Louis Koo was a little taken aback when he was told that Francis Ng would be playing the role of his father in the movie Shed Skin Papa.
“Francis and I aren’t that far apart in age, so I was surprised when I heard I would be playing his son,” Koo, 46, said of his 55-year-old co-star Ng.
Shed Skin Papa is a Hong Kong dramedy that tells the story of Lik Hang (Koo) who is down on his luck, what with his film production company going bust and his wife asking for a divorce. Also, his mum had just died, leaving him to care for his 79-year-old father, Yat Hung (Ng), who suffers from dementia.
In a strange twist of fate, Yat Hung starts to shed a layer of skin every day and each time it happens, he becomes 10 years younger. Call him the Benjamin Button of the East!
With Yat Hung approaching the same age as Lik Hang, both father and son have one more chance to bond.
The true star of Shed Skin Papa, one of the nine movies in competition at the Tokyo International Film Festival, is Ng who has to play seven versions of Yat Hung in various stages of age.
“I couldn’t think of anyone else in Hong Kong who could’ve played the role of the father,” director Roy Szeto praised Ng at a press conference held in Tokyo recently. The modest Ng was quick to interject: “I think Roy just doesn’t know enough people. If he expanded his social circle a bit he’d realise there are a ton of great actors.”
Initially, Ng was only interested to play the roles closest to his age. He urged Szeto to look for other actors to portray the youngest and oldest version of Yat Hung. However, Szeto managed to persuade Ng to play all the versions.
This meant the actor had to endure hours of make-up to transform himself for the various looks. Ng revealed that he would be on set at 6am for make up for a scene that was scheduled for 10am.
Ng, who has starred in over 100 films and TV series since he started acting in the 1980s, was thrilled when he found out Koo was going to star opposite him in this film. “I’ve worked with Louis before, so I thought that if we worked together (on this film) it would go really well, and I’m happy to say it did.”
However, this is the first time he would be playing father to Koo. To prepare for his role, Ng asked Koo if he could meet the actor’s father.
“Before we started the shoot, Francis said he wanted to come over and have a meal with my father to see what our relationship was like,” Koo shared at the press conference.
“When we were shooting, especially when he was playing the version of himself in his 70s, he started to really resemble my father, so with his lead I was really able to get into my role.”
Asked if he was inspired by the film The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button in which the titular character played by Brad Pitt ages in reverse, Szeto said no. “On the surface, it may seem as such. But after you watch the movie, then you’ll know it is very different. The script is different.”
Although Ng lamented the fact that he had to endure hours of make up during the six-month shoot, he was happy to see the scene of himself as a younger man.
“Yes, it was nice to see myself younger. Maybe this should be reason enough to go for plastic surgery! To transform myself to look better and improve my appearance,” said Ng laughing.