Archive | October, 2010

Pitting Host Against Host

31 Oct

Pitting host against host
Dee Hsu leads the pack among Taiwan’s TV show comperes
October 31, 2010
 
 

Each copy of U Weekly comes with a free Hao Liao supplement next month. For four consecutive issues starting from #256, readers who buy their copies at Buzz pods will get a free collectible Fortune Cat mobile phone charm that comes with a set of four-digit heavenly numbers. Readers also stand a chance to win a multi-cooker worth $60, if they find a winning voucher in their copy of UW magazine.

TAIWAN is known for churning out weird and wacky variety programmes, some of which have gained a following regionally.

The shows’ comperes have also become household names both in and outside of Taiwan.

They include showbiz veterans Piggo Liang and Pai Ping Ping, who appeal to older viewers, and younger ones like Dee Hsu, who keep themselves up-to-date on the latest trends in fashion and popculture.

Here’s the lowdown on who’s leading thepack…

1. Here Comes Kangxi
Hosts: Dee Hsu, 32, and Kevin Tsai, 48
Appearance fee: Hsu makes NT$120,000 (S$5,000) per episode
Target viewers: Adults aged 35 years and younger
Fame outside Taiwan: Five stars
Influence: Five stars

Since the show aired in January 2004, Hsu has interviewed Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, and former Taiwanese vice-presidents Annette Lu and Lien Chan – something no other Taiwanese variety show host has done.

Hsu is a talented presenter who is able to discuss any topic. Known for her outspoken and straightforward ways, Hsu has rubbed shoulders with many artistes from Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Recently, when Hsu interviewed Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau, she spontaneously sat on his lap and stroked his legs.

Another unforgettable moment was when Hsu threw herself into the arms of actor Geoffrey Gao. Not only did that episode generate high ratings for Here Comes Kangxi, it also increased Gao’s fame.

As for Tsai, his confession of his homosexuality has earned him support from Taiwan’s gaycommunity.

2. Variety Big Brother
Host: Chang Fei, 58
Appearance Fee: NT$250,000 (S$10,000) per hour
Target Viewers: Adults aged 35 and above
Fame Outside Taiwan: Four stars
Influence: Four stars

Although Chang has been in showbiz for 40 years, Variety Big Brother is his most important vehicle todate.

He has been hosting the show for eight years, and although its viewership has dipped over the years, Variety Big Brother remains a popular avenue for up-and-coming singers to gain exposure.

Chang’s hosting style differs from other male hosts in that he does not tease female celebrities or criticise other artistes, preferring to put his guests at ease.

This has made the show palatable to wannabes who need positive publicity.

In the middle of this year, Piggo Liang’s concert in Kaohsiung wasn’t sold out.

But strangely, after appearing on Variety Big Brother, ticket sales skyrocketed and 700 tickets were sold immediately after Liang’s interview wasaired.

3. Piggo Club
Hosts: Piggo Liang, 63, and Rene Hou, 33
Appearance Fee: Liang makes NT$200,000 (S$8,000) per hour
Target Viewers: Adults aged 45 and above
Fame Outside Taiwan: Three stars
Influence: Three stars

Piggo Club has broken viewership records even though it has been on the small screen for less than two years.

The show also enabled Liang and Hou to win the Best Variety Show Hosts awards at the Golden Bell Awards last week.

The award marked a major milestone for Liang after he had disappeared from the small screen for over a decade because he was on the run from hiscreditors.

Back when he debuted, he exercised more restraint. But he soon realised that to gain a following, he had to keep up with the times.

Once Liang learnt the game, he wasted no time in getting celebrities like singer A-mei to guest on his show, and his gimmicks paid off.

What makes Liang stand out is his ability to connect with his Taiwanese viewers, opting for shorts and a unique hairstyle that have endeared him to viewers.
 

The NewPaper

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S.H.E’s Hebe Is Here But… Fans Are Thinking Of SELINA

31 Oct

S.H.E’s Hebe is here but… Fans are thinking of SELINA
By Tan Kee Yun
October 31, 2010
 
 

keeyunt@sph.com.sg

GO, GO Selina! The Chinese words of encouragement were big, bold and welcoming.

One would have thought, looking at the sea of posters and portable light boards held by frenetic fans at Changi Airport, that Selina Jen from Taiwanese pop gal group S.H.E had swung into town.

But as these young people cheered, their 29-year-old idol was, in fact, bedridden and going through – what’s likely to be – a long process of recuperation at Taipei’s Linkou Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital.

It was her fellow S.H.E member Hebe Tien, 27, one of several guest artistes at last night’s music event Singapore Hit Awards, who came through the arrival gates at noon.

Decked out in shades and a black jacket, the pixie-faced Tien looked glum and sullen.

Who could blame her?

TNP PICTURES: KUA CHEE SIONG

Last Saturday, Jen suffered serious burns after a series of planned explosions went horribly wrong on the set of I Have A Date With Spring, a musical drama she was filming in Shanghai.

According to her record label H.I.M International Music, 50 per cent of her body – mostly her back, limbs and waist – was affected. Her face, while not burnt, was slightly scorched.

Her male co-star, China actor-singer Yu Haoming, was badly injured too. (See other report.)

Little wonder that the mood within the S.H.E camp at Changi Airport wasn’t exactly upbeat.

Some of those present were members of the local fanclub S.H.E Ambience.

‘When the news of Selina’s accident broke, we were totally shocked,’ said a sombre Miss Cai Jiaxin, 23, who recently graduated from a private university.

‘It was hard to believe that something so awful had happened…we were so worried we started following the news closely, paying attention to every single update on her (Jen’s) condition.’

Angry

Fans were also angry and perplexed that such an accident could have happened on a film set.

Miss Sim Yiwen, 21, who works in logistics, said she had read in a Taiwanese news report that old and faulty equipment had been used to shoot the explosion scene.

‘Also, the actors weren’t provided with any protective gear to cover their bodies. That scene dealt with fire, it’s very dangerous and more precautionary measures should have been taken,’ she said.

Putting their anger aside, the fans decided to pour their hearts into making gifts for Jen.

At a press conference yesterday evening, representatives from S.H.E Ambience handed more than 5,000 colourful paper cranes to Tien.

‘We set out to fold 1,000 cranes, as there is a Japanese traditional belief that 1,000 cranes will bring patients speedy recovery, good health and a long life,’ said polytechnic student Serene Law, 19.

‘She’s in pain but still strong’

But they were overwhelmed with response from the public after posting their project details on their website.

‘So many people voluntarily joined us in our crane-folding session on Thursday night…we made 5,236 cranes in all,’ she said.

In an interview with local media, Tien acknowledged the seriousness of Jen’s injuries candidly.

‘Her condition is definitely not good,’ she said.

‘I visited her on Thursday before I set off for Singapore and I could see that she was in pain, even with the morphine injected.

‘Though she might be physically weak now, her mental state is extremely strong. She is still optimistic about life and, at times, it seems like she is comforting me instead of me comforting her.’

With an emphatic pause, Tien added that Selina has described the pain as ‘the worst she has ever experienced’.

‘As she suffered third-degree burns, it’s likely that there will be (scars).

Scrapbook

‘But I don’t think she is even thinking about whether there will be scars on her body in the future. She just wants to get well soon.’

Fans also passed Tien a scrapbook of wishes they had penned for Jen, as well as a get-well video clip they had filmed and edited themselves.

‘It’s so sad that tomorrow is her birthday and she has to spend it in the hospital,’ Miss Cai said with a sigh.

Fans can take comfort in the steely determination the other two members of S.H.E – Tien and Ella Chen, 29 – have shown following Jen’s mishap.

‘The girls were slated to perform together as a trio in Jiangsu province on the day of the accident,’ said Mr Darren Ang, 24, a web designer.

‘After Selina’s accident, Ella and Hebe were extremely professional, they controlled their emotions and went on with the show.

‘But from the online clip of that particular performance, it was evident that they were saddened by their friend’s injuries.’

Miss Law agreed, adding that Tien and Chen’s professionalism have made her admire S.H.E even more.

A few days earlier, Tien confirmed on her Weibo (China’s version of Twitter) account that her mother intended to do her part in Jen’s upcoming skin graft operation, by becoming a skin donor.

‘I was very touched when I read that,’ said Miss Law.

‘She (Tien’s mum) is so willing to help, even though Selina is not her flesh and blood.’

Tien clarified during her press conference that her mum was ‘expressing her feelings’ as a concerned, worried guardian of Jen.

‘My mum treats Selina like her own kid. These few days, whenever the topic of Selina is brought up, she breaks down and cries,’ said Tien.

‘But the truth is, my mum is not medically trained and as much as she wants to donate the skin, I don’t think it’s possible. You’d need to use your own skin for the (skin graft) operation, so that the cells would be able to match.’

The New Paper understands from doctors that besides the procedure of taking one’s own skin for grafting, a transplant using sking from a donor is ‘possible’, but ‘tests have to be conducted beforehand to make sure the cells match perfectly’.

Immediate family members will have a higher chance of a match.

Fans also rubbished the speculation in some Chinese media that Jen’s tragedy could spell the end of her career.

News portal Sina.com said that Jen is likely to be out of showbiz action for at least a couple of years.

‘We will continue to support S.H.E even if Selina cannot be part of the group for now,’ said Miss Sim. ‘Selina will definitely not be forgotten.’

WHO is Yu Haoming?

Over the past week, that has been the question on folks’ minds, with the constant updates on Selina Jen’s condition.

The Guangzhou native, Jen’s co-star in the musical drama I Have A Date With Spring, had third-degree burns on his body, mostly on his limbs and back.

He reportedly shielded Jen by hugging her tightly when the explosions occurred.

Fans of S.H.E have lauded his heroic effort, which saved their idol from facial injuries.

Yu, 22, little known to audiences in Taiwan and Singapore, has become a household name in mainland China since he took part in the all-male singing competition Superboy in 2007.

The show, held by Hunan Television, was Yu’s big break.

He came in sixth, wowing the crowd with his boyish charm.

In the same year, he signed a contract with Chinese record label Doremi Media and released his debut EP, If I Can Love You. His first full-length album, Hug, was released at the end of last year.

He has branched out into acting and hosting.

He starred in Let’s Watch The Meteor Shower Together, China’s remake of classic Taiwanese idol drama Meteor Garden and hosted the Hunan Television talkshow Improving Everyday.

Idol saviour popular in China

 

The NewPaper

Heliza Nak Jadi Penceramah Motivasi

29 Oct

Ditulis oleh Nonie
  
  

Setelah menangguhkan pengajiannya selama setahun demi perjuangan dalam Akademi Fantasia 5, Nur Heliza Helmi akhirnya berjaya menamatkan pengajian di Universiti Malaysia Sabah dalam Ijazah Sarjana Muda Sains Pendidikan (Biologi dan Kimia) pada 11 Oktober yang lalu.

“Bukan mudah untuk saya habiskan pengajian ini sebab sepatutnya saya hanya mengambil masa empat tahun tetapi sebab sibuk dengan karier seni, saya terpaksa tangguh pengajian setahun. Paling mengharukan, semasa menerima ijazah, ramai yang menepuk tangan apabila tiba giliran nama saya disebut. Ada yang tidak melepaskan peluang merakamkan gambar saya.

“Saya berhasrat nak sambung pengajian pada peringkat sarjana tetapi bukan dalam masa terdekat ini sebab saya juga baru membuka syarikat produksi,” ujarnya.

Anak kelahiran Kuala Terengganu tekad menyumbangkan ilmu dan motivasi kepada pelajarnya kelak. Malah undangan sebagai penceramah motivasi di sekolah dijadikan sebagai batu loncatan untuk menggapai impian tersebut.

“Saya kena tambahkan ilmu lagi jika mahu menjadi seorang penceramah motivasi yang berjaya kerana saya semakin minat dalam bidang ini. Tidak sangka pula selepas tamat belajar, banyak pula peluang untuk saya memberi ceramah di sekolah,” katanya yang menerima undangan di Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tawau, Sabah untuk bercerita mengenai pemakaian tudung.

Katanya, jadual kerjaya yang ketat tidak pernah menghalang dirinya untuk meluangkan masa memberi motivasi kepada pelajar-pelajar yang telah selesai menduduki peperiksaan Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) bagi menggalakkan mereka ke sekolah selepas peperiksaan.

“Selepas ini, saya turut mendapat jemputan untuk memberikan ceramah di sebuah sekolah di Perak. Walaupun sibuk, saya tetap akan cuba memberikan sumbang kepada para pelajar sekali gus dapat mempraktikkan bidang pendidikan yang saya pelajari sebelum ini,” katanya yang mengakui seronok berjumpa dengan pelajar-pelajar sekolah.

Mangga Online

THE EMPRESS STRIKES BACK

29 Oct

FIRST FASHION

Stars glam up the movie premieres…or not
THE EMPRESS STRIKES BACK
Detective Dee was touted as Carina Lau’s comeback feature film, and she played the only female emperor in Chinese history, no less.
By Jeanmarie Tan
October 29, 2010
 
 

As if that wasn’t enough to grab my attention, the 45-year-old Hong Kong actress took it one step further at the recent Venice Film Festival, where the fantastical period whodunit was in competition for the coveted Golden Lion award.

Directed by Tsui Hark, Detective Dee revolves around a legendary detective (Andy Lau) who investigates threats to the imposing Empress Wu Zetian’s (Lau) rise to power.

Wu’s bizarre eyebrows may have been the talking point of the movie, but it was Lau’s daring dresses that raised mine.

Naturally, she left her Detective Dee co-star, 34-year-old Chinese actress Li Bingbing, in the dust.

Hey, she is the queen, after all.

Li plays Wu’s right-hand woman, a skilled martial arts warrior.

But at the Venice Film Festival, it was clear which lady held court.

Li is a classic beauty who’s a fixture on fashion magazine covers.

But she couldn’t compete with Lau, who oozed more poise and confidence.

Welcome back, Your Majesty.

1 At the Detective Dee photo call, Lau gave a hint of what’s to come by exposing her back and legs.

She really worked the hell out of this black one-sleeved Versace dress with an asymmetrical hemline and a side train, completing the sassy look with black Salvatore Ferragamo pumps and a blown-out bob.

2 Li also wore a simple black outfit – jazzed up only by the embellished bold shoulders – to the same event, but the cutting of Lau’s piece had a lot more drama.

3 For the movie’s premiere later in the evening, Lau stole the limelight and didn’t shy away from flaunting her body in this show-stopping, jaw-dropping backless electric blue Versace gown which is slit-up-to-there.

It’s a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen, but you can’t deny this woman has guts!

4 Li looked elegant in her nude strapless Guo Pei mermaid gown embellished with red Chinese characters for fortune along the hemline and matching detail along the bodice.

It’s a nice nod to her roots, but it just wasn’t enough to pip Lau.

 

The NewPaper

The F Word

29 Oct

FIRST FEATURE

EXCLUSIVE interview with stars of SOCIAL NETWORK
the f word
Jesse Eisenberg was either nervous about being in the limelight or he naturally speaks as fast as a bullet train
By Joanne Soh
October 29, 2010
 
 

Jesse Eisenberg was either nervous about being in the limelight or he naturally speaks as fast as a bullet train.

The geeky-looking 27-year-old actor with a mop of curly hair also doesn’t look like a movie star who plays the lead in the new Facebook movie The Social Network.

Seated next to him, Andrew Garfield looked equally lost.

Back in July, the 27-year-old British actor had yet to be crowned the new Spider-Man, and was then still an unknown to most of us.

So naturally, pop prince Justin Timberlake was the one everyone wanted a piece of.

It also helped that the 29-year-old possesses a winning charm, much like his entrepreneur character Sean Parker – the co-founder of Napster who convinced Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to leave his Harvard dormitory for the Silicon Valley.

Directed by the acclaimed David Fincher, The Social Network – which opens here today – is a story about ambition, friendship, power, treachery, greed and multi-million dollar lawsuits.

We see how Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) and his Harvard classmate Eduardo Saverin (Garfield) conceived the idea of Facebook and how jealousy got in the way of their close friendship as their social networking business grew exponentially.

Since its release in the US on Oct 1, The Social Network has been attracting Oscar buzz, with critics hailing Garfield and Timberlake as shoo-ins for best supporting actor nominations.

Without a doubt, The Social Network has propelled its young stars into the stratosphere.

Theatre-trained Eisenberg, whose last appearance was in last year’s Zombieland, has strengthened his geek standing, threatening to dethrone Michael Cera.

Garfield has a big year ahead with a potential superhero franchise in his bag.

And Timberlake is well on his way to establishing himself as a credible actor.

FiRST: Social networking is the norm with the young. How has it changed your lives?

EISENBERG: Well, I have my own website that I use to land movie roles, so social networking has been really important for me.

No, not really. I don’t have a website.

But it has definitely changed things for acting.

I have friends – actor friends – and they attribute their success in finding work to having networking websites.

But I personally don’t engage.

TIMBERLAKE: I’m already famous because I write music on the side.

No, I’m kidding.

Social networking has obviously been a huge deal for the music industry and now the film industry.

I think it’s kind of serendipitous that a film like this is released at a time when social networking is the trend.

Do you have a relationship with Facebook?

GARFIELD: I have the usual relationship that someone my age would have with it. I love it and loathe it at the same time, and it takes up far too much of my energy and time.

I should use the time working on making myself a better person instead of seeing what I missed out on my friend’s parties in London…it’s a terrible terrible thing. (laughs)

TIMBERLAKE: I don’t personally have a Facebook page or even Twitter. I feel like a dinosaur because even if I get on it, I would not know how to work it.

EISENBERG: I signed up for Facebook only about two weeks before we started shooting to see what all the kids were talking about.

The closest relationship I have to Facebook now, aside from the movie, is that my first cousin, Eric, has a great job there. He got it while we were filming and he’s working side-by-side with Zuckerberg.

Have you guys met the people you play in the movie?

EISENBERG: No. They just weren’t involved in the movie. I guess I’ll meet Zuckerberg by virtue of meeting my cousin’s boss if I ever visit him in the office.

Although I didn’t meet him personally, it doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about him. There are many videos and books on him, and the most significant resource is the script, which is really interesting and wonderful.

My character probably has the highest visibility, being the face of Facebook. The movie may put him across like a jerk, but it’s my job to humanise him and defend him as a character.

GARFIELD: I think it also adds a certain responsibility knowing that these three people might eventually watch the film. To have that awareness kind of makes you work harder.

Do you admire the real guys, especially since they got so far at such a young age?

GARFIELD: Absolutely. It was one of those ‘right place, right time’ situations. It was the right time for their generation and they had the necessary skills that could be capitalised on. The gods were watching over them in a way…

Maybe they were too young to deal with all the overwhelming power, success and the new technological landscape that they developed.

But I’m in awe of their brilliance, skills, success and vision, especially Mark and Sean. They are indeed geniuses.

Are you able to relate to your characters since you are also young and successful?

EISENBERG: I had an experience similar to the movie.

I started writing plays when I was 17. I promised a friend that we’d write a play together but he went off to college and I ended up writing it myself.

We later had conflict over that but it was of course on a much smaller scale.

I’m sure we all have similar situations with friends. I was able to draw on those experiences for the movie.

GARFIELD: When you’re in the arts, any amount of self-consciousness and self-awareness can really upset your creative output. Then you can’t view yourself objectively.

If attaining great success remains your focus and you are constantly chasing awards and kudos, it’ll kill all creativity and passion.

TIMBERLAKE: That’s right, chasing such accolades is not why we’re doing what we do.

David Fincher is known for doing many takes for a scene. What was it like working with him?

GARFIELD: Because of his many takes, he gives you the room and time to make mistakes, which I think is the bravest and the biggest gift a director can give to any actor.

Knowing that we have such an incredible man steering the ship, you sleep well at night because you know he’s going to use only the good stuff.

EISENBERG: It does get exhausting, though. The opening scene was a nine-page scene and we did that scene 99 times over the course of two nights. The fatigue comes from the number of times we’re asked to do it.

Having said that, the opportunity to do a scene so many times is a luxury. Often in movies you feel rushed and you didn’t get what you want.

Justin, which is dearer to you now – acting or singing?

TIMBERLAKE: I’ve always cared about both.

When I was 14, I convinced my mother to spend TV pilot season in Los Angeles. I was convinced I was going to get a part in a sitcom in the fashion of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.

I was sitting at home waiting for it to happen, and a month later, I was selected to be part of a children’s TV show.

I’ve always admired the art of performing. It’s no secret that I was trained as a young kid on The Mickey Mouse Club with other extremely talented actors and singers such as Christina (Aguilera) and Ryan (Gosling).

I’m extremely aware of people’s perception of me. The choices I made are for myself.

I did the smaller films to gain experience and to work with the people I really admire and play the characters that I really care about.

Is it more difficult to step back to be just a character instead of a sex symbol?

TIMBERLAKE: There’s no way I’m going to answer that question!

I’m completely detached from those comments.

Most opinions are just projections. Everybody’s got a geek in them and I just don’t believe in status. I believe in the process of making films and making music.

 

The NewPaper

THRILLER TO RETURN, BIGGER AND BADDER

29 Oct

FIRST BITES
THRILLER TO RETURN, BIGGER AND BADDER
October 29, 2010
 
 

Michael Jackson is already six feet under, but that isn’t stopping him from ringing in the money.

The King Of Pop was named 2010’s wealthiest dead celebrity by Forbes magazine, and his legacy will live on – on the big screen. Jackson’s most famous music video Thriller has become the premise of a new film.

It will be directed by Kenny Ortega, who shot This Is It. There’s no word onthe plot yet, except that it’ll be a full-fledged horror picture set around the town seen in the video.

WALL STREET: LOVE NEVER LASTS?

Now that the dust has settled on Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, it’s also about time to end the ‘showmance’.

Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan, who play a couple in Oliver Stone’s sequel, have officially called it quits.

Their year-long romance began while filming on location in New York.

There were obvious sparks between them, Stone told People magazine.

The British actress has reportedly found a new beau in the form of fellow countryman Tom Sturridge, aka Robert Pattinson’s best mate.

INDIANA JONES AND THE 3RD DIMENSION

Is George Lucas so strapped for cash that he can only turn to his classics to keep his funds going?

We already know that his Star Wars saga will be re-released in 3-D in 2012. Now it looks like our favourite fedora-wearing archaeologist may be entering the third dimension too.

According to Blue Sky Disney – a reliable movie website – Lucasfilm has lined up plans to convert the Indiana Jones series into 3-D too.

Before we hear the official word, we’ll just shelf this as a rumour.

 

The NewPaper

WHAT’s ON THEIR (MEGA) MINDS?

29 Oct

FIRST FEATURE
WHAT’S ON THEIR (MEGA) MINDS?
FiRST wanted to pick the brains of the cast of new animated flick Megamind. But leads Will Ferrell and Tina Fey – the funniest man and woman in Hollywood these days – left their jokes behind in the recording booth
By Sylvia Toh Paik Choo In Los Angeles
October 29, 2010
 
 

Will the Will Ferrell we laugh at and love say something really funny?

Maybe this is the real Will Ferrell, he who – surprise! – doesn’t do improv at press conferences.

We are at The Wedding Party. It is not the title of another frat pack comedy, but the unwitting set-up of the publicity blitz for DreamWorks’ latest 3-D superhero animated feature film, Megamind, that will make you LOL – if only Ferrell, Tina Fey, David Cross and director Tom McGrath would, in the flesh.

The garden of Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills is pristinely studded with white furniture, dining tables and chairs alongside a buffet.

Pew-like rows of white seats occupy one end of the marquee. And on a raised dais, the table for the four main guests – you’d expect that’s where they’ll be giving the toast.

Said foursome enter to take their places.

No sooner than all the media check in, one journo punches in: ‘I want to thank you, Will and Tina, for inviting me to your wedding. How long have you been engaged…Now for the real question – what’s it like to be front centre for this film?’

Ferrell, 43, goes first: ‘This stage wedding means my marriage of 10 years is not real.’

A mere titter across the garden.

Fey, 40, uptakes: ‘It took years to book with Four Seasons.’

And Ferrell has his cue: ‘I want to thank Jensens for the tentage, whose slogan is, ‘If you want a tent, call Jensens.’

Now the laughter, although not all of us got it.

The comedian, impressionist, actor and writer of more than 30 movies, whose last few features have each grossed more than US$100 million (S$129 million), then responds meekly: ‘I don’t consider myself front centre of this fine cast…’

We all point to the film poster behind the quartet.

It has the big-headed and blue-coloured Megamind – whom Ferrell voices – who eclipses the rest, like Metro Man, Roxanne Ritchi, Tighten and Minion.

Everybody chuckles. Ferrell admits: ‘It was exciting to work on a (Jeffrey) Katzenberg movie.’

Is that all? Not even one blue joke?

Megamind, which opens here on Nov 4, focuses on the titular villain, who is so bad at being bad he just might be great at being good.

Brad Pitt voices Metro Man (good-guy strong man), Fey is news reporter Roxy (Superman to the rescue of Lois Lane!). There’s a super-nerd Hal (Jonah Hill) and Cross is Minion, Megamind’s lifetime assistant who happens to be a fish in a bowl (for a head) on a robot’s body.

The movie is funky and funny, all the characters are excellently fleshed, and the villain is Avatar-blue, the colour of the decade, for sure.

Director McGrath, 45, who also helmed Madagascar and its sequel, repeats his production notes quotes: ‘There are deep themes, good versus evil. We all have a nemesis. It’s a story about redemption.’

Another journo thinks Megamind’s accent is rather British, and asks for confirmation.

Ferrell comes out of reticence: ‘It’s so disappointing. Of course, it’s not your fault, but it’s a Lithuanian accent I was doing…

‘It’s the accent of someone who thinks they’re important, a completely insecure character.’

McGrath lets the light in: ‘We had a French designer on the set and he pronounces Metro City as ‘me-trocity’. We ran with it.’

With a trio best known to US audiences for their improv skills – Ferrell and Fey established themselves on Saturday Night Live, playing among others George W Bush and Sarah Palin; Cross is another stand-up comic – sparks and barbs should have cross-fired during the press conference.

Yes, they did improv, but perhaps only in the recording booth.

Ferrell and Fey reportedly defied animated movie conventions by recording several of their exchanges together in the same sound booth (it’s usually done in isolation).

Fey feels that method acting needs you to think about what you’re going to say but improv makes you focus on the partner, and what he says helps you build the scene.

‘About 30 per cent of the scenes were improv. Tom was very welcoming of that. We had to do a number of them several times because of the laughing.’

It is both hard and free-ing to work only the voice.

For Fey, there’s an absence of vanity in a recording booth. ‘You can try your lines, stop and start again. There’s no waste of film, and how you look doesn’t matter.’

In Ferrell’s case, the difficulty IS the voice. ‘It’s hard to articulate. The gear shift with the voices, that’s a real skill.

‘However, unlike Tina, I go into the recording booth in a three-piece suit, full make-up on because I’m a professional.’

But was Fey bummed at not to have shared a recording booth with Pitt?

She tells me seriously: ‘No, it was fine. We hung out.’

So what was it like interacting with the Hollywood superstar?

McGrath says: ‘Amazing, the paparazzi always knows. He almost has to ride his bike into the studio.’

Ferrell came onscreen in 1995 and, since 2002, has just about erased equally funnymen Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler. Even Jack Black, Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson could bite the comedy central dust.

Didn’t Elf, Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Blades Of Glory and The Other Guys tickle your funny bone? (A minute’s silence, though, for Land Of The Lost.)

So has all the success gone to your head? Duh, he’s Megamind. Yes, but ever get megalomanic?

Ferrell, who has three young sons with his Swedish wife, said: ‘What I have in common with Megamind is a lot of tight leather pants. Which I don’t wear, keep them in a vault.

‘I have a body part that is blue – genetic defect, which I will not share with you.’

In Megamind, the brainy bad guy goes into a true blue-black funk, yet another trait the actor does not share.

‘Well, once. I wanted to sail round the world in a handmade boat. I had one built for me and, on the second day out at sea, realised I’m not a sailor – no supplies, no navigation skills – I (messed) up.’

It was a lake really.

Ferrell’s humour, what little there was that day, is from a safe place, in Middle America, Main Street suburbia. No drama. He has said they had to create their own by doing funny things to crack friends up.

How about cracking us up huh, here, now?

Dour and deadpan, his occasional flash of a remark is led on first by a journalist’s question.

‘Do you have any quirky fears, like jellyfish?’

‘Yes, heights, and er, jellyfish.’

Admittedly they are not Pulitzer Prize-winning questions, from a gardenful of 75 media persons putting hands up to try to ask one.

Like, if you had to choose between Megamind and Metro Man, Tina, who would you go for?

Oh, mega-nod – should have seen that one coming.

Fey – the funniest woman in America (because of SNL and 30 Rock) and mother of five-year-old girl Zenobia (they have Greek roots) – obliges: ‘I’d go for Megamind. The purple undertones of his blue skin’s beautiful, and, he’s smaller than me.’

A lightbulb moment for Ferrell – ‘I wish I had his waistline’ – indicating the movie poster.

What’s upmost on their minds is the long day as, after the press conference, there are one-on-one interviews with the US media and international television.

‘This is gonna go on till 9 at night,’ Ferrell sighs. ‘Because I have to wait for them to take down the tent.’

Ooh, unexpected laugh there.

Up next for the professional funnyman is a Spanish film based on a telenovella, a soap opera.

For Fey, there’s the prospect of growing old with Sarah Palin, her award-winning, spitting-image impersonation. ‘She was the luckiest thing to happen to me, I’m going to be doing her at 70 in some auto show.’

Arrested Development star Cross, 46, pipes up: ‘I’m, of course, waiting for Minion The Sequel.’

Meanwhile, come this Sunday, no prizes for guessing the Megamind costume’s going to take over America as the nation celebrates Halloween.

Last word to Ferrell: ‘You know, George W Bush would have said about Megamind, ‘He looks funny.’
 

The NewPaper