NYAFF 2012 Interview: Director Giddens Ko & Star Michelle Chen Talk YOU'RE THE APPLE OF MY EYE

Ben Umstead, East Coast Editor
This past Sunday at the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival the Taiwan & Hong Kong box office champ  You're the Apple of My Eye had it's North American premiere. In attendance were author-turned-director Giddens Ko, and his leading lady Michelle Chen, who received this year's Star Asia Rising Star Award. Our correspondent The Lady Miz Diva was able to sit down with the pair to chat about their smash-hit film. This interview is being cross-published on Diva's own site The Diva Review.   

The Lady Miz Diva:  I understand You Are the Apple of My Eye is only semi-autobiographical, is that true?

 
Michelle Chen: It's pretty true.
 
Giddens Ko:  Almost true
 
LMD:  Giddens, did you have any hesitation putting so much of your personal life on the big screen?

GK:  I'm a show-off man!  My life is interesting.  I want everybody to know that.  I wanted the girl's {Shen Chia-Yi} husband to know how much I loved his wife.  I didn't kiss her husband, but I wanted to.  {At her wedding} Her husband said anyone who wanted to kiss his wife must kiss him first.  I didn't do that, but in that moment I started to imagine the story.
 
LMD:  Has the real Shen Chia-Yi seen the film?
 
GK:  I sent a DVD to her.
 
LMD:  Did you get a response?
 
GK:  Not yet.  Her husband wanted her to see the DVD for the first time with him... Shit!
 
LMD:  Did any of your actors have any hesitation about some of the outrageous and silly things they were called to do in the script, like your lead, Ko Chen-Tung walking around naked and the dog humping his leg, or the other student with the permanent erection?
 
MC:  He loved it!
 
GK:  I told the actor, Ko Chen-Tung, that I would protect him, but I didn't. {Laughs} He's fine, he's fine.
 
MC:  He didn't worry about the nudity at all or the jerking off dance.  He was more worried about kissing me. {Laughs} That's because this was his first film.
 
LMD:  Giddens, what was it about Ko Chen-Tung that made you think he would be perfect to play you in the film?
 
GK:  First, he's tall.  He's taller than me... too much.  This is one thing I don't like about Ko.  Michelle said she thought Ko Chen-Tung would be a really good partner to work with.
 
MC:  I never said that! {Laughs} Actually, he went through several auditions and then it was down to him and another actor and Giddens asked me who did I feel I had more chemistry with, and I said, "Yeah, I think Ko is better."
 
LMD:  Since Michelle was the first one cast, what was it about her that made you see her as the avatar for your lost love?
 
GK:  When I saw her, my heart beat very, very, very fast.  I fell in love with her.  So I thought even if I shoot a very bad movie, I'll have a great summer with her.
 
MC:  {Laughs}
 
LMD:  So, this production was all about trying to get a date?  Michelle, what did you read in the character of Shen Chia-Yi that made you able to play her?
 
MC:  There's some similarities between me and Shen Chia-Yi; she's a good student and I was kind of like a good student.  Not as studious how she was, but I just studied whenever there were exams coming up.  I think it's like a girl's dream to be chased by a lot of guys, especially having someone who really chases you so hard and truly cared about you for so many years.  Even though they never got into a relationship, but he still cares about the girl so much; studying with her every night, he wrote about their story and make it into a movie.
 
GK:  I didn't study.
 
MC:  Yeah!  He was the best student.  He didn't study and because of her, he studied hard and he actually got into a really decent university in Taiwan.  So, that's something really special and I think it's like a girl's dream, and every girl has that dream in their heart, so it's not hard to play that.  It's just like a dream come true.
 
LMD:  There's some interesting little in-jokes in the film that I'd like to know about.  Did Jay Chou actually go to your high school?
 
GK:  No, no, no.  He gave me a song as a present.  He gave me a set of nunchucks like Bruce Lee.  I asked him if he would have time to join my movie, but he took me as a shit, but he gave me a song as a present and I appreciated it.
 
LMD:  You also have the Taiwanese blog queen, Wan Wan playing a girl who will grow up to become the Taiwanese blog queen, Wan Wan.  Are there any other jokes that people who enjoy Asian pop culture will get?
 
GK:  There was actually a Japanese manga author called Takehiko Inoue, his manga is called Slam Dunk, that's in there, as well.
 
LMD:  Michelle, it seems like it was a very warm, energetic set.  Can you talk about Giddens' directing style?
 
MC:  Very simple. Childish.
 
GK:  Amazing!
 
MC:  It's really great.  This is his first time filming a long feature movie, but I think he's got something so special that's called trust.  He really trusts actors and actresses.  Like once he chooses them, he just gives his heart to them.  And he's very positive; he has this great energy that makes it fun to work at the set, not only for us, but the people at the set, the cinema people, the lighting guys.  Everyone was just having such a great time working on this and I think that's always very important while you do a movie.
 
LMD:  What was it like for you to play Shen Chia-Yi as she aged from a teenage girl to a woman in her twenties or early thirties?
 
MC:  I didn't really think about that while I was doing the film.  We were really lucky because we kind of did the scenes according to the time: We did the high school scenes first and then college and the wedding almost at the very end.  I don't know...
 
GK:  Maybe she wants to say she is a genius.
 
MC:  Not that!  I guess I was just really into the story.  It kind of came naturally.
 
LMD:  You'd read the book on which the movie is based?
 
MC:  I did.  It was actually the first book that I read out of all his books.  Back then, I wasn't even an actress; I hadn't gotten into acting.  I really liked the book back then.  I finished it in one night.
 
LMD:  How much freedom did you allow your actors to interpret their roles?
 
GK:  I spent a lot of time to communicate with Ko, because he's me.  I told him a lot of my story and how I felt at that time.  But I didn't tell her {Michelle} because I didn't know the girl.  I just told her the story and then she added my favourite girl.  Sometimes when I'd see her, I saw the girl, really.  So, she had a lot of space.
 
LMD:  For moviegoers who haven't read the book, did you feel a little guilty about the way you set up the beginning and then taking a different turn?
 
GK:  No, that's true life.  Sometimes we cannot be with our favourite girl or boy together forever, but she can be in my heart forever.
 
MC:  I think that's the beauty of the film, because they never actually come together, but he still likes her so much and makes her such an important person in his life.
 
LMD:  The music is such a huge part of the film and you both contributed to the soundtrack.  Michelle, can you talk about how "Childish" came about?
 
MC:  I always wrote lyrics.  I wrote lyrics for a long time, but I hardly ever wrote melodies.  But I think because I really, really loved this movie, the melody just kind of came naturally.  Actually, I did two songs and I showed it to him one morning and I was really nervous, cos acting I have done for a long time, but singing is like something that I am more shy about.  I gave it to him and made him listen to it and after he heard Childish, he cried. {Laughs}
 
GK:   I was afraid I'd have to pretend I loved the song, but I didn't want to.  The song's amazing.
 
LMD:  And what about "Those Years" becoming such a big hit?
 
GK:  I changed the melody of the song four times.  I told the composer that you have the change the melody cos I'm shy.  I didn't want to change the way the original producer wanted to do it, so I needed to make sure the song is perfect.
 
LMD:  What is next for both of you?
 
GK:  I never stop composing my novels.  So I'm writing my new books and I want to shape my second long movie maybe for next year in the summer.
 
LMD:  Is it going to be based on one of your books?
 
GK:  Yeah, it's a story about kung fu and a little action.
 
LMD:  And for you, Michelle?
 
GK:  I'm doing a movie in Hong Kong right now, but the rest of the year I will save all my time to do my first album.
 
LMD:  What would you like for people to take away from You Are the Apple of My Eye?
 
GK:  Tears.  And always remember to say sorry to your girl or boy if you make a mistake immediately, say sorry immediately.
 
MC:  Always remember to treat people with your true heart.  Don't fear when you feel there's love.
 
~ The Lady Miz Diva
July 2nd, 2012

You're the Apple of My Eye plays one final time at the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival, next Monday, July 9 (12:30pm) at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center. Click here for more info and tickets.

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