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She's the apple of everyone's eyes at the moment, seeing that Hong Kong-born Singapore-based TVB actress Apple Chan has made history by being the first female lead in Jack Neo's popular "Ah Boys to Men" franchise.
Recently, the 28-year-old was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with director Jack Neo and the rest of the "Ah Boys to Men 4" cast, including Tosh Zhang, Joshua Tan, Maxi Lim, Wang Weiliang, Noah Yap, Jaspers Lai, Hafiz Aziz and Ryan Lian, to promote the movie.
While "Ah Boys to Men 4" is only reporting for duty in Malaysian cinemas this 23 November, it has been in Singaporean cinemas since 9 November, during which it managed to collect a whopping SGD2.55 million on its opening weekend.
Looks like director Jack doesn't have much to worry about despite overshooting his production budget – the original SGD2.5 million budget ended up being SGD3.1 million at the end – since the movie is already performing well at the box office.
Despite the director's concern of his National Service-themed movies being something that might not resonate with Malaysian audiences, the success of the previous three movies proved that the "Ah Boys" movies are meant for audiences of all nationalities.
With a theme revolving around the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) Armour Unit, this time around the Ah Boys "kena called back" as NSmen, returning for in-camp training (ICT). They are joined by Apple's character, female army officer Zhang Xinyi.
Read on to find out why washing his face is Jaspers' toughest challenge in the movie, why there was a day on set when Tosh couldn't eat and who Apple would pick among the Ah Boys as her boyfriend.
Cinema Online: Director Jack Neo, you've worked with the Ah Boys in four movies now, how have they changed over the years?
Jack Neo: From the first movie until now, I see them [evolve] from not knowing how to act to being very good in acting. I'm happy that I don't need to give them much guidance now.
Apple Chan, how is it like being the only female lead in the movie?
Apple: At first I did feel a bit stressed as I'm the only girl. Eventually it got better as they're all very easy to deal with. There was not much difficulty because they're all professionals and helped me a lot especially the director. It was a very good experience.
You didn't face any challenges at all?
Apple: Well, I never went to NS before so it was hard to memorise the commands and to stand on the tank shouting out the commands.
Since you're the only girl, out of all the guys here, who will you pick as your boyfriend?
Apple: If you watch the movie, you will know who's my pick [laughs].
In the movie, we see Apple's character giving writing punishment to the guys, is this based on real life in the army?
Jack Neo: This really happens in the army units. I asked a female officer about punishments, either running or charging, but she said she gave writing punishments.
As for the guys, what challenges did you face while filming the movie?
Maxi: After this filming, I suffer from claustrophobia. Because we have to squeeze everyone inside [a small space], along with the guns, the bazooka, we go inside for 5 to 6 hours, with no air-con.
Tosh: The special effects makeup. In the movie, I got attacked by something and had to wear special effects makeup for 12 hours. I couldn't eat that day. Although I'm very skinny, I love eating. I still tried to eat and the food would get stuck in my makeup.
Jaspers: Washing my face. I was washing for 3 hours because someone kept NG [looks at Noah].
Weiliang: One thing I couldn't take was Noah's NG. Normally one scene will take a few minutes, but his can go up to 3 to 5 days, always cannot finish.
Noah: [Laughs] In my defense, sometimes it's really not my fault. Sometimes it's the weather, or the camera battery. Besides, if you look at the blooper reel, I'm not even in it!
Joshua: The hardest part for me was before the shooting. I had to put on weight. I had a 'food baby' but it's gone now.
Ryan: For me, after this movie my English improved a lot. Actually, I don't speak English but director wanted me to speak in English. My English before was worse than Lobang's [laughs].
Previously, you spoke of filming "Ah Boys to Men 5" together with the fourth movie, is the fifth movie all done too?
Jack Neo: I have planned to produce the fourth and fifth movies together. Frankly speaking, because I'm not Armour-trained, I thought it was very easy. When we filmed it then I realised it wasn't easy. So finally we decided to postpone the [filming of the] fifth movie to next year.