Fann Wong is a true-blue Singapore girl. As she tucks into a breakfast of nasi lemak and teh O, she tells me she’s just got back from a family trip a few days earlier and despite all the fun she had with her hubby, Christopher Lee, and their four-year-old son, Zed, she’s so glad to be home.
“Because of my work, I always travel outside of the country and I realise how lucky I am to be Singaporean. I feel that people always treat me a little bit nicer when they find out I’m Singaporean,” she explains.
“For Singapore to have such an effect on other people from other countries makes me feel proud. I never thought that things would be as good as this. I think our government has given us something as close as possible to an ideal home.”
For all the success and fame Fann has attained abroad, it’s heartening to hear that the Little Red Dot still captures her imagination. Arguably one of our brightest stars, she had a much less showy upbringing as the second daughter of four children born to Hakka parents who were both tailors.
Local Star, International Reach
After joining a beauty contest when she was 16, the budding actress got her big break starring in several local dramas including Chronicle of Life that won her Best Newcomer and Best Actress at the Star Awards 1995.
Regional success soon followed before Hollywood came calling. Fann was the first Singaporean actress to star in an American blockbuster, appearing in 2003’s Shanghai Knights fighting opposite Jackie Chan and sharing an onscreen smooch with Owen Wilson.
“The pace is much more impromptu in Asia. You go on set, they tell you what to do, and you just do it. Shanghai Knights was very well-rehearsed. I had intense training for the fighting scenes for two weeks prior to shooting the movie,” recalls Fann.
The movie catapulted her star to brave new heights, the likes of which had never happened to a local actor. International critics fell hard for her with some calling her an enchanting new film presence and even praising her stunt work as more memorable than her co-star Jackie’s. Fann, ever the humble thespian, took it all in her stride.
“To me, of course I was very honoured to receive all that praise at the time. I find it super touching that there are people from other countries who like and enjoy my acting and this is something I will always cherish,” she explains.
Home Is Where The Heart Is
One wonders then why Fann didn’t ride the wave that Shanghai Knights afforded her at the time. She could have easily followed in the footsteps of her contemporaries, Zhang Ziyi and Lucy Liu, and cemented her status as a Hollywood actress. But for the 48-year-old, the pull of home was just too much.
“I’m proud to be Singaporean. Home is always the best place to be so it was a natural decision to focus my career regionally rather than in the West. Our local shows, too, had more room to grow and to be part of that growth was priceless,” shares Fann, who will be on screen next month in the new Taiwan-Singapore co-production, All Is Well.
Did her blossoming romance with fellow actor Christopher Lee have some part to play? Fann brushes off the idea but the couple did come clean about their relationship in 2005, after three years of rumours of their romance. Following an eight-year courtship, they finally walked down the aisle on May 16, 2009.
“I think marriage is a beautiful thing,” Fann says of their union. “It’s about two different people making a home and a future together. Whether it is through happiness or sadness, there is always someone who can experience these feelings together with you, and you know there is always someone looking out for you and supporting you through everything. I feel very happy in my marriage, so to me I would say marriage feels like paradise.
“Marriage is something that requires effort, patience and understanding. The most important thing is to trust each other and never stop communicating. As you grow, your partner grows too so the two of you should put in the effort to communicate and understand each other so that you can grow together.”
Bringing Up Baby
But there’s another strong contender for her heart: Her son, Zed. Fann and Chris welcomed their little angel on August 9, 2014, five years into their marriage on National Day. That’s part of the reason why the actress says it’s her favourite day of the year.
“I was full of joy when I gave birth! Zed turns five this year and I’m still enjoying every moment being his mum. To me, we can only experience the growth of our child once in a lifetime, so it is something we cannot miss. I think that having a mother’s company during their toddler years is very precious. So being able to grow up with him is something I find very blissful,” Fann gushes.
The doting mum can’t bear to leave Zed’s side for long, saying that two weeks is the maximum length of time she allows herself to be away from him if she travels for work. The doting Fann cherishes her son’s presence so much, she even brings him along on date nights!
“Naturally I try to spend as much time as possible with him. For children I believe in quantity also, not just quality. So whenever possible, even if it is something simple like sending him to school or fetching him, I’ll do it. Once you build the bonds of closeness from young, they will remain there for life.”
While she has plenty of hopes and dreams for Zed’s future, this August she’s adding one more wish to her list and this time it’s for Singapore's birthday: “My wish for the country is that we continue having new goals, and that we continue fighting for our dreams to make them a reality.”
"My wish for the country is that we continue having new goals, and that we continue fighting for our dreams to make them a reality."