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Mon, Feb 21, 2011
The New Paper
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Strip? Please.
by Kwok Kar Peng

JOANNE Peh wants to play striptease dancer Rose Chan.

She says she's ready to do the full monty, to strip herself bare if she has to, to play the role.

The MediaCorp star told The New Paper she has no qualms baring all to play the controversial Chan in Eric Khoo's upcoming big-screen movie The Charming Rose.

The movie role of the late 1950s striptease dancer - who achieved notoriety as the Queen of Strippers - has gone through several rounds of casting musical chairs.

Other well-known personalities who have been linked to the role are actress-singer Celest Chong and buxom Malaysian model Christy Yow.

Chong had expressed interest in the initial stages, but eventually dropped out of the picture, while Yow gaveup the role to start a family.

Peh said she's excited about the opportunity because of the "challenge it presents" and also because she wants to "experience the life of Rose Chan".

Chan, who died of cancer in 1987, was possibly the most famous stripper in Singapore and Malaysia in the 1950s and 1960s. One of her most famous acts was wrestling with live pythons on stage.

Explaining her willingness to bare, Peh, 28, said that every part of her body is a tool in acting.

The actress said: "I don't belittle my body but it doesn't really mean anything. What matters is our soul and what's inside of us, not this outer shell.

"It doesn't matter that people see it all. Deep inside is what people will never be able to see. (They may say) 'I can see your breasts or pubic hair', but they may not know what kind of a person I am.

"That is what's valuable to me, rather than my physical body. When I entered this industry, (my body) is something I have to give up. I have to let my co-stars or strangers touch or kiss me."

At the end of the day, physical intimacy and nudity is nothing more than just part of the job, she concluded.

With such an outlook, it's no wonder Peh won this paper's Flasher Of The Year title at our Flame Awards last year, for wearing a strategically-cut Gucci gown that revealed the side of her breasts in last year's Star Awards.

While there certainly will be some nudity involved and striptease performances will be required for the Rose role, Khoo said he hasn't decided if there will be full frontal nudity.

He had received more than 200 applications and auditioned around 20 actresses since he first launched a casting call in 2008 for his film.

Khoo, 45, said he has yet to cast his leading lady but admitted he is considering Peh.

Both met once for a preliminary chat last November, but did not discuss the script.

Still, he is full of praise for Peh.

"She has great presence and is very smart. It's always easier to work with smart people. She's a very, very good actress and also strikingly tall (1.73m). I feel like a midget next to her.

"Joanne is more of the Rose Chan that I'm looking for compared to Christy Yow," Khoo raved.

The director is now working on the animated feature Tatsumi, a tribute to acclaimed Japanese comics artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi, and has shelved The Charming Rose until the end of the year.

The svelte 54kg Peh also may also not need to pile on the weight to mimic Chan's hour-glass figure.

Said Khoo: "I don't want the actress to put on weight unnecessarily. What's more important is that the actress can portray her strong and feisty character."

Those same words can be used to describe Peh.

She is increasingly making a name for herself as one of the more outspoken showbiz personalities here.

In her new drama A Tale Of 2 Cities, currently showing over Channel 8 on weekdays at 9pm, she breaks out of her wholesome mould to play Pan Leyao, a well-known model and gold-digger.

In one seduction scene, Peh strips down to a low-cut nightie to hook the wealthy Yin Zhengkai (played by Zhang Zhenhuan).

For the drama, she revealed that she even suggested adding more than five kissing scenes with actor Zhang Yaodong to make the script more realistic. Zhang plays her childhood friend and later, her boyfriend.

Did she have to ask real-life boyfriend and actor Bobby Tonelli for permission?

No, Peh replied, he doesn't mind.

She added: "Some time back, I showed Bobby a video clip of a kissing scene I did with Pierre Png for another drama YourHandIn Mine.

"He laughed out loud and asked if I was playing Hello Kitty. He meant the cartoon cat cannot kiss because it doesn't have a mouth.

"Bobby even said he would call Pierre and tell him how to kiss his girlfriend right."

Peh's relaxed attitude extends even to the way she handles jealous backbiting and industry rumours that have swirled around her ever since she hit the big time.

Latest gossip

The latest word on the Caldecott Hill grapevine is that she's related to someone senior in MediaCorp and that itmayhave helped her in her career.

Peh has acted in more than 20 productions, including two local movies, 2004's The Best Bet and this year's It'sAGreat Great World.

She won Most Popular Newcomer at Star Awards 2004 and won Best Actress in Star Awards 2009 for her role in The Little Nyonya.

She was one of the Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes in the annual awards showfour times.

This year, she is up for Best Actress again for the drama Your Hand In Mine and Best Info-ed ProgrammeHost for The Activist's Journey.

She also has had at least eight endorsements, from Jetstar Airways to Laurier, in her pocket.

Instead of being outraged or reacting defensively, Peh laughed uproariously at the latest speculation.

"Oh, don't they just love a good scandal like that! I love it too," she burst out in amusement, claiming that she has never heard it before.

"Whenyou seesomeone doing well, it's because this person is related to someone, or sleeping with someone. "But sorry to disappoint, there is no conspiracy theory. I'm not related to this person.

"Where I am today is a result of a lot of hard work. I fell hard too and had to pick myself up... I paid my dues."

See her pictures here

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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