By Kwok Kar Peng
WHEN Mark Lee meets Jack Neo, he wants to slap him- twice.
That's how angry the actor-comedian is after finding out that his good friend and mentor, 50, was having an affair with a 22-year-old freelance model.
His first reaction was shock and he found the news hard to accept.
Mark, 41, told The New Paper on Sunday yesterday evening: "I feel very sad and angry. Why did Jack do this? As a friend, I'm a bit disappointed in him and want to give him two slaps.
"But speaking as Jack's student, I feel sad because he's a much-respected teacher."
They have been buddies for close to 24 years. He even drove the bridal car when Jack got married.
He admitted that he never thought his friend would be the sort to have an affair.
"He's always very, very busy. Who knew that he would still have time to have an affair?" The veteran actor also didn't think Jack's marriage to Madam Irene Kng was on the rocks.
He said the couple went on a holiday to Italy at the end of last year. They also went on a company trip to Hong Kong where they were seen holding hands sweetly.
Even so, a problematic marriage is no reason for anyone to have an affair, despite the many temptations in the movie industry, Mark said.
He has several scenes with Jack's mistress, Wendy Chong, in Jack's latest movie, Being Human. She plays the sister-in-law of Mark's character and appears in about 10 scenes.
Mark said:"My impression of Wendy during filming was that she's a normal young girl. We chatted during our meal breaks.
"I even joked that I can introduce Jeremy Chan (who plays Wendy's husband in the movie) to her if she doesn't have a boyfriend. And she said she doesn't have one."
Take responsibility Mark said Wendy and Jack have to take responsibility for their mistake.
He said: "I think her words cannot be believed. She claims that she loves Jack and that she doesn't mind being his mistress.
"How can you love a man when you know he has a wife and four kids?
"If you love him, how can you do this to him, exposing the affair and letting every Singaporean know about it? This could ruin Jack's career, so is this love?"
In hindsight, Mark said it's possible that Wendy got her role in BeingHumanbecause of her relationship with Jack.
But he didn't notice anything unusual between Jack and Wendyduring filming.
Neither did Jack treat her differently. The director still scolded her when she didn't perform to his expectations.
Mark and some of the cast were promoting Being Human at Downtown East yesterday when news of the affair broke in the Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao. Jack was not at the event.
But Mark believes that Jack and Irene will not hide from the public for long. From what he knows of their personalities, he thinks that they will not shy away from the ugly truth.
He believes that after settling their family issues, the couple will step out to make a public statement.
Does he think they will divorce?
Mark hesitated before replying: "It's very hard to answer but I hope not. It's not easy to take care of a family for 23 years. Don't let a 22-year-old girl break this family apart."
Mark has yet to speak to Jack because the latter has handed his hand phone to his manager. But when he does,Mark said he will scold Jack.
"I support Irene. She took care of the family and children well so that Jack can concentrate on his career.
"Maybe I have no right in terms of my age and position to scold him. Neither am I a saint nor do I have more life experiences, but having the affair is not right," Mark said.
But he hopes their friendship will not be affected.
"I would not be so successful today if it wasn't for Jack," he explained.
He has this advice for Jack: "Take this time to settle your family issues first. Then stand up bravely to talk about it."
Actor Jeremy Chan said that he was not close to Wendy, his screen wife in Being Human, during filming as she didn't socialise much.
"She was always alone during breaks and would SMS on her hand phone or play her Nintendo DS," he said.
"I didn't think she was weird, only that she didn't like to talk.
We didn't chat much, but when we did, we talked only about casual stuff like whether she has acted before.
"She was a quiet girl and wasn't the sort who loved attention."
A veteran actor, who requested anonymity, said he was shocked by the affair, "almost to the point of being speechless".
"It never crossed my mind that Jack would have an affair. I thought he's quite close to his family," he said.
"His wife would attend events or big celebrations with him. Jack is a role model to many in show biz.
"I hope his family will hear his side of the story. I also hope people can give him and his family some space to settle their family issues."
This article was first published in The New Paper.