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Career comes first

Career comes first

January 16, 2008
Star Online eCentral

Life after being onequarter of the F4 boyband continues its heady spin for Vic Chou, with his film debut and a new solo album.

Taiwanese pop idol Vic Chou dreams of becoming a grandfather. “My grandfather died when I was in primary school. We had a good relationship. I want to be a grandfather so that I can have a long and good relationship with my grandchildren,” he explains.

Which is why he once said that he wanted to be married by the age of 25.

“Before I turned 18, I thought that being married by 25 was a matter of course,” he says.

Nowadays, however, the 26-year-old Chou, or Zaizai as he is known to his fans, is too busy with his career to think about an early marriage.

But girls can forget about making a play for him. He has been dating Taiwanese actress-TV host Barbie Hsu, 31, for about three years.

Besides releasing his third solo album, I’m Not F4, last October, the member of the wildly popular Taiwanese boyband F4 is making his movie debut in the supernatural romance, Linger.

In the film, he plays Tung, an undergraduate who dies in a road accident but is unable to leave the earthly realm as he has unresolved emotional issues.

Award-winning Chinese actress Li Bingbing, 32, plays his girlfriend Gia while Hong Kong’s critically acclaimed Johnnie To directed the film.

Throughout the recent press conference in Singapore and in the one-on-one interview later, he had a friendly smile on his face and a lilt in his voice. He came across as earnest, somewhat old-fashioned, and politically correct at times.

You might conclude from the opening anecdote and his choice of cinematic material that Chou is a sentimental romantic at heart.

But he dispels that with very pragmatic reasoning.

“My goal was to build a good foundation in TV before moving on to movies,” says the singer, who shot to fame in 2001 with his fellow bandmates when they starred in the TV series Meteor Garden, which caused an Asian pop culture quake.

Two years ago, having decided that he was ready to make the jump to the big screen, he was approached by To.

“My ultimate goal is to act well and let people see my good work. I first started out on television – it’s not a question of whether film or TV is better. If I had started out doing movies, I would have wanted to prepare myself for TV work as well.”

Asked which aspect of his acting he thinks needs work, he pauses before answering.

“I want to improve my language ability as my Cantonese lines in Linger were dubbed over. It would be good if my linguistic abilities were stronger, be it Cantonese or English.”

Not that he is thinking about making a move to Hollywood, though.

“I don’t have such a long-term goal,” he says. “Besides, there are a lot of good films and scripts right here in Asia. Maybe the budgets are smaller but something like Infernal Affairs was made here and then picked up by Hollywood.

“But I just want to do my job well first.”

Chou has not done too shabbily in the career department since his first hit with the Taiwanese TV idol series Meteor Garden.

In the adaptation of the manga Hana Yori Dango (Boys over Flowers), he played the sensitive Hua Ze Lei – and female fans everywhere swooned.

The other three “flowers” were Jerry Yan, Vanness Wu and Ken Chu; together, they make up the boyband F4. At the height of their popularity in 2002 and 2003, it seemed that the whole of Asia was caught in the grip of F4 mania.

The band paved the way for the current crop of Taiwanese boybands including Fahrenheit and 5566.

Chou’s latest album seems to be a repudiation of his boyband status. The foursome has just launched their first album, Waiting for You, in four years.

Due to copyright issues, the group is now known as JVKV, after the first initial of each of the members’ names. The copyright to the name F4 is owned by the Japanese publisher of the manga.

What is different about Vic Chou on his solo albums compared to Vic Chou on the F4 albums?

“When we come together as F4, we have to think about what fans want from F4. We have to come at it from four different angles because there are four of us and, in the end, we need to have a common goal.

“On my solo albums, I can just think about what fans want from me.”

In the years between the F4 releases, Yan, Wu and Chu were busy with their own projects as well. But Chou dismisses talk of the group breaking up.

“We have never thought about splitting up. It’s not possible for us to separate ourselves from F4 and it will be with us for life,” he says emphatically.

He looks to Hong Kong band The Wynners as a model. “They have been together 20, 30 years. Some of them are no longer even in the entertainment scene but when someone makes the call, they still get together to perform.

“This is for life,” he emphasises.

What about the comparisons to newer boybands such as the red-hot Fahrenheit?

He is quick to point out: “We have never badmouthed them. It’s the media playing things up. We can’t stop that so we just have to constantly re-but it.”

He adds magnanimously: “It doesn’t mean that fans of ours cannot be fans of Fahrenheit. Good things should be supported by all.

“In fact, I’m happy if they do well and improve, though that means we would need to do better as well.”

That is a lot riding on those slim shoulders. But perhaps he is now drawing strength from his long-term relationship with Hsu.

They were co-stars on Meteor Garden but began dating only after crossing paths on another manga-based series Mars (2004), which tackled issues such as mental illness and suicide.

Chou’s parents divorced when he was young but that does not seem to have coloured his views about marriage.

The earnest young man admits: “It is very difficult to keep a family and marriage together. It needs time and effort.”

At this point in time, “work is priority and I can’t convince myself to talk about marriage now”. He adds that men should build a career first. “I feel that I can’t just go and ask for someone’s hand in marriage if I have not done so”.

How does Hsu feel about that?

“Our thinking is quite similar. We should concentrate on our careers while we’re young,” she says.

Looks like his dreams of grand-fatherhood will have to wait a while longer. – The Straits Times, Singapore / Asia News Network

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