Touch of Tinseltown
Julian cheah is back with another film, and this time he has brought along a famous Hollywood actor.
LIKE him or hate him, Julian Cheah is never going to stop. Few people realise that the Penang native has been in the entertainment and film industry for a little more than two decades now, writing, acting, directing and producing his own movies which are mostly in the action-drama genre.
After his last movie, Killer Clown, he has now decided to hang up his director’s hat. Yes, you read that right – Julian Cheah will not be directing movies anymore.
Instead, he wants to only produce and concentrate on his acting.
In an upcoming movie called Prince Of The City, Cheah takes on the lead role and also produces.
But that’s about it. The movie is directed by Roslan Hussin of Axis Line Entertainment, the company that is also producing the movie. (Principal photography, in and around Kuala Kumpur, began on Sept 19 and will go on till Oct 14.)
“The reason why I left the directing to somebody else is because it’s time for me to share artistic input with other people,” said Cheah during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur last week.
“Sometimes when you do your own film, you become very closed and your vision becomes very narrow. When you have someone else come in, obviously there will be pros and cons – they will do things that you like and things that you don’t like. But then film is a collaborative medium.
“Also it’s tiring when I act, direct and produce. And I’ve done that so many times. It’s not easy to function in three ways. Now that someone else is directing, I can just concentrate on giving a good performance.”
But the real big news is that apart from local stars such as Aaron Aziz and Jehan Miskin, Prince Of The City will also feature Hollywood actor Michael Madsen who is known for his tough-guy roles in movies such as Thelma & Louise, Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill and Sin City.
Cheah is particularly proud of this as he said it has been his vision for many years to get a well-known Hollywood actor for a local movie. (Interestingly, early last decade, U-Wei Haji Shaari had enlisted Harvey Keitel for his adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Almayer’s Folly, but unfortunately, the deal fell through.)
“I got Michael Madsen because today it is very hard to sell a film in the world market unless you have a (big) name,” explained Cheah.
“After the year 2000, it became impossible. If you go to the film marts around the world you will find that only films with star names can sell. To me it’s a necessity as a producer.
“Finas and the government are always saying, we want to make Malaysian films international. But then how can you do it if you don’t take a step like this?”
Prince Of The City is about Prince Amara, played by Cheah, a rising star in the business world who is in a power-tussle with his brother Putra (Jehan Miskin) and gets framed for the murder of an American girl (catwalk model and first-time actress Tara Wallace). Madsen plays Ben Carlton, a shady man from New York who helps Amara to clear his name and get his life back.
Asked how he managed to get Madsen interested in the role, Cheah said: “He read the script and his manager told me the script is great. I had told my writer Kelvin Wong, ‘ We’re trying to get Michael Madsen, so when you write, create dialogue that is specially for him.’ So I think when we sent the script to Hollywood, he knew when he read it with his manager, that (the character is really him).
“If we had given him a script that was totally unlike him and which he could not relate to, then he would have hesitated. I think Kelvin did a really good job.”
At a modest budget of RM1.5mil, Prince Of The City will be a fully English-language movie, and it is also the first time both Aaron and Jehan will speak English for an entire feature film.
“I took on the role because of Madsen,” Aaron admitted. “I think it’s going to be a huge experience, and this kind of thing money can’t buy.”
Aaron plays Iskandar, who acts as a kind of bodyguard to Amara, teaching him to handle a gun and fight. His is a physical role involving fight scenes, and Cheah thought he was perfect for Iskandar after seeing him in KL Gangster.
As for Jehan, Cheah likes his versatility as an actor. “He can play a good boy but he can also play a very nasty character,” said Cheah. “In this film, he is the villain. He has a face that can switch from being a charming guy giving a girl flowers, to taking out a gun and shooting you.”