Just a little magic: New romantic comedy 'Fantasia' talks about love

Aenie Wong plays famed author Nine Cats, who acquires a magical pen.

Local Chinese film Fantasia, which revolves around the love lives of four women, opens in cinemas nationwide today.

Three single women, each seeking love and their elusive Prince Charming. Three magical items, each bringing hope of true love, and the potential to make their dreams come true.

For these women, romance is like a fantasy that can become a reality when the element of magic comes into play; the kind of magic that could inject some much-needed excitement into their humdrum lives.

As each of these women embark on a new romantic chapter in their lives with the help of from the magic items in their hands, what will the outcome be? Will they live happily ever after, or will everything turn out to be a complete disaster?

It is this magical premise that breathes life into local Mandarin movie Fantasia, a light-hearted tale of the lives and loves of these young women set against the backdrop of a bustling metropolis.

Fantasia is directed by Jason Kok (Age Of Glory, The Iron Lady, The Descendant), and produced by Hong Kong filmmaker Sampson Yuen (Bullets Over Petaling Street, Petaling Street Warriors).

Starring Aenie Wong, Yise Loo, Koe Yeet, and Cathryn Lee as the love-lorn ladies, and Dennis Lau, Jeffrey Cheng, Teddy Chin, and Billy Ng as their leading men, the movie consists of three different stories, all connected by a common element.

In a recent interview held in Petaling Jaya, we spoke to the four leading ladies of Fantasia for their take on the characters they play in the movie.

Fit to be (un)seen

The first of the three Fantasia stories sees Yise Loo and Teddy Chin playing tomboyish boxing instructor Fit and effeminate dance instructor Man respectively.

Employed as coaches in the same gym, Fit and Man are constantly at loggerheads. One day, after a particularly disastrous outing during the wedding of an ex-boyfriend, Fit gets a carton of drinks from a little boy. She becomes invisible after consuming a can and finds it to be an amusing experience. Since the effects are temporary, she decides to have some fun and gives Man some of the potion.

Unfortunately, the potion seems to have a permanent effect on Man after he becomes invisible. Since nobody can see him, Man runs the risk of missing a dance audition that offers him the job of his dreams.

Yise Loo (right) stars as Fit, a boxing instructor who is always fighting with effeminate dance instructor Man (Teddy Chin).

Feeling guilty, Fit does her best to help Man to fulfill his dreams, and in the process they learn to appreciate each other.

Award-winning singer-songwriter and actress Loo shared how she had to wear a flesh-coloured full-body stocking for a scene where she was supposed to run around Paradigm Mall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, in the buff after discovering that she had become invisible.

“I had to roll around in the concourse area. It was rather embarrassing, especially when a crowd gathered around to watch!” said Loo, who will be releasing her third album in Malaysia titled Labyrinth this month.

Loo helped to develop Fit’s unique look by enhancing her physical attributes. “Fit is the type of woman who desperately wants to make herself look beautiful but just doesn’t know how to or even where to begin. I wanted her physical attributes to emphasise this aspect of her,” she said.

Loo requested for Fit to have dreadlocks because she could not crop her hair short as initially planned, because of her other commitments.

“I suggested the cornrow perm instead, and because it was only temporary, I had to get my hair permed everyday before shooting commenced,” she said. “I also suggested the excessively thick eyebrows, like that of Crayon Shin Chan (Japanese manga character).”

Loo also related the hilarious moments they had filming the scene where Man pokes fun at Fit’s “extra padding” (fake breasts) during her ex-boyfriend’s bachelor party. “Everyone was quite surprised at how open I was that scene,” she recalled. “Teddy was concerned that he would accidentally stab me with the fork, so he suggested that I let part of the nude bra peek out of the top of my tube dress, making it easier for him to jab at that piece of gel!”

Seeing double

The second Fantasia story, Magical Software, is about Kate (Koe Yeet), a fresh graduate working in an advertising agency where she develops a crush on the dashing art director Yi Fei (Billy Ng).

The company faces dire straits when Yi Fei struggles to fulfill a client’s request for a model who looks like the famous model Angelababy.

One day, Kate gets a CD from a little boy and discovers an unusual image editing software. Using the magical software, Kate merges her picture with that of Chinese actress Angelababy and ends up becoming Katebaby (Cathryn Lee).

To save the agency from bankruptcy, Katebaby signs up with the company to model for a series of advertisements. When Yi Fei starts to fall for her, she wonders whether he actually loves Kate’s personality or Katebaby’s looks.

Koe Yeet plays Kate, who creates a computer-generated alter-ego named Katebaby to get close to her crush.

Portraying a simple girl who has fallen for her superior at work, former child actress Koe said her character Kate was driven to create Katebaby when she realised that Yi Fei only had eyes for pretty lasses.

“The director wanted Kate to be as ordinary as possible, so she would be wearing loose-fitting garments - all my clothes were size M, while hers were size S. Also, my clothes were all very plain, completely different from Katebaby’s lovely gowns. Katebaby gets to wear all the pretty dresses and I don’t!” the 22-year-old actress lamented.

One amusing scene in which Katebaby turns back into Kate, and hurriedly makes a quick exit to avoid being discovered was particularly memorable for her.

“The director told me to just open the glass door and slip out of the room, but I had a better idea, and suggested that since Kate is such an absent-minded scatter-brain, she would just run straight into the glass door in her haste to escape from the room. Indeed, he agreed that it was an excellent idea.

“But after that, I realised it was not such a good idea after all, as I had to do several takes and bump my head on the glass door again and again!” Koe grumbled cheekily, adding that she also damaged her phone by dropping it in the toilet while filming Fantasia.

Currently reading Law at Britain’s University of Reading, Koe recently wrapped filming for a Cantonese short film by James Lee, and shot several commercials during her summer break.

Playing her computer-generated alterego Katebaby is Lee, whose resemblance to Chinese actress Angelababy gave her a way into the film industry.

“As Katebaby, I’m the girl who emerges as a result of the merging of Kate’s photo, and that of Angelababy. As men are visual creatures, the boss is totally smitten with Katebaby’s looks at first, but is only truly captivated by her because of Kate’s personality,” said Lee, 27, who was trained as a classical pianist.

While her clothes were pretty, Lee recalls it being quite a hassle, because there were so many. “I still remember going in for the costume-fitting call, and asking which were my clothes. The stylist said that all three racks of clothes were for me alone!

“I was told that I had to try on every single piece, so that the director could decide which ones to pick. I spent the whole day costume-fitting, as there were also different hairstyles to try out: straight hair, curly hair, pulled into a ponytail, combed into a bun, double-braided, and all sorts of other styles.”

Lee recalled how she and Koe would be running around bumping into each other as she transformed from Katebaby back to Kate and vice-versa.

“The director also requested that I make my face twitch uncontrollably during the transformations as he didn’t believe that CGI could make it look believable enough,” chuckled Lee, who was last seen in Nick Cheung’s Hungry Ghost Ritual, and is set to film two more Hong Kong action movies and a Japanese horror flick soon.

Writing Mr Right

The final Fantasia story, Magical Pen, is about famed author Nine Cats (Aenie Wong), a young woman who has become cynical about love after a romantic setback in her youth.

In order to acquire some inspiration for her new book, she takes a trip to a remote resort. On the way, she gets a special pen from a little boy, who says it has the potential to make everything possible.

At the resort, she bumps into her first love Hao Shuai (Jeffrey Cheng), who is there for a reunion with their mischievous former schoolmates. Also there is their violinist friend Lin Lai Feng (Dennis Lau), who used to be bullied by the other boys during their schooling days.

Reminded of a prank the boys played on her when they were kids, Nine Cats furiously pens a mystery thriller involving them; but when the guys start to go missing in exactly the way she writes in her story and Lin starts to stalk Hao, Nine Cats begins to get worried.

Playing an author who has been hurt so deeply that she doesn’t dare embark on a new relationship, Wong shared that she too looked forward to developing her own character.

“My character is a very plain girl who is simple and conservative; the demure type who wears long skirts and cardigans,” said the former beauty queen-turned-actress, who relished the idea of playing an unattractive woman for a change, but was concerned that such a character may not stand out.

“Originally, I wanted my character to be buck-toothed to make her funnier and uglier, but the director didn’t want her to be excessively ugly,” said the 30-year-old actress. “He reasoned that her singleton status was not due to something as superficial as her looks, but rather, an inability to accept a new relationship due to a deeply ingrained fear of being hurt again.”

According to Wong, the accessories her character wears are also unique. “Since her pen-name is Nine Cats, everything she wears, including her earrings and pendants, has feline motifs on them. That makes her feel special in a way,” said the statuesque actress, who is currently preparing for her special dance programme at the We Love Music Rally event in October.

Aenie Wong plays famed author Nine Cats, who acquires a magical pen.

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