His good looks, courtesy of his Korean ancestry, immediately puts him above average. But Kahoe Hon is very much a normal guy who relishes eating nasi lemak – with a side dish of kangkung (his favourite food item in the whole wide world) – watching TV shows/movies every night (Game Of Thrones is high on his must-watch list) and playing football or futsal every week.
But there’s no doubt that beautiful face of his got the 26-year-old Petaling Jaya native on the path of fame early in life. How early?
“My family and I took part in a ballroom dancing competition in Sunway. I was about 10 years old at that time. And ntv7 was there; a crew member asked if I wanted to be in a talent show on that channel. I said yes. From then, I got into TV commercials.”
Wait, back up a little bit. Ballroom dancing? “Yeah, I learned ballroom dancing since seven or eight years old. My younger and older brothers too!” Hon shared with a laugh, confessing he wasn’t forced into taking lessons.
At 15 years old, he was cast in a SilkyGirl ad which was directed by the late Yasmin Ahmad.
“On the set of the commercial, she asked if I wanted to be part of the film that she was going to make. Of course I said, yes. I was interested in acting, as I enjoyed doing commercials, and wanted to work longer than just a few hours on a set.
“She took my parents into a room and spoke with them. And then my dad came out and told me, I got the part!”
That film was Talentime, which turned out to be Yasmin’s last film.
“I still keep in touch with cast members from Talentime,” said Hon. “Syafie (Naswip) called me one time when he was shooting in Ipoh. He said, he remembered our time there making Talentime with Yasmin. I most recently spoke to Mahesh (Jugal Kishor). He is in the hotel line now, stationed at Abu Dhabi, and married!”
After Talentime and a couple of movies including Crayon The Movie, Hon went to the United States to study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles for a year to realise his dream of becoming a director.
He stayed on for five more years, working with ZQ Films in Burbank, California, run by Dean A. Burhanuddin (who directed Crayon), learning all the production skills.
“Six years on my own in a foreign country has made me a calmer person. I was a rebellious teen with my own vision.”
The amiable young man who is quick with a smile and an anecdote, shared that he is currently working on a short film with ZQ Film Studios, a branch in Malaysia. He serves as a director with this studio, while still modelling and acting on the side.
Just a week before this interview, he was in Hong Kong for a modelling assignment. Meanwhile, his last acting gig was in Edmund Yeo’s film Aqerat, which won Yeo the Best Director trophy at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year. Aqerat will be showcased at the 2nd Malaysia International Film Festival (Miffest) next month.
1. As an aspiring director, what have you learned working with award-winning directors like Yasmin and Yeo?
The late Yasmin’s style of directing was to trust her actors to be the character. All the jobs I did with her, she would always say, “Son, I trust you. Just kill (the scene).”
It’s the same with Edmund. He would always encourage his actors to trust their instincts. I think this method makes the actor comfortable and confident to perform better. I hope to be a similar kind of director.
2. What is your best memory working on Talentime (2009)?
I have so many fond memories. It was my first feature so the whole experience was an eye-opener.
Most of all, it felt like a family. The late Yasmin was such a loving person, and the environment she created was one filled with love.
I remember talking nonsense with Mahesh well into the night in our room, and Mak (what we called Yasmin) coming and scolding us to go to sleep. I will definitely cherish that time forever and ever.
3. Let’s talk about your hair.
(Laughs) Directors have said to me, “Do not cut your hair” because there aren’t many actors in Malaysia with long hair.
My father is a hairstylist at A Cut Above in Bangsar. And he used to style my hair for local events I had to attend since I was young.
People would notice my hair and compliment it. I would go home and tell my dad. He’d be so happy.
Since last year though, I got a hair sponsor so they would style my hair (laughs).
But (my dad) is very artistic. He has been doing landscaping at my home – what used to be an empty patch is now thriving greenery.
4. Is there an actor you admire?
I admire Heath Ledger. To me, he is the ultimate Joker. He made the character so intense and intelligent; a role he pulled off so beautifully. Unfortunately he left us so young.
I also love watching Denzel Washington, he’s top notch – the way he changes the way he speaks, moves, for each role is just amazing.
Once I went to Warner Bros Museum (in LA) where they display movie props and costumes. And there was one exhibit that caught my eye – it was just a piece of paper in a glass box. It was a script from a movie Denzel had made. And on that piece of paper, there was no white space at all. He had written analytical notes for every line on that paper! He is so Method!
5. Do you have a boundary that you will not cross when it comes to acting?
I like to challenge myself, and play different roles. I once played six different characters in a TV series (Revolving Heart), which was tough.
But the one thing I will absolutely not do is a nude scene. Not even if Hollywood approaches me.