BY: Andrea Ong
WHEN Singaporean actor Ng Chin Han heard of The Dark Knight auditions in Los Angeles, where he has been based since 2003, he was torn.
The auditions were held last March, and he had just returned to Singapore then to visit his parents.
On top of that, his father was ill, said the actor, who is known for his work in the local theatre scene, having staged controversial plays such as Mee Pok Man and The Blue Room. He spoke to my paper in a recent interview on a trip home.
Still, upon his parents' insistence, he booked a ticket straight back to LA as soon as he got their blessings.
And, boy, is he glad he did that. As his father recovered, Ng landed himself a juicy role - one that has the 38-year-old portraying Lau, a Hong Kong mogul in cahoots with the crime syndicate from Gotham City.
The Dark Knight, director Chris Nolan's sequel to Batman Begins (2005), also packs in a more complex storyline and a new, more menacing array of villains for the Caped Crusader to contend with.
The late Heath Ledger plays the Joker in a role in which he is already immortalised for his dark, maniacal portrayal. Actor Aaron Eckhart takes on Two-Face while Christian Bale reprises his role as Batman.
For Ng, it is a great coup as his role represents one of the biggest appearances for a local actor in a Hollywood blockbuster.
Hong Kong actor Edison Chen also appears in the film but gets a five-second cameo in comparison. Ng's screen time totals around 15 minutes altogether.
Ng remains modest about his role being a breakthrough for Asian actors. "I wouldn't lay claim to that," he said. "The world is changing and American audiences are more used to seeing Asian faces on screen."
However, filming The Dark Knight was a life-changing experience in many ways. In the film, he got to work with the star-studded cast, including Bale, Ledger and Gary Oldman - "one of my heroes", said Ng.
Not to mention that he scored scenes with Ledger and Morgan Freeman, who plays Lucius Fox, the newly-appointed CEO of Wayne Enterprises.
"You really get your money's worth (working) with so many fantastic actors in one film," he joked.
He also got to meet and work with Ledger before the 28-year-old's untimely death shortly after filming wrapped last November.
"At the end of the day, this is what people will remember him for, and rightfully so. He's given a performance that will blow people away," said Ng soberly.
In person, Ledger was "very warm, very amazing", though serious when it came to acting, according to Ng.
He added that "with (Bale) around, it was a very intense set with very intense actors".
Bale has been known to be a dedicated and serious actor, famously losing more than 27.22kg to play an insomniac in 2005's The Machinist to weigh in at around 40kg. He then put on pounds of muscle for Batman Begins to weigh in at more than 100kg.
This also meant that the pressure was on for Ng to deliver. "When you're acting next to Morgan Freeman or Christian Bale, you don't want to be the one to forget your lines," said the bachelor wryly.
Still, the sheer scale of movie- making was very exciting for Ng, who says his involvement in The Dark Knight is part of a series of lucky breaks in his film career.
While he has also acted with Lucy Liu in the film 3 Needles, starring in The Dark Knight is a dream come true for Ng, who has no plans to return to theatre at the moment.
Ng, a self-confessed Batman and movie fan who collects memorabilia, cited The Empire Strikes Back and Superman II as some of his favourite movies.
He said jokingly: "The second movie in the series always seems to be the best." With a small smile, he added: "Like The Dark Knight too, hopefully."
The Dark Knight opens in cinemas next Thursday.
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