Lim Kay Tong as Lee Kuan Yew
After months of anticipation and talk, Singapore veteran actor Lim Kay Tong has been tapped to play the role of Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in an upcoming movie titled ‘1965’.
It is perhaps one of the most challenging roles that the veteran actor has taken on in years.
“It is because of who he is,” Lim told inSing.
Lim, 60, is perhaps best known for his role as Charlie Tay in the 1990s TV series ‘Growing Up’. The actor has also starred in numerous television, stage and film productions here and abroad, including ‘Dance of The Dragon’ and ‘Shanghai Surprise’.
The movie’s executive producer Daniel Yun said he and his team have been searching for someone to fill this role for the last two years and have spoken to more than 20 actors.
Yun said: “We take the casting of this character very seriously. Our concern is not only the physical resemblance but also the aura the actor exudes.
“When I finally met him (Lim), immediately within a few minutes, I knew that he was the one. Two or three years ago, he probably wouldn’t have agreed to this role, but he is ready now.”
From left: Sezairi Sezali, James Seah, Joanne Peh, Mike Kasem, Lim Kay Tong and director Randy Ang
Lim admitted that he was not brave enough to take on the role at first, but after reading the script, he changed his mind.
“I did an about-flip. It is not overwhelmingly impossible. It is just a handful of appearances spread over time in 1965 and another scene when he was much older.
“I overcame my cowardice and say, ‘Let’s give it a go’,” he said.
“He is just a corner of the story. He frames the timeline as to when the events take place in this movie.”
On the idea of filling the shoes of a famous character on the big screen, Lim said that he is approaching the role like any other project he undertakes.
“The processes of building the character are the same. You take on a job and you go through the preparations, the things your experience tells you, the way to approach it and then see what happens.”
“I hope that he (Lee Kuan Yew) doesn’t call me,” he quipped.
NOT A BIOPIC
Yun has been developing ‘1965’ for nearly five years, and it is slated to be released next year to tie in with the nation’s celebration of 50 years of independence. So the movie is supported by the Media Development Authority and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.
It is set in a time when Singapore was beset by racial riots, and Yun is quick to stress that the movie is not a Lee Kuan Yew biopic.
Joanne Peh plays lead character Zhou Jun in '1965'
“This film is about a time in history when the immigrants came to Singapore and then they realise that this little red dot is going to be home. It is about how fragile racial harmony is and how we take it for granted,” he added.
“It is not a history lesson or a docudrama. It is about a group of people who are a part of history-in-the-making. But when the camera pulls back, they are just ordinary people trying to make a living.”
The S$2.8-million movie is directed by Randy Ang, who directed police thriller ‘Re:solve’, and shooting will begin in November.
MORE: 'Re:solve' movie review
The movie will be filmed mostly in Batam, Indonesia, at various locations around the island, and at Infinite Studios’ soundstages there.
Qi Yuwu and Deanna Yusoff
OTHER CAST MEMBERS
Singapore actress Joanne Peh joins her husband Qi Yuwu in the movie. The pair just wed in September. She plays one of the movie’s leads Zhou Jun, a coffee-shop owner.
Qi plays a police inspector, while Malaysian actress Deanna Yusoff will take on the role of a single mother.
Joining the cast are actor James Seah, who plays brother to Qi on screen, singer Sezairi Sezali, who plays a young police constable, and radio DJ Kasem will take on the role of a reporter from Pakistan.
Sezairi Sezali, Lim Kay Tong and Mike Kasem. Photo: Zaki Jufri
This is Sezairi’s and Seah’s first major acting role, although Seah has starred in TV series ‘Mata Mata’.
Director Ang said: “We all know Sezairi as a singer who has done well for himself in the region. He exudes this youthful energy that this movie needs.
“We want an inspired casting where there are people where you don’t often see on the big screen.”
Zaki Jufri writes about the arts, entertainment, film and other stuff for inSing.com