A Conversation with Adrian Pang
A familiar face to all Singaporeans, Adrian Pang is not only an accomplished screen actor, but is well steeped into the local film industry as well. Most recently seen in The Carrot Cake Conversations, I caught up with the busy actor, producer and father of two to talk about his latest film, personal life and career.
Junbin (JB): For us at Sinema.SG, you’re a familiar face on the big screens â€“ starring in films such as Forever Fever, I Do I Do and Gone Shopping â€“ and now, The Carrot Cake Conversations. How did you come across this project, and why did you choose to be part of this?
Adrian Pang (AP): For me, being part of any filming process is still very much a learning experience, and I wanted to be part of this film because I was excited by how much Michael (Wang) believed in it; itâ€™s great to see such enthusiasm and passion from a young director with a story to tell.
JB: In CCC you play Matthew, a rich property mogul who, as the synopsis says, finds himself at crossroads â€“ how did you relate to this character, and from what experiences did you draw from to play Matthew?
AP: Matthew has just experienced a tragedy and is trying to piece his life together. Anyone who has experienced some kind of loss in their lives can identify with that sense of inertia, guilt, regret and all the other emotions that come with that loss.
JB: Both you and Andrea Fonseka hold a degree in law, but have not practiced since graduation, and instead chose to act â€“ why?
AP: Iâ€™d make a terrible lawyer cos I canâ€™t take care of my own problems, let alone be responsible for other peopleâ€™s problems. And I chose to become an actor in order to meet girls. So far, itâ€™s worked brilliantly.
JB: Back to your acting background â€“ you have a rich history of stage, theatre and television work in the UK, why did you choose to return to Singapore?
AP: For the sake of my sons.
JB: On your return, you worked as a producer and wrote a television series as well â€“ tell us a bit more about this expansion in your career, and what bits that you enjoyed the most about working in this industry, but as a non-actor instead.
AP: As a jobbing actor, one has very little control over oneâ€™s career. We are always at the mercy of the material weâ€™re given to work with. I guess Iâ€™d been given more than my share of shoddy material in my time, so I figured Iâ€™d take a bit of control and create my own TV series. It was extremely well received, thank goodness. But even if it had been crap, at least Iâ€™d be able to say, â€œIt was MY crap.â€
JB: What has been your favourite role so far (be it on tv, film or theatre), and which was the most challenging?
AP: The favourite roles I have played so far have been for the stage: the title role in Hamlet, the title role in The Dresser, and Detective Tupolski in The Pillowman.
JB: What’s your dream role?
AP: My dream role would be a love scene with Jessica Alba.
JB: How was it like working with Michael Wang on CCC? Were you given room to expand on your character or improv much?
AP: Michael was great to work with as a director. And as the screenwriter, he was also very certain about what he wanted his characters to express, but at the same time was very receptive to suggestions from his cast.
JB: Which particular scene in CCC did you enjoy doing the most?
AP: I liked the scene I shared with Danielle Oâ€™Malley because I get to smile for a change!
JB: In a lot of the media coverage about you, you’ve always stressed that family is important for you â€“ how did you work this around the shooting schedule of CCC, which involved you in a lot of night scenes and no doubt long hours?
AP: It was no different from any other job: when Iâ€™m not with my family, Iâ€™m at work; and when Iâ€™m not at work, Iâ€™m with my family. Thatâ€™s my life.
JB: Seeing that you first step foot into the local film industry 10 years ago in Forever Fever, how do you think the industry has grown since then? Where do you see it 10 years down the road from now?
AP: I think we still do not have a â€œfilm industryâ€ as such, but itâ€™s encouraging to see young filmmakers emerging. I really hope that the new generations of writer/directors will be bolder and ballsier, and tell original stories.
JB: Comparing the local industry and the countless others you’ve worked in, including Hollywood, what would you say are the major difficulties the local industry face when it comes to making a film really take flight and turn a profit, or be considered a ‘hit’ in local box offices?
AP: I think at the end of the day, itâ€™s all about the dollar. Every filmmaker dreams of making a film that is both critically and commercially successful, but it doesnâ€™t always work out that way, of course. One movie that was a flop on its initial release is The Shawshank Redemption. It wasnâ€™t until it was released on DVD that it eventually found an audience and has since topped many â€œgreatest films of all timeâ€ polls is, and is one of my personal favourites.
On the other hand there are numerous films made internationally and locally that are frankly complete rubbish, but push all the right buttons with the popcorn public and as a result clean up at the box office. So this goes to prove oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldmanâ€™s declaration about the movie business: â€œNOBODY KNOWS ANYTHINGâ€.