Interview with Glen Goei
By Ross Anthony

Glen Goei (pronounced "Gwee") born and raised in Singapore, graduated from Cambridge in England and won the lead role opposite Anthony Hopkins in M. Butterfly. He's produced and directed several stage plays, "That's the Way I Like It" is his feature film directing debut.

Despite a long day of talking with journalists, Glen welcomes me with a big smile and lots of energy. I start in with my most pressing question.

RA: Did you make any attempts to contact John Travolta to play ... himself?

GG: No, I didn't. I'm just this small time independent struggling filmmaker. It just never occurred to me. The reality is that I'd never even get to him. Besides I couldn't pay him even for one minute. On his salary I could make twenty films. He's probably never even heard of Singapore. Of course, it would have been wonderful. It would have been out of this world.

RA: How about the actor who played John in your film ... was he a Singaporean local?

GG: No, born and bred in New York ... in Brooklyn. Found him there ... he's Italian.

RA: The Kung Fu scene is, well, slightly over edge. Why not just go all the way, but let Ah Hock wake up later in the street, Bluto's first punch having put him out?

GG: So he wakes up and realizes it was all a dream?

RA: No, not all a dream, just the fight with Bluto.

GG: I mean the whole film is all tongue-in-cheek anyway. But in hindsight, I might have added another five seconds of fight.

RA: Oh come on, there were plenty of emotional moments.

GG: Well, comedy is more fun when you have heartfelt scenes and similarly, heartfelt scenes become more heartfelt because of the comedy. Life is a bittersweet comedy.

RA: That's a good attitude, you should make movies.

GG: (Laughs politely)

RA: Now, let's talk about the gay brother...

GG: Though of course, he's not gay.

RA: He's not?

GG: He's a transsexual. It's different ... very very different. But anyway, don't worry about it. Go ahead use gay as the short form.

RA: Well, the film has the feeling of the golden oldie...

GG: ...yeah, Hollywood formula. I literally picked up a how to write a Hollywood script book and followed it chapter by chapter. But I added in the social realism to add substance. So it wasn't just a comedy. That's why you get the edgier moments in the film. I also added the whole subtext, which was this whole thing with East and West cultures clashing. And I also used actors who weren't exactly good looking. I used a lead who wasn't a good looking lead. I wanted it to be a story of the working class underdog. But you know what? He's good looking by the end. He can act, he can dance, he's funny. You get drawn to him. Lot's of women love him because he makes you laugh. So, I used the formula, but started breaking all the rules.

RA: Getting back to the gay brother ... the formula would have worked without this subject matter, though it worked well with it, but why did you choose it?

GG: I was pushing the stakes up. I was trying to find a reason why the brother would want to commit suicide, then I worked backwards from there. The only reason he would do that is if he was kicked out of his family. If you're disowned by your father, you might want to kill yourself especially in 1977 in a traditional Asian family. And in Singapore, homosexuality is still illegal. So unconsciously I was trying to say, hey maybe you all should learn to accept other people's sexual identities. People have asked me if the father was a metaphor for the government. It wasn't meant to be, but it could be seen that way.

RA: Ah Hock and brother rarely converse over this topic, why is that?

GG: I see a lot of Hollywood films and a lot of things are overly spelled out. For me, I wanted to make a film that was representive of the culture. In the Asian culture very little is said.

RA: How long did you have the script before putting it all together on film?

GG: Ten days. I went into pre-production a week later. But that's 'cause I'm reckless. In hindsight, it was complete craziness. I had raised the money for a different project and I couldn't cast that film because it was about fourteen year old kids. So I was in deep ****. I thought I'm not going to compromise if I can't cast it. So I woke up the next morning and wrote this film. It's actually very personal for me. A lot of my own experiences are put in the film as any first time filmmaker does. And indeed that was my teenagehood. It was all about Bruce Lee and John Travolta. They are the two icons I celebrate in the film. The 70's were the best decade I ever had -- thanks to these two guys.

RA: So what's next?

GG: I have a three picture deal with Miramax. One to be shot in Manhattan.

RA: But you live in London right?

GG: That's right. Sixteen years.

RA: So you went back to shoot the picture in Singapore?

GG: Yeah that's right.

RA: How long was the shooting?

GG: Thirty days, and I did my entire post production in Sidney.

RA: Why's that?

GG: We don't have a film industry in Singapore and the closest city was Sidney. But more importantly, I've so enjoyed the Australian films of the past eight, nine years like "Priscilla," "Shine," you know, a lot of great films. People are very friendly. A stunning city. The quality of the film industry is as high as Hollywood. In fact all the top Directors of photography in Hollywood are Australian.

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Last Modified: Wednesday, 17-Mar-2004 15:36:34 PST