SINGAPORE - Filming several bare-bodied scenes beside muscular Jay Chou can be a little intimidating, especially if you happen to be his best buddy, Alan Ko.
Taiwanese actor Ko, who plays a gangster and Chou's sidekick in the Mandopop king's new martial arts musical comedy movie The Rooftop, told The New Paper: "I used to have a better body than Jay, but he has been training very hard and now he has these eight- pack abs. It's quite insane."
The 32-year-old added: "But I am fine with my figure. I prefer a leaner body with definition, so I am not aiming to train till I am so buff and muscular like Jay. Maybe I will do that when I am older."
The Rooftop, which is also directed by Chou, is about Gao (Chou) and his group of gangster friends who are part of a poor but happy community living on the rooftops of buildings.
Gao falls for a rising starlet (Chinese newcomer Li Xinai) and goes through many obstacles to be with her.
The Rooftop is showing in cinemas now.
Ko, who swims, bikes and skateboards regularly, said he did not train too hard for the scene in a bathhouse where he and Chou fight some gangsters in a gongfu song-and-dance sequence.
But before filming the scenes, the two stars did a few hundred push-ups so that they would look better on screen.
Ko said: "We keep checking out each other's chest to see if it has swelled up and compare to see whose is bigger. Sometimes I hit the gym with Chou and we train for two to three hours."
Ko, best known for playing the rebellious but misunderstood lead in last year's sleeper hit Din Tao, had not acted in a musical before.
"I was a little hesitant when I was asked to take on this project as I did not know what to expect," he said.
"I thought it would be similar to what we see in Bollywood movies. I was not familiar with acting, singing and dancing at the same time."
But Ko praised 34-year-old Chou's directing skills, saying that he has an extremely high EQ on the set, making the entire filming process very enjoyable.
A confident Chou had given himself 100 marks at a recent press conference in Taiwan for his second directorial effort.
The Rooftop comes six years after the popular Secret, which propelled Taiwanese actress Gwei Lun Mei to fame and received positive reviews.
Ko said: "Of course I will give him 100 marks as well. This is a very big-scale movie and Jay faced immense pressure, but he is able to deliver. It felt like an almost impossible task, but he did it."
He added: "He is a very good director. Even when he is unhappy on set, Jay will not scold anyone. He will use a nice tone to convey his message. It is very admirable."
Yet, working with Chou has its downside as well, given that he is a perfectionist.
Ko recalled the countless sleepless nights he had with Chou and the cast, saying: "Jay will not sleep until he is pleased with the end product. Sometimes, he would stay awake for two consecutive days, and we would accompany him as we want to watch him doing his work."
So what was the most memorable scene for Ko, who has known Chou for more than a decade?
"There was this scene where we were just hanging out at the rooftop, having heart-to-heart chats. We have not done this in real life for a long, long time, and it felt so real to me," he said.
"Jay is always so busy and has so many people surrounding him during the filming. I can't remember the last time I had a heart-to-heart talk with him."
Ko, who is busy filming Malaysian lion dance troupe movie The Great Lion Kun Seng Keng, wants to dabble in more diverse roles in the future.
"I want to try acting in period dramas. I wouldn't mind acting as a dad as well. It'll be quite a learning experience."