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"Lee Chong Wei", a heroic tale about Malaysia's pride and joy

The child and teen actors who will play Lee Chong Wei.

A biography movie based on the life of Malaysian shuttler Datuk Wira Lee Chong Wei, aptly titled "Lee Chong Wei", is set to hit cinemas in the first quarter of 2018.

The cast line-up for the movie includes Datuk Rosyam Nor, Mark Lee, Yeo Yann Yann, and the several young cast members who bear striking resemblance to the real Lee Chong Wei and his wife Wong Mew Chu.

Helmed by "Kepong Gangster" director, Teng Bee, the movie was made with a production span of three years and over two thousand candidates attended the auditions back in March.


Among the candidates, newcomers Jake Eng and Tosh Chan have been chosen to play the child and teen versions of the Olympic silver medallist, while Ashley Hua will portray Wong Mew Chu.

It has been noted that the movie will be the first Malaysian movie to utilise the robotic arm with Phantom high-speed camera technology to provide an exceptional visual experience for the audience.

The movie had its press conference at Mandarin Oriental last week, which was graced by Datuk Wira Lee Chong Wei himself, his brother Datuk Joe Lee, director Teng Bee, producer Josiah Chieng, and the cast.

Here's what they shared with us.


The team from "Lee Chong Wei" movie!

Cinema Online: Why is the title of the movie changed from "Rise of the Legend" to just "Lee Chong Wei"?

Teng Bee: Because to us, especially Malaysians, "Lee Chong Wei" is no longer just a name, it is our country's pride and joy, and the drive for us to continue fighting and never give up. So when we shot this film, we felt like there's no other word or phrase that better describes this movie other than "Lee Chong Wei".

Why did you decide to choose new actors to portray Lee Chong Wei?

Teng Bee: If you choose an experienced actor to play Lee Chong Wei, he may not have a problem in terms of acting out the role, but he would have a hard time when it comes to playing the sport. But if you pick an actor who is inexperienced, but can play badminton, the challenge would be for him to learn how to act. Between teaching someone how to play badminton and how to act, which one do you think is easier? For me, it is teaching them how to act. So we'd rather find someone who knows how to play badminton because then he can react to the shuttlecock more naturally, and with that, the movie would seem more realistic.


Tosh Chan who plays teen Lee Chong Wei with director Teng Bee.

How close is the movie to Lee Chong Wei's life story, and what language will it be in?

Teng Bee: 60 percent of the story is based on his real life while another 40 percent is to add drama to the movie. 30 percent of the language is in Hokkien, as that is Lee Chong Wei's mother tongue, 50 percent will be in Mandarin, while another 20 percent is in the Malay language.

Josiah Chieng: To further elaborate on the 40 percent fictional plot, the life story of Lee Chong Wei is so heavy, so there are a lot of things that we cannot include in a 2 hour movie. For example there are certain important people who played a part in his life, but since we don't have the time to include them all, we created some fictional characters that incorporate each of these people, so the spirit is still there, even though the characters and story may be fiction. So I won't say that the 40 percent is completely fictional because it has some truth in it.

What is your box office target for the movie?

Josiah Chieng: Of course the higher the better. We hope that this film can travel far, the farther the better. We don't have a target. We just hope that people won't be disappointed by this movie. So as long as people are satisfied with this movie, that's enough for us. Because after watching the movie, there will be word of mouth and we want to rely on that. So that is our target, to win the hearts of the people.


Mark Lee and Josiah during the Q&A session.

Why did you pick Rosyam Nor to play Misbun Sidek?

Teng Bee: I have watched a lot of Rosyam Nor's movies, and I love his performance. I don't see him quite often, but there's this one time when we met, and I asked him if he played badminton, and he said yes. So from there, we started talking about my new film, and...

Rosyam Nor: He chose me because I'm the best! [laughs] Just kidding! I am honoured to be on board this project. If you see the line-up for this movie, I am the only Malay. So when director Teng Bee asked me to be a part of the movie, I couldn't agree any faster. This is a huge opportunity for me to expose myself to the Chinese community.

The Malay community is already familiar with my name, but not the Chinese community. So this is really a huge opportunity. Having me playing Misbun is not an overnight decision, because Misbun is someone very important in Lee Chong Wei's life. So I am grateful that the director and producers are confident enough to have me playing the role.

Teng Bee: It is also because the role in this movie is quite heavy, so we can't just simply choose anyone for the role.


This will be Rosyam Nor's second time acting in a Chinese movie.

What about Mark, how were you approached to play the role and why did you accept it?

Mark Lee: To be honest, I feel pressured shooting this film because I'm the only Singaporean in it. So the reason why I agree to take on this movie is due to a condition that I set - the amount of my fee has to be Datuk Lee Chong Wei's annual income, and they agreed to it! That is why this movie has a lot of sponsors! [laughs]

Anyway, usually before I act in a film, I have to be booked two years in advance. But this director has the audacity to book me only three months earlier. But since he pays me so much for it, I have no choice but to cancel all of my other projects just to be in this film! [laughs]

Jokes aside, I've never acted as a real-life person before, and it is someone who I don't know about and never met before, so it's a bit hard for me to get into character. But I think the hardest part about this character is wearing a wig while playing badminton, I've never sweat so much in my life. [laughs]

Will the film be released during the Chinese New Year, and apart from Malaysia, where else will it be released?

Josiah Chieng: It will be released during the first quarter of 2018, but we're still unsure when is the exact date. We are just targeting for it to be released during the first quarter. It may or may not be during Chinese New Year. Other than Malaysia, of course we target the Southeast Asian market, and those that are familiar with badminton. We are also approaching other countries from all around the world, specifically China.


Cinema Online, 20 November 2017