It's official: Ah Boys To Men will be back on the big screen.
And not just a fourth instalment of the hit local film franchise, but a fifth as well.
When the Ah Boys To Men 3: Frogmen was released in February, its director Jack Neo was vague about the possibility of future flicks.
But this week, speaking on the sidelines of the inaugural Singapore Night in conjunction with SG50 celebrations, Neo assured fans of the series' continuation.
The 55-year-old told The New Paper: "The plan is to push them out starting in the second half of 2017. We take a little break this year, next year we go into planning, then it's 2017.
"My cast and myself have been hounded by fans who want more of the series."
The Singapore Night event was organised by City University of Hong Kong and the Singapore Association Hong Kong and included a special screening of Frogmen.
The original cast of Joshua Tan, Tosh Zhang, Maxi Lim and Wang Weiliang, who are contracted to Neo's JM Artiste Network, are likely to reprise their roles.
Neo said: "They have a lot of fans, so we are likely to preserve them and add a few new roles. But we're not sure about the new roles yet. We have not finalised the storyline.
"We want it to be a surprise."
When contacted, Wang said Neo has not told the group the news yet and added that he is "very happy".
He said: "As long as our audience wants to see us don our army greens, I'm more than willing to continue acting in the franchise. I'm up for any new challenge.
"Physically, Frogmen was very tough, so after that movie, I feel we can take on anything. I hope my character gets more action sequences.
"And it would be great if the film can delve deeper into the friendship and camaraderie between the Ah Boys."
An elated Lim said: "I have rejected several overly-similar roles in army-themed films. I think it's vital for myself and the rest of the cast to protect this franchise which we worked so hard on."
Zhang said: "I believe our fans will enjoy our reunion on the silver screen.
"The pressure is immense due to the successes of the previous three movies, but I know my fellow Ah Boys and I will give our absolute best to ensure that we bring our audiences a great movie."
Also appearing at Singapore Night alongside Neo was Frogmen actor Wesley Wong, who played bad boy navy diving unit recruit Black Dragon.
The 28-year-old Hong Kong actor recalled the tough training he went through for the movie.
Wong, who has never served in any armed forces or had any experience in diving, said: "Even though there was no time to go to the gym while making the movie, shooting it was enough exercise."
Neo said: "When he first started with us, he did not even know how to put on army boots."
When asked if he would cast Wong in the sequels, he said: "Of course, if there's an opportunity, I would like to get him on board."
Neo's first Singapore-China film
In a major breakthrough in his 17-year career, Jack Neo recently sealed a deal to co-produce his first Singapore-China film next year.
"This was always the plan. Eight years ago, I said I wanted to venture into China, but a lot of things didn't go right, so I gave up," he said.
"We plan to go around June 2016. A lot of permission applications need to be done for a co-production and we're in the middle of doing the script."
The storyline "is a commercial secret", he added with a chuckle, but the seasoned veteran film-maker revealed that his new project is likely to be a dramedy and "will definitely be a feature film, with actors mainly from China".
"But we will see how we can put some Singaporeans in it," he said.
Neo foresees the project to be his biggest and most expensive one yet, even more costly than his nostalgic film on Singapore's early days, Long Long Time Ago, which cost $5 million and is slated to open here on Feb 4.
This is because he expects Chinese artists to charge more.
"It's very exciting for me, it's the first time. And the China film market is very happening now," said Neo.
"The comedy genre is quite well-received in China, but I do not know if my kind of comedy works in China or not. But you'll never know if you never try.
"I have to do lots of studying, I've got to understand their lifestyle, the language they use, what makes them laugh."
This article was first published on Nov 7, 2015.
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