Meet Taiwan cinema's latest heart-throb whose gaze makes girls go weak at the knees.
Plot twist: We're not talking about a dude, but Taiwanese actress Megan Lai.
In rom-com Cafe. Waiting. Love, the 34-year-old ditches her girlish appearance to play a suave, brooding tomboyish barista Abusi, and the transformation is stunning.
Taiwanese media have heaped praises on Lai's chiselled features and deep voice, even likening her to Korean hunk Lee Min Ho.
There was surprise too, as Lai is perhaps the last person one would associate with androgyny, especially with the sexy FHM Taiwan photo spread she did in 2005.
The 1.72m star laughed as she told local reporters on Sunday afternoon: "One Taiwanese media outlet managed to find a photo of Lee Min Ho that looked exactly like my character. I got a shock when I saw it. It's a huge compliment to be compared to (Lee)."
Lai was in town with director Chiang Chin-Lin and fellow cast Bruce Bu and Vivian Sung to promote Cafe. Waiting. Love, which opens here on Thursday.
In the film, Abusi holds a torch for her female boss, who is played by Hong Kong ageless beauty Vivian Chow
Said Lai: "Prior to filming, I observed the behaviour of men around me. I'd pay attention to how our lighting and sound crew guys walk and talk... I soon discovered that guys are most attractive when they are serious at work.
"Once shooting commenced, I started talking a lot less to get into Abusi's sullen, cool character. On set, I'd deliberately stay in my own corner while the other actors joked and goofed around."
As for having her hair chopped off, she described it as a struggle- a behind-the-scenes clip of the movie showed her crying at the hairdresser's - but not as much as it was for her mother.
Said Lai: "My mum still cannot accept my new hairstyle. I think it's because she is too used to seeing me with long hair. When I was a kid, she helped put my hair in pigtails and ponytails.
"I remember the day I unveiled this new look to my family. My mum dashed out of the kitchen with her pots and pans and looked flabbergasted.
"At dinner, she kept staring at me and repeating 'I cannot accept this'. She must have said it 1,000 times."
Chiang told local reporters that he and the producers were adamant that the role of Abusi was to go to Lai instead of other short-haired actresses.
He said: "We didn't want the casting of Abusi to be predictable.
"Megan was fantastic. The first day she came on set with her short hair, I couldn't even recognise her. I kept asking everyone, 'Where is Megan?' and it turned out she was beside me all along."
Is Lai worried that playing a tomboy might scare potential suitors away?
She said: "I'm already feeling that 'effect'. These days, I've noticed that male photographers don't really care much for me.
"In the past, they'd get me to pose for tons of photos, but now, they take a couple of shots and say, 'Okay, done'."
This article was first published on Aug 29, 2014.
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