Ghost stories relax me: Jessica Liu

Malaysian actress Jesseca Liu at the Singapore gala premiere of her new movie Greedy Ghost, which also stars Kang Kang, Henry Thia and Brendan Yuen.

Rarely has pretty Malaysian-born actress and former MediaCorp "princess" Jesseca Liu appeared so pathetic on screen.

In the new local horror comedy Greedy Ghost, she plays Xiaoqian, a meek and poorly-educated girl who is often scolded and bullied by her uncouth boyfriend Huat (Malaysian actor Brendan Yuen).

She is haunted, and later possessed, by a vicious spirit.

That ghostly pale face in the movie's poster? Yup, that's her.

But nothing beats the scene where a plastic bag containing brownish watery rubbish is thrown off a building, landing on her head.

Xiaoqian is ordered by Huat to search through a rubbish dump for a supernatural book that reveals winning lottery numbers.

Liu, 33, told FiRST in an e-mail interview: "The rubbish was actually a mixture of Milo, biscuits, rice and vegetables. We filmed it once and it was a perfect take.

"We also filmed another shot where a bag of instant noodles was dropped on my head when I opened a trash bag. I thought the scene was pretty funny.

"But it was later edited away as the director felt my face looked too clean there and would be inconsistent with the subsequent scene where I walked into the home all dirty."

Liu also had a mixture of tomato sauce, biscuit crumbs and food colouring smeared on her body for that.

The rubbish dump was a mock-up film set created at a basement carpark and real cockroaches were used for added realism.

Luckily, the former MediaCorp actress isn't afraid of them.

Directed by Boris Boo (Phua Chu Kang The Movie, Where Got Ghost?), Greedy Ghost features Taiwanese actor-host Kang Kang as Lim, a down-and-out man who picks up a book in which a spirit resides.

The latter (voiced by local actor-comedian Mark Lee, who also serves as executive producer) brings many riches to Lim, who then promises to pay any price for his wealth.

Meanwhile, his friends Huat and Hui (Henry Thia) are haunted by an angry female spirit after Huat steals from her grave.

The movie, which opens here today, has already collected over $170,000 during the sneak previews over the National Day weekend.

According to its distributor Clover Films, Greedy Ghost scored the best sneak results for a local movie since Where Got Ghost? in 2009.

The movie has also earned more than RM2.5 million (S$997, 400) in Malaysia after it opened there on July 26.

Director Boo had earlier joked to the media that Liu was "bullied" because of what she had to do for the role.

"I think he exaggerated, it wasn't that bad. I'm an actress. I was there to work, not to be pampered," she said.

"I wasn't the only one who made sacrifices, we all did. (Thia) had to shave his head every day for his role. As my room was beside his, I heard him screaming every morning while shaving (as he had pimples on his scalp). That is real sacrifice.

"This is a horror movie and if the audience comes to watch it because of my ghostly face on the poster, I would be very honoured."

Liu said life was simple but focused during her two weeks of filming in Kuala Lumpur.

"It was a routine. Every day after I woke up, I exercised, cooked and went to work.

Henry, want any eggs?

"Whenever I was free, I would buy lots of groceries to cook in my room. (Thia's) room was just beside mine so I gave him a few eggs when I had extra.

"It became a daily habit to ask if he wanted eggs."

Although this is the first time audiences will be seeing Liu in a movie, it's not the first one that she's filmed. In 2007, she acted in the local supernatural romance film Untold Beauty directed by Roy Lim.

Taiwanese actor Fan Chih Wei played an embalmer who helps restless spirits fulfil their last wishes. He is nonchalant about death until his girlfriend (Liu) dies.

Filming was completed and the movie was expected to open in the third quarter of 2008, but it never saw the light of day.

Liu said: "There's a reason why it was never screened but it's not convenient for me to talk about it."

About the long five-year gap between her two movie projects, Liu said it was not because she was worried the same fate would befall Greedy Ghost.

She was just too busy with other work, including ad hoc TV dramas with MediaCorp.

She doesn't think she has been pigeon-holed into acting only in supernatural films. Besides, she loves watching them.

"I feel our local film industry likes to shoot horror films. I've loved watching ghost movies ever since I was a child.

"While other people get highly-strung when they watch it, but I feel very relaxed and the movies relieve my stress. That's strange."

karpengk@sph.com.sg

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