It may be his first time as a director, but Chapman To certainly looks like a natural in the role.
During a set visit to his first film, Let’s Eat!, we observed To as he shot a scene of a family gathering for dinner. Shooting outside a house in Petaling Jaya in the afternoon sun, everyone else was sweating buckets, except for To. His hair was perfectly coiffed, his complexion was perfectly dewy, and he was all smiles as he observed the monitor after a test shot.
Arguably one of Hong Kong’s most bankable comedy actors, the 43-year-old is making his directorial debut with the RM5.25mil festive flick titled Let’s Eat!, also known in Cantonese as Hoi Fan La!, which he also stars in.
During a press conference last week, To was in a more serious mood as he shared his experience filming in Malaysia. He was joined by co-star Aimee Chan, who showed off her baby bump in a pretty pink number.
To plays Dai Hung, the head chef of Ah Yong cafe whose specialty dish is his traditional Hainanese chicken rice. Chan plays Rosemary, the cafe owner’s daughter who is adamant about changing everything in the restaurant, from the menu to the uniforms.
The first-time director said the whole movie was made in Malaysia, from pre-production to post-production. “I rented an apartment here in KL and spent a couple of months around May and June researching and writing the script. At the same time, I also took the opportunity to learn from famous chefs here. I feel that it is important to immerse myself in the local culture in order to better understand the cuisine. So now, I’ve become quite an expert on Hainanese chicken rice!”
Well known for his love for cooking, To shared that he has enjoyed being in the kitchen since he was a kid. “My mother had to go out and work, and my elder brother was never any good in the kitchen. So, meal preparation naturally became my responsibility.
“Cooking was a skill that came in handy, since our household income was not very high. While getting to know girls, I’d invite them to my place, where I’d cook a nice meal for them. It helped to save money and allowed me to spend more time with them,” quipped To, who has acted in more than 100 film and TV projects.
To spoke about one of Chan’s scenes which required her to go outdoors for a morning jog during the peak of the haze season in September. “The skies appeared overcast, but it was actually haze! Fortunately, the scene turned out quite lovely and the haze looked just like morning mist!” he said.
Toronto-born Chan, 34, who is making her big-screen debut, said she only realised that she was pregnant with her third child after her return to Hong Kong after the shoot.
“It is exactly what happened with my first child, I only knew about my pregnancy after I got back from an acting project in Malaysia,” said Chan, whose baby is due in April.
The winner of Miss Hong Kong 2006 has been married to fellow TVB actor Moses Chan since 2013, and they already have two sons, two-year-old Aiden Joshua and one-year-old Nathan Lucas.
Let’s Eat! opens at cinemas nationwide on Feb 4.