Brunei-born star Wu Chun tries to live an anonymous life in his hometown but finds out it’s not really possible
By Yasminka Lee in Bandar Seri Begawan
In this small city, people are likely to know where the two branches of Fitness Zone are located but they probably don’t care to know that it is owned by a very famous actor-singer named Wu Chun.
Wu, 32, is perhaps better known as Goh Kiat Chun when he is in his hometown, usually donning a cap and shirt promoting his club while driving around in one of his sports cars, shuttling between the two clubs about 15 minutes away from each other to manage the business.
From January to April this year, Wu has spent about 70 per cent of his time in Brunei following a recent decision to step back from his hectic schedule as a film and drama actor in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, as well as member of the pop group Fahrenheit, in favour of spending more time with his family.
“I told them (management company) that I want to focus more on filming, and have a little bit more time for myself and my family so I can come back here more often,” Wu tells popasia in an interview. “…So they try to squeeze in everything together so I can have free time to come back (to Brunei).”
Wu grew up in Brunei, attending a local Chinese school before going to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia, where he finished business administration. He also played for Brunei’s national basketball team at one time.
This new arrangement shuttling between Brunei and Taiwan has worked so far but he dreads this month until the end of the year when his schedule is packed again to shoot two movies plus promotions for the period film, My Kingdom, and his newest drama Sunshine Angel.
Wu started out in the entertainment business six years ago via a guest role in the Taiwan drama KO One before playing the male lead in Tokyo Juliet. But it was the 2006 drama Hana Kimi that propelled him to stardom. Before that, he was a model and fitness instructor.
He remembers his audition for Tokyo Juliet: “I was too nervous, I was sweating and my face was red. When I said the dialogue, I was trembling so the director asked the producer, ‘are you sure you wanna use this guy?’”
Wu was not fluent in Mandarin then and some of his lines had to be dubbed but that did not stop his rise to fame. A year later, he was tapped to be part of Fahrenheit. Without a singing background, he had to take voice lessons.
With most of his work based in Taiwan, he semi-relocated there and even bought a house. As an artiste, however, he experienced culture shock—used to being his own boss with experience of putting up a successful business, a billiards hall, at 19 years old.
“So many things you need to follow. It’s like you are a robot, you are not a human being anymore… It’s like I’m a product,” he laughs. “But I love to make people happy so I’m okay with it. After what my mom went through, hardship is nothing. I can overcome those things.”
He lost his mother to cancer two years before he entered the entertainment business and her death has left a huge impression on him, including his view on religion.
“Before I was a Buddhist but my mom really (had faith) and I saw that she had a hard time. All these things are good: Christianity, Buddhism, they teach you the right way to live but I learned from theory. I don’t hope and pray to get something. You do your best in life and that’s it.
“The death of my mom changed my life and taught me how to be really patient, not to expect too much, cherish life.”
And while he has grown to love his job over the last six years, he also realised that he wants to have more time with his loved ones.
“It’s different when you are in the country and with your family. When I wake up, I see my family, we have meals together. Sometimes we go out to have a meal. The feeling is very different from being not in Brunei.
“That’s why right now, I always think: Is it worth it for me to get into showbiz? I don’t want to be like my mom wherein I only got so little time in the end. I’m still young but my father is old already and you never know (what will happen).”
He also prefers being home in Brunei because no one really bothers him and he is able to go about his own business. In fact, it was only recently that the locals started to recognise him and it is understandable if the general public thinks he is from Taiwan.
“I was very surprised because my dramas have started to be shown on local television. Many locals started to know me. They will wave at me so it’s really funny. The first year, they didn’t really know because in Brunei, they seldom write news about Chinese showbiz.”
He does not mind the attention from the locals though. “The most they would do is say hi and take pictures. They won’t disturb my privacy. They won’t follow (me around),” he says.
It is different though when he is in Taiwan, Hong Kong or China where paparazzi follow him everywhere.
“One time I had to run on the street (in Taiwan). Sometimes they follow my car and we’d go into the small streets but they are very fierce. A few times, I just ran out of the car and went very fast until they can no longer follow,” he recalls.
They have also followed him to Brunei many times. During the opening of his new gym, paparazzi from Hong Kong descended on Bandar.
“I wanted to try the swimming pool but I got no chance so one night, I did it around 1am and I thought they were sleeping already. So I was trying to swim and then all of a sudden, they were there trying to take photos. Luckily, my manager saw and stopped them.”
He asked them to delete the photos but he concedes that there was nothing he could have done had the photographers refused. “I’m not a normal person, people can always take pictures of me.”
Despite these occasional disturbances, Wu still prefers life in Brunei. After all, it is his hometown where he is also known as “GKC” and not Wu Chun, the celebrity.
As we leave the café after the interview, a group of fans approach him. Wu turns somewhat serious and slightly surprised to learn they are local fans. He talks to them quietly and poses for a photo in front of the Fitness Zone logo.
Upstairs, two fans from Singapore are waiting to get a glimpse of him. He says he discourages his fans to come to Brunei as he arranges fan meetings outside every now and then but that does not stop them from coming anyway.
It turns out that even in his own sanctuary, Wu cannot really escape from the limelight and from journalists like me.
(Wu will be seen next in the mainland period movie, My Kingdom, with Han Geng and Barbie Hsu; in the Taiwanese drama Sunshine Angel with Rainie Yang; and will soon start filming the all-star Hong Kong production The Yang Clan with Louis Koo, Ekin Cheng, Raymond Lam and Vic Chou.)
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(First published in AsiaNews magazine on May 6, 2011. Copyright: Asia News Network)