Anthony Chen fronts beer ad

Anthony Chen fronts beer ad
Anthony Chen, the acclaimed director of the award-winning Ilo Ilo (2013), is featured in a minute-long commercial in Tiger Beer's latest campaign Uncage, set to launch worldwide on 21 May 2014.

SINGAPORE - When you are well spoken, good-looking and hailed as a national hero of sorts, it is only natural that many companies would jump at the opportunity to sign you as the face of their commercial campaigns.

But Anthony Chen, the acclaimed director of the award-winning Ilo Ilo (2013), has agreed to only one commercial engagement so far.

In Tiger Beer's latest campaign Uncage, set to launch worldwide today, he is featured in a minute-long commercial which tells the story of how he struggled in his career to become the celebrated film-maker he is today.

After turning down other commercial offers, "mostly for luxury brands", he accepted this offer because he "agrees with the campaign's vision".

"I see real passion and real personality in this campaign. I've been approached before by other brands, but this is the one whose values I believe in. It's not just about selling a product - it's about selling a belief, the idea that you can be inspired to achieve anything," Chen, 30, tells Life!.

He is one of four personalities featured in Tiger Beer's new campaign. The other three - all with personalised ads of their own - are Hong Kong professional calligraphy tattoo artist Joey Pang, Thai movie stuntman Charlie Ruedpokanon and Vietnamese hip-hop dancer Vietmax.

For Chen, having to work in front of the camera rather than behind it was something he admits he was "not used to" at first. "Let's just say I prefer sitting in the director's chair. But it wasn't too difficult - it was a lot easier than I thought," he says of the three-day shoot.

The experience may have even inspired him to want to do a bit of acting eventually.

"I might actually consider being in front of the screen if it's for a director I really respect and admire," he says.

One director he admires is Taiwan- born film-maker Lee Ang, whom he met in New York last month and received some advice from.

The two reconnected after their first meeting in Taipei at last November's Golden Horse Awards, where Chen's debut feature Ilo Ilo won four awards, including the top prize for Best Feature Film. Oscar-winning director Lee of Life Of Pi (2012) and Brokeback Mountain (2005) was chair of the Golden Horse jury.

Says Chen: "Lee Ang told me he believes I could never be a for-hire director and that I always have to have my thumbprint on every work I do, and I agree with him.

"It's very hard for me to say yes to doing a project unless it's one I can really connect with. So it's important that whatever I do next will have the same integrity and sincerity which was shown when I made Ilo Ilo."

There are huge expectations of his next project, given how well his debut feature, about a Singaporean family and their live-in maid during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, fared in the global film arena.

Other than the prestigious Golden Horse awards - considered the Oscars of Chinese-language cinema - the film was also the first Singaporean work to win the coveted Camera d'Or for Best First Feature Film at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

Ilo Ilo's rousing success has sent many film producers from around the world his way; in the past six months, he has fielded more than 40 scripts, but he says only a handful stood out.

He declines to divulge details, but concedes that he is now developing two projects to direct in Britain, where he is based.

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