HK actress-singer Josie Ho is no zombie fan girl

A little effort can go a long way.

That was how Hong Kong actress-singer Josie Ho snagged her role in Hollywood zombie flick Open Grave - on the strength of one brilliant performance.

In a phone interview with M, the 39-year-old recalled how she became the only Asian artist to be cast in the US horror vehicle.

"To my knowledge, one of Open Grave's producers remembered me from an old Hong Kong movie, Exiled, which was directed by Johnnie To," said Ho.

"As it turned out, the producer and his daughter really liked my acting in it."

Exiled, a stylish gangland thriller featuring auteur To's trademark poetic violence and exploration of machismo, featured Ho in the supporting part of Jin, the gunman's nerve-ridden wife.

Married with no kids to Hong Kong musician-actor Conroy Chan, Ho likes to make every role count, regardless of screen time or the film's production level.

Her notable big screen outings include sex comedy Naked Ambition (2003), where she played a prostitute, and low-budget indie lesbian drama Butterfly (2004).

But Ho's acting ability may never overshadow her true claim to fame as the daughter of Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho. She was even named in Forbes magazine's 20 Most Intriguing Billionaire Heiresses.

Despite that, the acting gigs continue.

Open Grave, which also stars Elysium actor Sharlto Copley as a man who wakes up with no memory in a pit filled with corpses, is Ho's third Hollywood film.

She had minor roles in Steven Soderbergh's 2011 ensemble thriller, Contagion, and a year later, in the straight-to-DVD actioner The Courier.

In Open Grave, which Ho describes as "not just a zombie flick, but a portrait of humanity", she was challenged by the fact that her character, Brown Eyes, had no lines at all.


"It was the first time I was playing a mute, and it was definitely challenging. With dialogue, actors can mask their inability to convey emotion, but when there's none, you're really stripped down to the basics of acting," she said.

"You feel naked. When the cameras are on you, everything is about rhythm.

"It's a very, very pure form of performance."

Local television viewers can catch Open Grave this Saturday at 5.30am on Thrill (StarHub Cable TV Channel 618 and SingTel mioTV Channel 415).

Ironically, for someone cast in a film about zombies, Ho is "not much of a fan" of the flesh-eating undead.

"It's funny, because many people (have asked) me if I follow shows like The Walking Dead," she mused.

"Actually, I don't. I haven't watched a lot of zombie movies or TV shows.

"Though I did watch (2004 British zombie comedy) Shaun Of The Dead."

While she was affable on the topic of her current movie project, she was tight-lipped about local film-maker Eric Khoo's upcoming erotic drama, In The Room, in which she has a role.

"It's still in production, so you know I can't reveal too much," she said.

"I must say that concept-wise, In The Room is the most daring film I've done, but there is no nudity whatsoever.

"Everything is implied and simulated, nothing is exposed. Eric Khoo is an extremely capable director."

Onscreen nudity is not acceptable to her, stressed Ho.

"I'm totally not comfortable with showing my body," she said. "Besides, I'm not young any more, I don't have a good figure to boast of!"

This article was first published on Sep 24, 2014.
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