Chinese actor Dai Xiangyu, 31, is appearing in a Hollywood sci-fi movie, Lost In The Pacific, about passengers stuck on an island after a plane ride gone wrong.
He had earlier told Singapore media that he had to drink red wine to calm his nerves when he took a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight. He filmed the movie - a Hollywood-China collaboration - at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor.
Speaking over the telephone from Shanghai, he recalls: "My manager had called to say I had to take Malaysia Airlines because it was a sponsor. Just weeks before, a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down and it was all over the news.
"I have nothing against the airline, but the incident did make me nervous about flying."
In July 2014, an MAS plane was shot down while flying over war-torn eastern Ukraine.
It sounded stranger than fiction that the airline would sponsor a movie featuring plane trouble.
But it turns out that MAS never sponsored the film or any plane tickets, according to its spokesman. Dai's manager later clarified that there was no sponsorship and it just happened they could get only MAS tickets at that time.
What has always been true, though, is that the eloquent Dai - who used to be called Dai Yangtian when he starred in Channel 8's megahit drama The Little Nyonya (2008 to 2009) - makes for a good interviewee who would not hesitate to speak his mind.
The straight shooter has no qualms telling the media that he was not the first choice for the English-speaking role as an arrogant but heroic co-pilot.
"Initially, the director did not want to cast me. He already had another actor in mind, but I pestered him for a month till he was convinced," says Dai, who also reveals that he is dating a "colleague".
Such tenacity to snag a "bite-sized supporting role" is surprising. After all, this was the same man who once boldly declared he would take on only leading roles in TV dramas.
He has been pursuing his acting career in China since moving back to Shanghai in 2011. He remains a Mediacorp artist, but is also signed on with Chinese artist management agency Mango Entertainment, which represents him in China.
His next project is a meaty role as a demon catcher in the China television drama, Demon Girl.
In a previous interview, he had said: "Even for actors in leading roles, it's hard to stand out and advance in China's show business. It would be even tougher for me if I started off with supporting roles."
It is a different story, however, when it comes to movies. He explains: "My co-pilot role may not have many scenes, but it is a character that has been fleshed out. It's China's first sci-fi production and we are working with a Hollywood production team."
The movie is backed by film sales company Arclight Films, which has offices in Sydney and Los Angeles. It is helmed by Chinese director Vincent Zhou and stars Superman Returns actor Brandon Routh and Chinese actress Zhang Yuqi as the leads.
Dai is making his promotional rounds in China and hopes that the movie will be brought to Singapore so he can come here to promote it. It opened in China lastmonth and is also reportedly slated for worldwide release.
He also has plans to return here in another capacity - as a movie producer.
He says: "It has always been my wish to do behind-the-scenes work. I hope that I can work with my former Singapore colleagues on the project and I would want my first promotional stop to be Singapore."
This article was first published on February 4, 2016.
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