STOP10 Aug 2017: 'Wonder Boy' by Dick Lee and Daniel Yam

If you are a millennial, you probably know Dick Lee from the song ‘Home’. If you are a Gen-Y you might be familiar with ‘Life Story’, the famous OAC Insurance advertisement song that stopped us from switching TV channels when it played. Or you might know why Dick Lee has been nicknamed ‘The Mad Chinaman’. If you are Gen-X, then you might be familiar with ‘Fried Rice Paradise’ and of course, a younger, less-polished Dick Lee, struggling to get his music noticed.

This is the Dick Lee most people know least about and the man himself is ready to share three years of his pre-mainstream fame life with his fans and audiences in the form of a feature film. Wonder Boy is Dick Lee’s own filmmaking debut, based on his early years as a budding teenage singer-songwriter, specifically the years 1972 to 1974, a pretty confusing time for anyone growing up in Singapore. Singapore was a rather repressive place to live in as rock concerts and rock music was frowned upon. Career ambitions like being a musician would draw vehement disapproval from parents. At the same time, Singapore had pockets of ‘colourful’ life in the form of Bugis Street version 1 (the original one where you could see transvestites and prostitutes) and drugs were secretly consumed in school premises.

Wonder Boy tells the story of young Richard (Dick’s formal name), a teenager and aspiring musician who comes from a rich family - a constant source of antagonism between him and his working class schoolmates. It is a coming-of-age story of ambition, love and music, one that sees Richard turn from being a nerd to being a monster and finally finding his niche as a musician after several struggles, not least of all, objections from his own family. At the same time, it is also a glimpse at the 1970s. Dick is determined to present the 70s he knew as it is, without any sugar-coating. Fans of Dick Lee will be happy to know this is new material as this chapter in his life has never been shared with the public.    

The film is co-directed by Daniel Yam. Daniel is an award-winning filmmaker whose short films ‘Gift’ and ‘Ripple’ hit global fame when they went viral with millions of views. Daniel has a little story about his journey in attaining fame with his short films. Read it in our earlier article Blink! The future of film distribution.  

Singer-songwriter and actor Benjamin Kheng, a member of popular local band The Sam Willows, will play Lee. Benjamin has ever played Dick Lee before in the TheatreWorks' 2012 musical National Broadway Company, commissioned as part of the Esplanade's 10th-anniversary celebrations. Other cast members include television actress Constance Song as Lee's mother and Chen Yixi, son of veteran actors Edmund Chen and Xiang Yun, as one of the members in Lee's old band, The Wonder Boys. Mediacorp actress Julie Tan will play Lee's love interest Linda.

The movie is presented by production companies mm2 Entertainment and Bert Pictures, with the support of Singapore Film Commission. Lee's newly formed entertainment company, Dick Lee Asia, a joint venture with mm2, is a partner.

I interviewed both directors a month ago about making Wonder Boy. Read the interviews with Dick and Daniel here.

Wonder Boy will be released islandwide on 3 August. Catch it in cinemas soon!

Written by Jeremy Sing

For the full list of August 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.
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