SINGAPORE - Tears were shed, accusations flew and angry words were exchanged.
As media events go, yesterday's press conference for The Lion Men: Ultimate Showdown at Resorts World Sentosa was as dramatic as it gets.
The movie is the sequel to The Lion Men, which was screened here during Chinese New Year.
And director Jack Neo was at the centre of it all, springing a huge surprise meeting between the "shifu" (Chinese for master) - getai veteran Wang Lei, 53 - and disciple, actor Wang Weiliang, 27. Both men are in Neo's movie.
The pair had a public fallout in January after Wang accused Weiliang of forgetting his getai roots and letting fame go to his head following the phenomenal success of the Ah Boys To Men movies.
Wang even told local Chinese media then that he no longer recognises Weiliang as his disciple.
Since then, they have been feuding and do not talk to each other.
Wang, who was invited to the press conference by Neo, has a cameo role while Weiliang plays the lead in the new film, which opens in cinemas tomorrow.
Both turned up, but avoided eye contact as they stood at opposite ends of the stage.
When Neo asked the men to shake hands and make up, Wang's expression turned dark and he looked hesitant.
After prompts from the rest of the cast, he reluctantly shook Weiliang's hand then grabbed the microphone and said: "Since all the media outlets are here today, I will tell you what exactly happened."
With a voice shaking with sadness and anger, he talked about how Weiliang had forgotten about all the aunties who had supported him when he was in getai. He added that Weiliang did not even wish those aunties "Happy Birthday" on Facebook even though he is an active social media user.
"In Chinese customs and traditions, filial piety is the most important. Weiliang should never forget who brought him to where he is today," said a teary-eyed Wang.
"He has hordes of screaming young fans now and he thinks he is a huge superstar."
"I have always treated him like my own son but I feel like he has changed into a completely different person, I no longer recognise him."
Weiliang then took over the microphone to explain that he did not forget about the aunties and the getai organisers who helped him when he was a nobody in the industry.
He said: "I don't wish them publicly on Facebook, but I do call them from time to time. I am not an active social media user. "I still treat Wang Lei as my mentor and still call him my 'shifu'. I will always respect him."
Weiliang later told The New Paper that he would ask Wang out for coffee or a meal after he is done with his movie promotional activities to try to patch things up.
An emotional Wang cried and told TNP after the press conference: "I am very upset with him, you know? Now that Jack has stepped up to try and mediate things, I am willing to give Weiliang a chance if he is repentant.
"How things go from here will depend on what Weiliang does. If he is willing to change, I might forgive him."
So was it all a publicity stunt, we asked?
No, said Neo.
"It doesn't benefit my movie at all. I've known Wang Lei for many years and Weiliang is under me now. It was Wang Lei who recommended Weiliang to me in the first place," he said.
"It hurts me to see the two of them quarrel and end up acting like strangers. I feel that the press conference is a good opportunity for them to hopefully reconcile."
I still treat Wang Lei as my mentor and still call him my 'shifu'. I will always respect him.
- Wang Weiliang
This article was first published on June 11, 2014.
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