SINGAPORE - Lim Kay Tong will play Lee Kuan Yew in the upcoming movie 1965. The veteran actor explains why he rejected the role when first approached, and why he finally agreed.
Q: Why did you say no to the role when you were first approached?
Well it's about him, so, you know, that's my initial reaction, you know. In some ways, you know what I'm saying, "should I be doing this?" But I have committed, so, but my initial reaction was "no way".
But as I said earlier on, looking at the context of it, I thought it's doable. Because it's not a biopic about him. So, in that sense there's less pressure because it's not about him per say. It's about these fictitious characters who were around during that time.
In a sense I just marked the time that these events take place. Whenever LKY does appear, it's to put it within the time frame of the story. Merger, separation, that's when the story takes place in 1965.
Would I be given another opportunity to do this you know? So I think that changed my mind. Plus the fact that it was less daunting once I saw it on paper, what I had to do.
Q: How are you going to prepare for the role?
This time I have a lot of material you know what I mean. He's like an open book. Every aspect of the man's life is down there on print, it's on screen. So it's just a question of trying to absorb all the things that he is. And he's a man of many parts. So it's just trying to get that all in before we start filming, which is not a lot of time. I mean I did complain to Daniel you know, "What I got two months?" You know, this sort of thing I need a year or two to really get a hang, a feel of the man. But as it is, it is a film and you've got a deadline so I have to work with more intensity to hopefully give some credibility to the role.
Q: Do you think you look like Mr Lee Kuan Yew?
I don't think so! I think I'm dependent mainly on the make-up people. They did a good job on the imaging, so I think that is sort of taken care of. So it's up to me to sort of find the internal part of the man.
Q: Is this the most challenging role you've ever had?
In terms of it being based on a real life person and someone who as momentous and great as Lee Kuan Yew, sure. In terms of length of screen time, no. But that's not the point. It's just trying to get the essence of the man that's really my goal as an actor.