Without a doubt, Chilam Cheung (張智霖) is a winner in life. Whether it is his physical appearance, career, or family, Chilam appears to have it all. Chilam himself, however, begs to differ. He insists that knowing how to be content, and knowing how to treasure what he has are the two real victories in his life. And his biggest achievement since entering the entertainment industry? Meeting Anita Yuen (袁詠儀), his wife and soulmate. On his directorial debut next year, Chilam remarked that it is all rather serendipitous.
On His Experiences with “Return of the Cuckoo”
Fifteen years ago, Chilam had his breakout role as the male lead in TVB drama, Return of the Cuckoo <十月初五的月光>. This year, the film adaptation was released, in which Chilam reprised his original role. Speaking about the adaptation, Chilam said, “We spent a total of about eight to nine months on this production. There were countless pre-production teams involved. And then we had to wait for Joe Chen (陳喬恩) to free up her slots. Filming has been mentally draining. To some extent, the audience understands the character of ‘Man Cho’ better than me. So I have had to be very careful with playing the character – can’t do too little and can’t do too much.”
Chilam expressed that he really valued the opportunity to reunite on the big screen with people that he worked with fifteen years ago. The romantic rumors that used to surround him and Charmaine Sheh (佘詩曼), who played the female lead. Chilam laughed and said nostalgically, “I believe I have lost a lot of weight since then. I have lost a lot of baby fat, especially. I have also toned down a lot and am much more reserved. I believe everyone has matured. Actually, as I have been watching the reruns of the drama, I realized that everyone used to be so full of energy and so bubbly back then!”
Chilam then talked about “Man Cho” and how he was a very loving man who would sacrifice his own happiness for the sake of the woman he loves. He said poignantly, “Man Cho’s attitude towards love is very noble. It is perhaps something that I myself cannot match up to. Playing this role led me to learn a lot more about love. I wanted to learn how to be able to sacrifice so much for a person you love, and be able to put yourself as the last priority.”
In the film adaptation, which continues from the drama’s plot, Man Cho meets Kwan Ho again after many years of separation. Chilam said candidly that he had been in such a situation before, “I have definitely bumped into my ex-girlfriends a few times. We would just politely greet each other and leave it at that. There was no exchanging of numbers or catching up. We maintained a certain distance. After all, our fate as lovers had ended and we had moved on.”
On What He Values the Most
As a person who believes in fate, Chilam does not see fame as the most important thing in his life. On the other hand, he is thankful to have been blessed with a happy and complete family. He revealed that his biggest accomplishment was the opportunity to meet his wife, Anita Yuen, whom he considers to be the prettiest Miss Hong Kong winner.
Chilam’s entire face lit up as he recounted how he met Anita, “If I hadn’t joined the entertainment industry, how would I have had the chance to meet her? Perhaps I was meant to enter the entertainment industry just for the chance to meet her. I remember seeing her in Be My Guest <我愛玫瑰園> and already thinking that she was very pretty there. And then we had a few encounters in the TVB makeup studio, and I was so nervous that I didn’t even dare to say hi to her. As fate would have it, we later ended up working together in the same film in Mainland China. Although I did not star opposite her, I was already full of excitement.”
It was Anita who eventually first asked Chilam out, which led to the blossoming of a beautiful relationship between the two. Chilam joked, “Perhaps I killed her entire family in my previous life…otherwise, why would our fates be so deeply intertwined in this life?”
At the beginning of the relationship, Chilam was mostly working in Mainland China, while Anita was based in Hong Kong. The long-distance nature of the relationship not only cost the couple thousands of dollars in telephone bills, but also added serious strain to the relationship. Chilam admitted that the relationship did not always go well, “The longest we went without seeing each other was several months and honestly, this did result in several red flags. But once we saw each other, we became closer again, and all our problems disappeared.”
After marriage, Chilam and Anita had a precocious little boy, Morton. “He would sometimes say things that inspire me,” Chilam said. As for his hopes for his son, Chilam expressed, “I just want him to be happy, have joy in his life, and be a good person.”
Finding Inspiration in Buddhism
Anita is not only Chilam’s true love but also source of inspiration. Over the years, as a devout Buddhist, Anita has greatly influenced Chilam with her religious beliefs. Chilam said, “Anita has always been a fervent follower of the Buddhist philosophy, while I initially felt like I needed a long time to digest the principles and think about them before making any commitment. It was only when I met this monk in Hong Kong around the year 2000, that I decided to commit to Buddhism.”
Chilam and Anita have since actively engaged in Buddhist activities, like regularly releasing sea animals back into the sea, and visiting Mount Putuo with fellow Buddhists, Christine Ng (伍詠薇) and Calvin Choy (蔡一智), for an annual spiritual retreat.
On His Career Development
Becoming an actor and film star was not something that Chilam had passionately wanted. He had initially considered becoming an industrial designer. Nevertheless, Chilam was very grateful for his career path. In the entertainment industry for over 20 years, Chilam smiled and said, “I’ve not had a single unhappy day. In 1997, when I went to film dramas in Mainland China, I was considered one of the first few Hong Kong celebrities who ventured into the Chinese market. Back then, when I joined a cast, I would find myself being the only one from Hong Kong. Many of them were from Taiwan or the Mainland itself. When I was bored and had nothing to do, I would go back to my room and practice singing or read a book. All the skills I have now were nurtured in those days!”
Being based overseas did not faze Chilam, who had received his secondary education in Australia and was thus used to being away from home. Working in Mainland China had also provided him with a solid foundation for savings. “Without this, how would I have been able to get married?”
Chilam commented on the working environment that was less than ideal, “Back then, the filming system and logistics over there were really incomplete…but if it was that good, they also would not have asked for me!” Chilam gave more examples of what he meant, “In Mainland China, filming would often require the renting of a film studio, but the studio would remain open to tourists even during filming. This meant that outsiders could easily interrupt the filming process, and this naturally frustrated some of the crew members, who would have been working many long, sleepless hours. This might then lead to a fight, using the drama’s props. And the men and women would all get embroiled in the chaos…it was really quite frightening!”
On his future possible career development, Chilam excitedly discussed his directorial debut next year, “A Mainland Chinese production house has already expressed interest in working with me. It’s a comedy film. I have already had meetings with them in Beijing. I hope I will know how to properly tell a story. I also hope that I will be able to convince the actors to listen to me. You know, some actors can be a little full of themselves. I’ve been there before.”
Would Chilam consider acting and directing at the same time? Chilam demurred, “No I won’t consider that at all. I really don’t want to have such a difficult time. Furthermore, if I do something, it has to be done properly. [The film I direct] has to be successful, or at least the film’s reputation and box office have to be reasonably decent. If not, I would rather die!”
Chilam added that his directorial path is not driven by purely artistic motivations. “Movie making is ultimately still a profit-making enterprise. It is not just about fulfilling my own artistic ideals.”
This article is written by Jingles for JayneStars.com.