, played by Choi.

A Chinese Tall Story is a retelling of the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West with a romantic and comedic twist. This HK$100mil (RM48.7mil) production is written and directed by Jeff Lau, the same guy who brought viewers A Chinese Odyssey I and II (both 1995), starring Stephen Chow as the Monkey King Sun Wukong. But rather than follow the original version of the story, Lau has re-written it to centre on Tripitaka.

A Chinese Tall Story was released in Malaysian cinemas yesterday, coinciding with the opening of Tse’s other film The Promise. As both movies battle it out at the box office, Tse revealed that he likes them both.

While he found playing the Duke of North (in The Promise) enjoyable, it was Tripitaka that proved to be a challenge.

“It is rare to land a character (Duke of North) with so much creative room. I was free to play him whichever way I wanted. There was no wrong or right, unlike Tripitaka, who many know and have read about.

“I was limited in the liberties I could take with the role.”

Director Chen Kaige was so impressed with Tse’s portrayal of the Duke of North that he said it reminded him of the late Leslie Cheung.

Tse, humbled by the comparison, said he was not worthy of the compliment and noted that Cheung together with Anita Mui and Roman Tam are irreplaceable.

With that the interview came to an end. Tse and Fan were whisked off for a meet-the-fans session and movie launch at Berjaya Times Square. As he strode out of the bar, Tse put on his shades again. The rock god was back.

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