It’s not every day that we have a biopic of a true blue Singaporean hitting the silver screen, but that’s exactly what Wonder Boy is, the biographical film about Dick Lee. It’s the tale of his teenage years, and how he came to fame in 70’s Singapore.

The film is directed by Dick Lee himself and Daniel Yam, an award winning Singaporean filmmaker.

The Popping Post managed to get both directors’ thoughts on shooting Wonder Boy via e-mail. This explains why didn’t manage to steal any props.

Dick Lee and Daniel Yam, directors of "Wonder Boy". Credit: MM2 Entertainment

Dick Lee and Daniel Yam, directors of “Wonder Boy”. Credit: MM2 Entertainment

What was the filming experience like for Wonder Boy?

Dick Lee: The entire experience was nerve-wracking at first, as I’ve never directed a film before. But with the guidance of co-director Daniel Yam, I soon found my way around the process. Revisiting episodes from my teens was an extremely emotional experience, helped by the beautiful, realistic, and authentic art direction, which took me back to the past.

Daniel Yam: It was a pleasure working with Dick and the awesome cast. All of us are new to feature films – the main cast members have also not done major roles in feature films before. It’s also a first for MM2 Entertainment, the production company, as this is their first English feature length film.

So we all pushed ourselves out of the comfort zone for Wonder Boy.

Constance Song plays Richard's mother and Benjamin Kheng plays Richard in "Wonder Boy". Credit: MM2 Entertainment

Constance Song plays Richard’s mother and Benjamin Kheng plays Richard in “Wonder Boy”. Credit: MM2 Entertainment

Was it stressful shooting Wonder Boy alongside Dick Lee himself?
Daniel Yam: Not at all! The way Dick directs the cast to bring out their best is something I could learn from. He is calm and charismatic on set, and has the drive and focus even when we are shooting overnight. He is an inspiration for the cast and crew on set.
Of course, there may be creative disagreements, but we both know that ultimately, we serve the story and want the best for the production. So it’s never about who is right, but what is right for the story.
The Wonders in "Wonder Boy". Credit: MM2 Entertainment

The Wonders in “Wonder Boy”. Credit: MM2 Entertainment

Wonder Boy is set in 1970’s Singapore, and almost everyone has praised the gorgeous set design. What did you think of the sets and props on the film?

Dick Lee: Our Art Director, Abdul Samad Jaffar, was so detailed and accurate that I wanted everything. Even the costumes were actual vintage pieces from the 70’s – nothing was new. One piece of furniture that I loved was a huge rattan peacock chair which stood in many a stylish 70’s home.

Daniel Yam: Yeah, Dick was very meticulous about the details – he and the production designer love the 70’s. The Art Director did an awesome job. While we were still fine-tuning the script, he started work with his team to source for clothes, accessories, and props that were in fashion in the 70’s. He also started on the sets even before the script was finalised – the bus stop, food stalls, and Indian mama shop along the main street were all built from scratch.

They even retrofitted a modern bus to evoke the 70’s look. I remember how the art department worked tirelessly for three days to get a location ready for the shoot.

The boys of Wonder Boy in "Wonder Boy". Credit: MM2 Entertainment

The boys of Wonder Boy in “Wonder Boy”. Credit: MM2 Entertainment

What were your favourite scenes from Wonder Boy?

Dick Lee: The two part scenes – one innocent, the other hedonistic – remind me of my favourite times.

Wonder Boy features several scenes depicting vices in the 70’s, such as drugs, alcohol, and sex. It is rated NC-16.

Daniel Yam: All the musical numbers, where it be the Wonder Boys playing or just Benjamin Kheng performing. I just loved all the music in the film and their voices.

Dick Lee and Daniel Yam, directors of "Wonder Boy". Credit: MM2 Entertainment

Dick Lee and Daniel Yam, directors of “Wonder Boy”. Credit: MM2 Entertainment

What were some of the most memorable moments on the set of Wonder Boy?

Dick Lee: On my first day on set, I was assigned to shout “Cut!” at the end of the scene. I was so nervous and terrified that it came out in a frightened whisper. The actors couldn’t hear it and continued acting until the Assistant Director shouted “Cut!” at the top of her lungs!

I soon warmed up after that though!

Daniel Yam: Shooting Benjamin Kheng and Julie Tan’s sex scene. I just couldn’t bring myself to stop the camera from rolling when they both started making out. So it went on and on for quite a while. The couple became so awkward and embarrassed, but being professional, they continued making out until instructed to stop.

The end result looked great.

Julie Tan as Linda and Benjamin Kheng as Richard in "Wonder Boy". Credit: MM2 Entertainment

Julie Tan as Linda and Benjamin Kheng as Richard in “Wonder Boy”. Credit: MM2 Entertainment

What did you learn about the 70’s from shooting Wonder Boy?

Daniel Yam: I learned that in the 70’s, no-one listened to or supported local music – foreign music was best. Somehow, that thinking hasn’t changed much to this day. Local productions are still deemed inferior.

Despite this lack of support, Dick persevered until the local market embraced his work. This inspires me as a filmmaker. I need to keep on pushing forward, no matter how great and endless the challenges may seem.

How are teens in the 70’s different from the ones today?

Dick Lee: Actually, the issues that teens go through today are exactly the same as the ones I faced in the 70’s. Parental pressure, the general gap, peer pressure – the list goes on. The main difference was that the 70’s were wilder yet so much more restrictive at the same time.

Michelle Wong as Pat in "Wonder Boy". Credit: MM2 Entertainment

Michelle Wong as Pat in “Wonder Boy”. Credit: MM2 Entertainment

And finally, if you were to do a sequel to Wonder Boy, which part would it be about?

Dick Lee: I guess it would have to be about The Mad Chinaman years in Japan and Hong Kong.

In 1989, Dick Lee released an album, The Mad Chinaman, which earned him regional prominence. He moved to Japan in 1990 where he continued his solo work and collaborate with artists like Sandy Lam (Hong Kong) and Zoo (Japanese group). 

Wonder Boy. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Wonder Boy. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Benjamin Kheng and Julie Tan in a sex scene? Hedonistic parties with drugs? Alcohol (okay, alcohol doesn’t sound as exciting as the first two)? If your curiosity has been piqued, then you’re in luck because Wonder Boy is now showing in cinemas islandwide!

Wonder Boy features a good-looking, star-studded cast that includes:

  • Benjamin Kheng (Richard)
  • Julie Tan (Linda)
  • Zachary Ibrahim (Mark)
  • Chen Yi Xi (Sammy) (by the way, he’s Edmund Chen and Xiang Yun’s son, and also recently the viral 3-minute animation Jalan to the West)
  • Ryan Ang (Roy)
  • Michelle Wong (Pat)
  • Foo Fang Rong (Louise)
  • Constance Song (Richard’s mother)
  • Gerald Chew (Richard’s mother)

 

So if you’ve ever wanted to know more about Singapore in the 70’s, catch Wonder Boy before it wanders out of cinemas!

 

Credits: MM2 Entertainment, Golden Village Cinemas