When Jack Neo debuted a movie about a bunch of NS recruits back in 2012, none of us had an inkling that it would grow to become Singapore’s most profitable movie franchise. We caught up with the tight-knit group of actors and learnt that five years and four movies later, these ah boys didn’t just become men – they’ve become bona fide movie stars.
When you signed up for the first movie, did you have any idea it was going to be such a huge franchise?
Wang Weiliang: We were actually unsure of how it would do. We were all newbies, so we didn’t know if people would come and watch us. We were very surprised by how well it was received!
Tosh Zhang: At that time, we were already making plans for our lives after the movie. Weiliang was going to go back to doing getai shows, Maxi was going to do short films, and I was planning to go to university.
The Ah Boys to Men movies are some of the highest-earning local films. Was there ever an “I’ve made it” moment?
Weiliang: I don’t think I’ve made it yet leh. I mean, we get recognised on the street, but I don’t think we’ve truly made it yet. We’ve only been doing this for five years; we’ve still got a long way to go. I don’t think we’ve peaked yet.
Tosh: For our first meet-andgreet, there were more people on stage than in the audience. It was held at Plaza Singapura, a week before the gala premiere. It was the most pathetic meet-and-greet ever because the audience was just our parents and sisters.
Tosh: But two months later, we had an event at Bugis+. We could hear screams from our car, even before we reached the venue.
Weiliang: There were more than three thousand people. I was like, “Are you guys really here to see us?” But that moment felt really good.
Tosh: We looked at each other and were like, “Bro, is this real? This is so crazy!”
We see you guys on each other’s Instagram posts a lot. How close are you in real life, and how often do you guys hang out?
Tosh: Too often. We’re really like a family.
Maxi Lim: People sometimes ask us if this is an act, but we’re really this close. This chemistry we have in real life translates to our acting on-screen.
Tosh: Sometimes, I get separation anxiety when I do a production without them. I’m so used to having them around on set that I’m at a loss when they’re not there.
Weiliang: He’d text us going “I’m very lonely” and “I miss you guys.”
So what’s the one movie genre that you really want to do next?
Weiliang: I want to do something like Young and Dangerous. Something a bit more pai kia. And I still want to do it with these guys... I really want to try something a bit more serious that’ll let us show a different side of ourselves.
Tosh: I’d love to do more period films, like what I did in the past with My Love, Sinema and Marco Polo. I love being in a different era; it’s different from portraying a modern-day character. You really have to throw yourself into the role. My dream would be to play war hero Lim Bo Seng.
Maxi: I want to do a modernday retelling of Journey to the West with these guys. Like, we’d be in human form and we’d have travelled forward in time to get the scriptures and now we have to learn how to do things like take the MRT. Can you imagine it? Tosh can be Tang Sanzang, Weiliang can of course be Sun Wukong. I can be Zhu Bajie, Noah can be Sha Wujing, and Charlie [Goh] can be the horse. Joshua [Tan] has to be the Bull Demon King, and Jaspers [Lai] can be Princess Iron Fan. He can also double up as all the other demons (laughs).
"It was the most pathetic meet-and-greet ever... the audience was just our parents and sisters.”
From left to right.
On Tosh: Wool blend long coat, H&M. Heattech fleece mock
neck top, $19.90, Uniqlo. Polyester high-waisted belted
trousers, $94.95, H&M. Leather oxford boots, $159.90, Pedro.
On Weiliang: Slim fit knit blazer, $295, Massimo Dutti.
Essential cotton-blend sweater, $39.90, Mango. Polyester
rayon pinstripe relaxed ankle length trousers, $49.90, Uniqlo.
Jarrett sneakers, $129, Aldo. Watch, model’s own.
On Maxi: Hunter perforated leather jacket, $269, Truckee denim shirt, $119, and Miami denim skinny jeans, $129, all GUESS.
Aradowen Chelsea boots, $229, Aldo. Italian oiled leather belt, $39.90, Uniqlo.
From left to right.
On Kishan. J: Muscle fit suit jacket, $249, Topman. Cotton crew neck tee, $24.95, and denim jeans, $64.95, both H&M.
On Noah: Slub knit pique blazer, $119, ZARA. Only & Sons Alex turtle neck knitted jumper, $39, Zalora.sg. Polyester rayon pinstripe relaxed ankle length trousers, $49.90, Uniqlo. Hat, stylist’s own.
Kishan, you’re a new face in the series. Were there any first-day jitters for you?
Kishan. J: Yeah, definitely. I really didn’t know what to expect. After three films, they’ve built this camaraderie and you’d think it would be hard to fit in, but no. They welcomed all the new guys with very open arms.
Noah, you guys were new actors when you signed up for the first movie. How does it feel to see your fanbase grow by so much and so quickly?
Noah Yap: It’s crazy. I never expected fans with this (points to face and laughs). We were promoting our movie in Malaysia, and when our van arrived at the mall where the event was, we saw people waiting outside. It was quite a lot of people, so at first, we thought another celebrity had an event at the mall before us and the crowd hadn’t fully dispersed yet. Then when we got out of the van, the fans tried to get in and that’s when we realised they were here for us! We also found out that they were outside because the mall couldn’t hold any more people, because it was already so packed inside.
What has been your most memorable moment on set?
Noah: There was once when we actually spent 18 hours on set. It involved us washing a tank. We actually started the day in the wee hours of the morning, and we ended at 1am. Everyone was wet and exhausted.
Kishan: I’m a matador (a large machine gun) gunner in the movie, and I have to take my hat off to the soldiers who carry it along with their SAR21 rifle while wearing full battle order, because the matador alone weighs 18kg! Doing scenes with it over and over again? Basket, I lost 5kg.
So I heard you guys hang out a lot off-set...
Noah: Yeah... we’d usually go for dinner and drinks.
Noah: After the production wrapped, we would meet up like three or four times a week! I’m serious!
Kishan: Here’s a tip: if you want to hang out with the ah boys, you’ve got to have stamina.
Noah: Once, we hung out till 8am in the morning. I remember eating in a Korean restaurant, and I went out to get some air and it’s bright out. I was like, “What’s happening?!” I left the house at night and suddenly, it’s bright and people are on their way to work.
If Jack Neo wants to make another ABTM movie, would you be up for that?
Noah: Of course. If he wants to make 10 more, so be it. Let’s go – Ah Boys to Men 15. I mean, being on set with the others is very fun, so work doesn’t feel like work at all. Every day on set feels like a gathering, so you don’t really feel the stress.
Ah Boys to Men 4 is showing in cinemas now.
"If you want to hang out with the ah boys, you’ve got to have stamina"
Fashion credits for the opener: From left to right. On Kishan. J: Textured skinny fit suit - blazer, $169, trousers, $89.90, vest, $89.90, and cotton polyester shirt, $53.90, all Topman. Leather shoes, $129.90, Pedro. Grandino watch, $245, SWATCH. On Tosh: Navy checked suit - blazer, $279, trousers, $109, and vest, $89, all G2000. Polyester mix shirt, $74.95, H&M. Leather oxford boots, $159.90, Pedro. On Noah: Black suit - blazer, $169, trousers, $89.90, floral embroidered cotton polyester shirt, $79.90, and silk tie, $19.90, all Topman. Stolfi patent leather formal shoes, $189, Aldo. Hat, stylist’s own. On Maxi: Checked suit - blazer, $379, trousers, $129, and pleated tuxedo shirt, $89, all G2000. Leather shoes, $129.90, Pedro. Silk bow tie, $26.90, Topman. Sistem Dark watch, $279, SWATCH. Italian oiled leather belt, $39.90, Uniqlo. On Weiliang: Textured slim fit suit - blazer, $119, trousers, $119, and vest, $89.90, all Topman. Polyester mix shirt, $74.95, H&M. Leather oxford shoes, $133.90, Pedro. Watch, model’s own.
Photography Veronica Tay Art Direction Leong Li Yuan Fashion Direction Janice Pidduck Styling Amanda Tan Fashion Assistant Jet Han Hair and Makeup Leny Fu/PaletteInc using YSL Hair and Keune Haircosmetics Editorial Assistant Cheryl Lim.
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