(L-R) Christopher Lee, Mark Lee and Li Nanxing.
As said by Mark Lee himself, it is truly unusual to see Singapore's three famous Lees together in a single movie.
Chinese New Year comedy "The Fortune Handbook" features comedy king Mark Lee, Singapore-based Malaysian actor Christopher Lee, and Chinese actor Li Nanxing together in a film for the first time.
Directed by Kelvin Sng who had previously worked with Mark Lee on "Taxi! Taxi!", "The Fortune God" is Sng's first Chinese New Year movie which pays homage to some of the classic Chinese New Year flicks from Hong Kong.
Shot in mere 20 days, the movie follows a low-level Fortune God who was sent to Earth to do some good, but stumbles into a feuding Chinese family.
Also starring Vivian Lai, Xavier Ong, Jazliyana Lee and Nathan Hartono, the movie is already showing in cinemas nationwide.
Last week, the three powerhouse Lees visited Malaysia during the movie's Malaysian premiere, and Cinema Online got a chance to have a one-on-one chat with the main star, Mark Lee.
Mark Lee in his full Fortune God attire.
Cinema Online: How is your character in "The Fortune Handbook" different from all of your other comical characters?
Mark Lee: Usually, most of the roles that I play is sort of very "ah beng". So before this movie began shooting, the director told me that there are three main characters. So after looking through all the characters, I noticed that I played the role of Christopher Lee's character before, and I don't think I'm very suitable to play Li Nanxing's role, so I tried to get the role of the Fortune God.
Also, when it comes to the Fortune God, a lot of people have an impression that he is someone very plump and fair-skinned, but no one actually seen the Fortune God in person, that is the image that the ancient people came up with and were taught to us since we were young. So it is possible for the God of Fortune to be tall and skinny like me - so I thought that this would be something very interesting for me to try out.
Another thing I realised is the language aspect. I went to Hong Kong to pray at a temple, and as you know, I'm from Singapore, and the languages we use are Mandarin and Hokkien, but Hong Kong people speak Cantonese. So I asked the tour guide, what language do I have to use to pray to the God here and he told me any language will do because the Gods are multilingual. So I decided to do that with my character. I used Malay, English, Mandarin, Hokkien, and Cantonese to make my character a bit different from all the other Fortune Gods and also to give it more life!
What do you think is the selling point of this movie?
I think the selling point of this movie is having me, Christopher Lee and Li Nanxing together in one film - it is not easy to get all of us together. It is like getting Jackie Cheung, Andy Lau and Aaron Kwok together in one film [laughs]. Even though all of us are Mediacorp artistes, we are now all on different platforms. Nanxing focuses more on television series and dramas, and only once in a while does he act in movies. Christopher mostly acts in Taipei and China productions, and I'm the lousy one who's still in Singapore [laughs]. So basically, it is hard to get all of us together, especially in a Chinese New Year movie about a Fortune God. This is the first time the three of us have acted in a movie, and it is Nanxing's first comedy film.
Mark, Christopher and Nanxing are all Mediacorp artistes.
You were always approached for comedic roles, do you ever hope that once in a while you'd be given a more serious role?
Yes. Actually I hope that one day I can play a disabled character, especially a deaf or mute because I feel that it's going to be a challenge for myself as I am someone who talks a lot, so I want to try not being able to talk for once. I've tried comedic roles, gangster roles, villain roles, but never disabled roles, so I think this is going to be a great challenge for myself and my career because you act from your heart and with your body language. I've wanted this role for so many years.
Are you confident that you can play this role well?
Yes, definitely! To be honest, I'm planning on taking acting classes in Beijing. I heard from my friend in Shanghai that there is a really good acting school there. I've been acting for so long. I think it's time for me to rest and probably take like a two-month acting course, maybe from September to November. I'll be going to school again, waking up at 6.30am in the morning, and just focusing on honing my acting skills.
Mark wishes to play a disabled character where
he doesn't need to do much talking.
What would you really want to wish from the God of Fortune?
I would ask the Fortune God to give each of my children a property. Not money, but property because I think nowadays, it is hard for you to get your own property, not just in Singapore but all over Asia including Malaysia, Shanghai, and Taiwan. So at least after I leave this world, I can leave with ease knowing that they have a place to stay. Of course, other than that, I also wish that both of them will grow up healthily!
What project are you working on next?
I will be directing a movie next and it will be for this year. We have started the story. It will be about a company that will complete a client's request regardless of what it is.
I'm also currently setting up a new Singapore-based social media company called King Kong Media Production. Because the social media market here is very well-received. So the platform will be for social media, advertising and movies. The company is already set up but it will only be officially launched around early March.
Cinema Online, 07 February 2017