By Tan Kee Yun
CALL it method acting, if you will.
For his latest role in the movie Murderer, Hong Kong star Aaron Kwok went all out to immerse himself in the role of an emotionally tortured cop.
He went without sleep.
He would sometimes become quiet on set to remain in character.
And the role of Ling Kwong had so many highs and lows, it started to affect the 45-year-old Cantopop singer. Aaron confessed in an e-mail interview with The New Paper: 'I became slightly depressed and had several nightmares.
'Some were horrifying, with scenes of me killing people.'
Murderer is about a serial killer on the loose and Ling Kwong is the cop who is tasked to find the perpetrator.
But as he digs deeper into the case, he finds that all the clues point to him as the murderer.
To research his role as an emotionally tortured cop in Murderer, Aaron 'read a lot of books on criminal psychology'.
'I wanted to know how real criminals think and feel, so besides reading, I also spoke to police inspectors, to get their first-hand experiences on dealing with the unlawful.'
Aaron's scary mug on the movie poster for Murderer surprised many of his friends who 'failed to recognise it was him'.
Hard to get out of disturbed character
To get the dishevelled look and blood-shot eyes, Aaron went without sleep for three whole days.
'I wanted a wasted appearance that's realistic. It was great that the final product turned out to be really frightening.'
At times on the film set, Aaron would 'deliberately turn sombre and quiet' to get into character.
'Of course I wasn't being anti-social, just that I was getting into the mood of my role and I couldn't chit-chat like I normally do with the crew and cast,' he said.
Filming Murderer was also emotionally taxing.
'Ling (the name of his character) went through so many ups and downs, both physically and mentally, it definitely took a toll on me,' he said.
He confessed that he 'initially found it hard to pull himself away from his character' after filming wrapped last year.
Thankfully, he snapped out of it after a few months, helped along by an overseas vacation during which he indulged in one of his favourite hobbies - car racing.
Preparation for his series of concerts also helped take his mind off the film.
Aaron has no regrets doing the film though.
'Taking on a role that's so dark and emotionally unstable, meant there's inevitably additional pressure on myself.'
Just don't pressurise him about winning awards.
The two-time Golden Horse Award Best Actor winner - for his performances in 2005's Divergence and 2006's After This Our Exile - sees awards as abonus.
'Even if there aren't awards, I will still make sure I do my best for every role I take on,' he said.
'I don't crave for awards, but if they land on my lap, it's certainly worth celebrating and a great encouragement for the entire production team!'
Thanks to his successes in film, Aaron has evolved from a teenybopper heart-throb into an enigmatic, full-fledged actor lighting up the big screen with electrifying performances.
Aaron admitted that at this stage of his life, he 'truly enjoys acting very much and would like to devote more time to it, slightly more so than music'.
It's not that he is ditching singing, or his grand live concerts and sleek, flamboyant dance moves altogether.
'I still hope to strike a fine balance between my identities as an actor and singer,' he added.
'Just as I crave a good role each time I receive a script, should a good song come my way, I wouldn't hesitate to sing it!
'Performing on stage does give me (a different kind of) pleasure and enjoyment.'
Earlier, in April, when he was in town to promote his concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, he spoke to reporters about how he had painstakingly learnt to play a piano piece (with zero knowledge of music theory), 'practising till the wee hours of the morning', so that he could perform it for his fans.
Be it singing or acting, he puts his whole being into it.
This article was first published in The New Paper.