At 19, Hong Kong actor Chapman To already racked up a HK $ 1 million (S $ 175,000) gambling debt and had to flee to Taiwan for a year because he could not repay the money.
To, 42, says in Mandarin: “When I was young, I played a lot. I could win thousands of dollars from a single deck of cards, but I was also losing a lot all at once.
“For a young man in the 1990s, HK $ 1million was a ton of money, and I certainly didn’t have that kind of money to pay it back. hid in a room for a year. “
He added that it had taken him “a lot more years” to pay off the debt in full.
A heartwarming letter from her mother broke her gambling habit.
“My mom sent me a letter saying she didn’t mind that I never became a great person. She just hopes I won’t be in trouble,” he recalls. “I was really moved. It was my family who helped me stop playing.”
All the playing he does now is only in movies, like in his latest movie King Of Mahjong, in which he plays a legendary mahjong expert. He was talking to Life! while I was in town last week promoting the film, which hits theaters here on Thursday.
In it, Singaporean actor Mark Lee plays a jealous mahjong expert who challenges To’s character in a showdown game to decide who is the better player.
For having fun while filming the film. It was the first time in two decades, in fact, that he did not get angry on a movie set.
“For every movie I’ve made so far, I’ve gotten mad at something in the process. But surprisingly, I haven’t lost my temper at all – not even a single day – by making this movie. “
Sitting next to him in the same interview was his co-star Lee, who guarantees he’s telling the truth.
Lee, 46, reveals: “Actress Sandra Ng actually warned me that Chapman To is the kind of actor who always has something to complain about on set, so I was pretty nervous about meet him.
“But we had no problem during the shoot, and we laughed at something stupid every day. I never saw him lose his temper.”
Lee and veteran Hong Kong actress Ng, 49, co-starred in local film A Fantastic Ghost Wedding, released late last year.
From day one of filming, which took place last August in Singapore and Ipoh, Malaysia, Lee and To got along like a house on fire, they say.
Lee says, “Comedians are wired differently from regular people. We’re a little weird – you can tell we’ve got some trouble in our head. Either you get what we think it is or you don’t.
“Chapman was definitely on the same page as me on a lot of things.”
Just in time, To says it is a “health condition” called shen jing bing, a Chinese term used to describe someone as crazy.
He adds, “Filming can be very boring because you sit around waiting for your scene for long hours.
“So it’s important to make things more fun by bonding actively with your cast mates. That way your natural chemistry will show up on screen as well.”
For Lee and him, he says, they got closer after having “lots and lots of delicious meals” together all over Ipoh town.
No wonder To, who is married to 37-year-old Hong Kong actress Kristal Tin, completely lost that super toned body he worked so hard to get his previous role as a porn actor in 3D sex comedy Naked Ambition from Last year.
He jokes, “I still have my six-pack abs. They’re hiding deep in my stomach.”
King Of Mahjong opens in theaters on Thursday.