Youthful cast spices up 3 peas

L-R: Jae Liew, Michelle Chong, Alexander Lee Eusebio, Calvin Chen

Home-grown-actress- turned-director Michelle Chong joked that she's the only "mature content" in her latest movie 3 Peas In A Pod, which recently earned an NC16 rating.

But the effervescent 36-year-old, who has a cameo role in the movie, appeared to be as youthful as her cast at the movie's press conference on Thursday.

Though Chong is the "boss", she exchanged jibes and bantered freely with the young leading actors - Singaporean newbie Jae Liew, 23; former Korean group U-Kiss member Alexander Lee Eusebio, 25 - who is of Korean, Chinese and Portuguese descent - and Taiwanese singer Calvin Chen, 33, a member of pop group Fahrenheit.

The rookie trio, who are making their movie debut with 3 Peas, play university schoolmates entangled in a love triangle that evolves over the course of a road trip in Australia.

The multi-tasking Chong, who owns production company Huat Films and talent-management agency Left Profile, said: "I wanted to make this movie before I get too old to remember what it's like to be young and carefree."

She added in jest: "And how not to have worries of everyday life, paying the bills, running an artist-management company and having a production house."

The nostalgia of a bygone youth has been a popular theme for movies lately, such as China's So Young (2013) and Taiwan's You Are The Apple Of My Eye (2011).

The well-spoken Chong said that she was inspired after her directorial debut, the 2011 hit film Already Famous, but did not embark on making 3 Peas immediately because of the slew of youth-romance movies.

Already Famous was a box-office hit and was selected as the Singapore entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 85th Academy Awards.

She said that what makes 3 Peas stand out in its genre is its international appeal in its filming location and cast.

"We filmed the entire movie in Australia, which already gives it a different feel," said Chong, whose $1.7-million movie took them on a "real road trip" from The Great Ocean Road to Kangaroo Island.

Going on the road trip gave the boyish Lee a second chance to experience the missed opportunity of university life.

The actor, who left U-Kiss in 2011, said: "I stopped college to (continue) my K-pop life. I really miss my university life."

Citing how the late king of pop Michael Jackson had worked all his life and missed out on childhood, Lee said: "During (filming), it was the perfect time for me to remember and act like a university student."

The cast really did act like a bunch of playful university students throughout the interview.

The mischievous Chen had no qualms revealing juicy tidbits from their filming experience.

Recounting an episode with a glint in his eye, Chen said in Mandarin: "One night, our director made us go into a room and told us to strip. Xander (Lee) and I complied obediently."

He later clarified with a laugh: "It was necessary for the filming, she wanted to look at our physique."

Other coming-of-age movies

YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE (TAIWAN, 2011)

THIS college-romance flick left such an indelible mark on audiences and critics that it has been compared to subsequent films of the same genre.

The movie is based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Taiwanese author Giddens Ko, who also directed the film.

The Chinese title of the novel and the movie, loosely translated as The Girl Whom We Chased Together During Those Years, gives the gist of the story.

The sweet A-star student Shen Chia-yi (played by Michelle Chen) is the object of affection of her male classmates. One of her admirers is the mischievous Ko Ching-teng (Kai Ko) who catches Shen's attention.

Alas, the ending is bittersweet as the pair embark on different paths in their lives.

SO YOUNG (CHINA, 2013)

THIS directorial debut of Chinese actress Vicki Zhao struck a nostalgic chord with viewers in China, reportedly raking in 600 million yuan (S$123 million) over two weeks.

The movie, based on the best-selling novel To Our Youth That Is Fading Away, begins with the carefree college days of 18-year-old undergraduate Zheng Wei (Yang Zishan) and her schoolmates.

The group of wide-eyed youth realise that growing up can be painful when harsh realities of life set in.

GIRLFRIEND, BOYFRIEND (TAIWAN, 2012)

THIS melancholic film follows the lives of three friends - Aaron (Rhydian Vaughan), Mabel (Gwei Lun Mei) and Liam (Joseph Chang) - and is set against Taiwan's changing socio-political landscape in the 1980s.

The schoolmates are out to rebel against society's suffocating rules at a time when Taiwan is under martial law.

The evolving love triangle spans three decades, from their high-school days to adulthood.

THAT GIRL IN PINAFORE (SINGAPORE, 2013)

THIS home-grown film was sold as an ode to the xinyao era - the heyday of Singapore Mandarin songs in the 1980s. The movie leads are xinyao singing teens who pursue an obstacle-fraught road in order to fulfil their romantic and music dreams.

At the centre of the drama are the star-crossed lovers, school dropout Jiaming (Daren Tan) and well-to-do goodie-two-shoes May (Julie Tan).

nggwen@sph.com.sg

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