A shirtless Nathan Hartono was covered in paint for When Ghost Meets Zombie

SINGAPORE – When Ghost Meets Zombie marks the first time local singer-actor Nathan Hartono is playing the lead in a movie. And adding to the challenge was having to dance and getting covered from head to toe in paint.

The 27-year-old plays Pong, a zombie who is forced by a female ghost, played by Singaporean singer-actress Ferlyn G, to join a Mr Perfect competition to fulfil her own pageant dreams.

The Mandarin romance comedy opens on Thursday (Feb 14).

During a press conference at Mandarin Oriental Singapore hotel on Tuesday (Feb 12), Hartono said: “When you are dancing, it is really a different type of tiredness. The tiredness I am used to comes from acting, being in the recording studio or studying all day.

“But when it comes to dancing, I have to remember all the moves. After the rehearsals, I literally felt like a zombie.”

As a zombie, he also had to put on a lot of make-up. And for one scene as a statue, he had to be covered all over in bronze paint.

“That was the worst,” he said. “I couldn’t sit, lie down, or lean on anything all day. I could only stand and walk around.”

Perhaps of greater note for fans is the fact he was shirtless in that scene.

Hartono worked out to look good on screen and added: “I also wanted to have the energy (for the shoots), because I know filming can be exhausting.”

There was one unexpected benefit to playing a zombie.

He hardly had any lines and did not have to stress over memorising dialogue. “I was just making noises here and there,” he said happily.

For Ferlyn G, whose character has a passionate, driven streak, one challenge was finding a sense of balance.

She said: “I had to be a bit like an ‘ah lian’, but not too much. At times, I also had to be loud, but not to the point that people would find annoying.”

To get it right, she hung out with “slightly ah lian” friends to understand their mannerisms and way of speaking.

The film’s home-grown director Han Yew Kwang had previously helmed the romantic comedy 18 Grams Of Love (2007) and sex comedy Rubbers (2014).

The 43-year-old said: “This movie is not too different from my previous work. Its main themes are still love, kinship and friendship. It just uses a new concept.”

Ghosts and zombies, he said, are total opposites. “One has no body, the other has no soul – yet even these two can fall in love. I hope people will watch this movie – whether you are single or in a relationship. I am sure they will be inspired.”

When Ghost Meets Zombie opens on Feb 14.

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