Mark Chao: Sleuth operator in Tsui Hark's new movie

Mark Chao: Sleuth operator in Tsui Hark's new movie
Mark Chao as young detective Dee

For the movie Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon, actor Mark Chao has some rather big shoes to fill.

His role of the Tang dynasty investigator Dee Renjie was previously played by an actor of Heavenly King status, no less: Andy Lau. And the veteran idol turned in a relaxed performance in the award-winning mystery thriller that was Detective Dee And The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame (2010).

But, disingenuously or not, Chao, 29, professes: "I hadn't thought about the pressure that came from Andy Lau da ge (big brother) putting on such a good performance."

Dressed in a sharp get-up of blue blazer, cream pants and tan loafers for the press interviews in Hong Kong for the new movie, he looks the part of the rising hot actor.

Rather than radiating supreme confidence or youthful arrogance, however, he comes across as humble and genuine.

His comment about not having considered Lau's earlier performance as Detective Dee is not a dismissal.

Instead of worrying about something over which he had no control, his concern was simply to do a good job with the character in Young Detective Dee, a prequel to the 2010 movie. Young Detective Dee opens in Singapore tomorrow.

It probably helped him as well that Hong Kong director Tsui Hark, 63, who helmed both movies, did not want a replica of Lau's portrayal in the first movie, which won six Hong Kong Film Awards.

As Chao recalls: "He wanted a Dee that is different from Lau's, more light-hearted, less serious, with a sense of humour."

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