"Ah Boys To Men" saved Jack Neo

20 March 2013
"Ah Boys To Men" saved Jack Neo

Some called Jack Neo the father of Singaporean comedy and some said he is one of the best comedian directors in Asia. Regardless of what the public's opinions are, the 58-year-old has really created a name for himself in the entertainment industry with comedy films such as "Money No Enough", "Liang Popo: The Movie", "I Not Stupid", "Ah Long Pte Ltd" and most recently, the "Ah Boys To Men" duology, a Singaporean national service-themed comedy drama that eventually became the highest grossing Chinese-language film in Singapore's box office history. Cinema Online recently has a chance to interview Neo regarding his latest film.

It's been a while since we saw your film in the headlines for breaking a box-office record. What does "Ah Boys To Men" mean to you?
My team and I were very surprised with the reception we received for the first film and the sequel in Singapore. It's really a miracle for us and myself. I really hope that "Ah Boys" can achieve the same result in Malaysia.

What is the difference between "Ah Boys To Men: Part 1" and "Ah Boys To Men: Part 2"?
Well, in the first episode, we introduced our main cast as young recruits for the national service in Tekong Island whereas in part two, we go for more in-depth storytelling of the trainees' experiences in the army camp, emphasising elements like brotherhood, sacrifice, love, family and patriotism.

What makes the duology so special to the audience?
I think the audience is really fond of the true but untold incidents that happened during Singapore's national service. We gave them a big picture on how the military training is conducted in our country and what are the challenges faced by the young recruits. I guess people are touched by our sincerity in the production and of course the likable performances by our young cast members.

How did you find the cast?
We discovered these unbelievable talents on YouTube. Tosh Zhang and Noah Yap have posted tonnes of funny videos on the Internet. We realized they are very popular and that their videos have attracted lots of views. I saw their inner potential for acting in comedy films.

What about Wang Wei Liang a.k.a. Lobang King? He is also one of the actors that stood out in the films.
[Laughs] Wei Liang is acting as himself in "Ah Boys". He has the same personality as Lobang King off-screen. We noticed him through his mentor, Getai veteran Wang Lei. He's one of a kind and to me, he's an "endangered species" in Singapore!

Are you planning to shoot another sequel for "Ah Boys To Men"?
Yes, I am. We are currently in preparations for the script. I might invite my old partners Mark Lee and Henry Thia to join in for fun. Apart from that, I would also like to announce that we would produce an album for the cast of "Ah Boys To Men". In another words, we are making them a boy band. Their popularity is way beyond our expectations. Wherever they go, people of different ages scream for them. [Laugh] Unlike me, Mark and Henry in the olden days, we got support from the aunties instead and nobody shouted for us. Therefore, this is a great time for us to ride on their success with a breakthrough on the music scene.

All the best, Jack!
Thank you, Cinema Online. See you again!

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