SINGAPORE - It took two years to hunt for the right actor to play former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in the upcoming local film 1965.
After speaking to almost 20 people, executive producer Daniel Yun and director Randy Ang have found their man. But they are keeping his identity a secret for now.
Mr Yun, 55, told The New Paper: "We are not in a position to reveal who will be playing Lee Kuan Yew yet. But we will announce who he is before filming begins in November."
Mr Ang, 35, added: "We are being coy about it now."
He said that he was looking forward to seeing how the actor portrays Mr Lee.
They were speaking to local media at a press conference for 1965 at the Sheraton Towers Singapore Hotel yesterday.
The movie, which Mr Yun has been developing for nearly five years, is slated for release in cinemas next year, in time to celebrate 50 years of Singapore's independence.
Mr Yun said that 1965 is neither a biopic of Mr Lee nor a political film.
Instead, the $2.8 million movie tells the touching story of immigrants and natives living in the 1960s, leading up to Singapore's independence in 1965.
Mr Yun and the pre-production team went through 62 drafts of the script before he felt comfortable enough with it to begin filming.
He said: "Good things come to those who wait. We were looking for a story that we felt could connect with a 65-year-old and a 25-year-old.
"We want to tell a compelling story in a way that is heartfelt, light and entertaining. I hope it can resonate with people from around the world."
Though the film does not centre on Mr Lee, Mr Yun revealed that the movie will open and end with him.
"Mr Lee's role will take up 8 to 10 per cent of the movie. Of course, those will be iconic scenes, and Randy and I know that they will be the highlight," he said.
Mr Yun added: "For the role, we spoke to actors who are very famous and also newcomers who are totally unknown, and we found someone.
"He won't look exactly like Mr Lee, but he has that aura and the kind of spirit that Mr Lee brought to nation-building."
Mr Yun and Mr Ang do not feel pressured by the mounting attention that the role of Mr Lee has generated.
"The research for this film will be massive as Mr Lee forms the voice of history of Singapore," Mr Yun said.
Mr Ang agreed and said: "We'll represent Mr Lee correctly and pay reverence to who he is. I don't feel any pressure because I already know what I am going to do with the movie.
"I guess the pressure is more on the actor."
The New Paper picks out three local actors who could portray Mr Lee Kuan Yew in the movie 1965
1. Lim Yu Beng, 48 Many may remember this theatre veteran for his role as Sergeant Alan Leong in Channel 5 police drama Triple Nine in the 1990s. Since then, he has showcased his versatility in different roles in both local theatre and Hollywood movies. Lim's tough and cool appearance makes him an interesting choice for the role of Mr Lee.
2. Zheng Geping, 50 This hunkle has come into his own since making his acting debut on the small screen in 1987. The hardworking actor, who was in the Top 10 Most Popular Actors list at the annual Star Awards from 2009 to 2013, can be a convincing Mr Lee with his many years of acting experience.
3. Lim Kay Tong, 60 Veteran actor Lim Kay Tong has worked on productions ranging from theatrical plays to BBC television series over the decades. He exudes a placid and stoic demeanour, making him a suitable choice for the role. It helps that he bears a slight resemblance to the younger Mr Lee.
Neither of the two leads in 1965, announced at the press conference yesterday, are Singapore-born and bred.
Malaysian actress Deanna Yusoff, 47, will play a woman who has a mundane life until something shocking happens to her and she is forced to make a tough decision.
China-born actor Qi Yu Wu, 37, stars as a policeman who comes from China to work in Singapore.
Qi, who has been in Singapore for 15 years and is a permanent resident, said: "I am not worried about the fact that I was not born here. I am more concerned about whether I can play the role well and move the audience.
"I have been here for many years, and I feel a lot towards this country. I think I will get criticised if I don't act well."
Agreeing, Deanna said: "People will always find something to talk about no matter what. Most importantly, it's about our similarities to the roles and how we can relate to it."
The pair will be acting together for the first time.
Deanna, who just met Qi on Monday night, had a good impression of him.
"He's very cool and he suits the role physically," she said.
"I was warned that he can be very shy and he is really quite shy."
Qi, who was busy filming in Beijing, flew back to Singapore just for the press conference.
He said: "Deanna is very sincere and direct. She has appeared in big-budget films and is an experienced actress. I look forward to seeing what can come out of our pairing.
"As for our on-screen chemistry, you can't force it. If it happens, it happens."
This article was first published on September 3, 2014.
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