Touch of Tin­sel­town

Ju­lian cheah is back with an­other film, and this time he has brought along a fa­mous Hol­ly­wood ac­tor.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By ALLAN KOAY en­ter­tain­ment@thes­ Prince­ofthecity.

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.”

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