He may not be instantly recognisable here in Malaysia, but in his home country Singapore, Sunny Pang is a well -known face in film and television. A versatile actor, Pang has worked quite regularly with indie filmmaker James Lee in both his independent productions and theatrical releases.
You might remember him as the long-haired Ah Long in The Collector, with Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann playing his mahjong-kaki wife. He was also in Petaling Street Warrior, again alongside Yeo.
Often playing tough guys in action-oriented roles, Pang is, however, not stereotyped at all. His acting career in Singapore has been varied, having been in films like Perth (his big break), The Maid (as a hearse driver!), One Last Dance, and TV shows such as Code of Law and Gone Case, an adaptation of the award-winning coming-of-age novel by Dave Chua.
There was also the exquisite-corpse movie Lucky 7 (2009) where Pang appeared in every one of the seven vignettes as the only constant thread. You can’t get more versatile than that!
In real life, he really is a tough guy, having worked as a bodyguard and a bouncer, and getting into real fights. But in person, he couldn’t be a nicer guy (and one who laughs a lot). A doting father who loves video games and comicbooks, Pang is trained in boxing, kickboxing, mixed martial arts and knife-fighting. With such skills, it’s no surprise that he’s landed himself a meaty role as a villain in the upcoming Mo Brothers’ Indonesian actioner Headshot (currently in production), which also stars The Raid‘s Uko Iwais.
I got Pang to answer five easy questions.
1. You’re more known for action and martial arts. But few people, especially in Malaysia, know that you play more varied roles than just action. Can you tell us how you started out in acting?
I started acting by chance back in 1992 after I finished my national service. At that time my brother was starting a talent agency with his friend and asked me to go for a try-out as a part-time actor. So, I did. It was for a Channel 8 Chinese TV drama. Then after more than a year, one day on set, while I was doing some stretching exercises, a Hong Kong stunt director came over and asked me if I knew martial arts. I said yes, and then he asked me if I would be interested to join his team to perform stunts, so without any second thoughts, I said yeah!
From 1993 to 1999, I was mostly acting part-time or doing stunts for the TV station. But I left the industry because I felt I was doing the same things or playing the same roles over and over. There was never a role or space where I could improve myself. I got bored, maybe because I didn’t know how to suck up to producers! So, I went into security work in the clubbing scene for a good four years-plus. But I came back to the industry at the end of 2003 and took part in the movie Perth as AB Lee and never looked back since.
Well, I took part in director Timo Tjahjanto’s Night Comes for Us in 2014, produced by Gareth Evans. We were almost starting production but somehow it was cancelled. I had been there for almost three months for the pre-production training and rehearsal. Everyone was upset including me.
So when Headshot came along, Timo called me and wanted me to be in it, so I agreed.
I play a character named Lee. He’s a calculative man with a twisted mind and unpredictable behaviour, and he is one of the most wanted gang leaders. Hahaha. If you want to know more, please wait for the film to come out, ya? Maybe you will hate me, hahaha!
3. What is it like working with Iko Uwais? What’s he like?
He’s a very humble man, a joker as well hahaha … Working with him is fun. We met last year when I was in Jakarta during pre-production for Night Comes for Us, and talked about martial arts and so on. After the production was cancelled, we kept in contact and so it’s just like working with an old friend, that’s all.
4. What new experiences have you had so far, working on an Indonesian production? Is it any different than Malaysia or Singapore?
I guess it’s almost the same everywhere, but one thing I learned is that the way you communicate, respect others, keep a cool head and maintain professionalism is most important in production. You get things moving faster because time is what we don’t have enough of. And pre-production is very important. Some productions where egos are flying everywhere, and there’s shouting, unsure direction and no communication, those are the productions I won’t go near because in the end it’s about teamwork. I guess this is just my opinion about what I’ve seen so far, the good and the bad about production that I have experienced.
5. Tell us about the Ronin Action Group. How did it start?
Ronin is my action stunt team, a collective of talented people that I have chosen and trust enough to work and train with. I have a few years’ stunt work experience, so I thought why not start a team? We also train and prepare actors and actresses for their action scenes.
I formed it back in 2013 because I asked myself, what am I to become after 10 years? I can’t be in front of the camera all the time. Maybe I can sit behind the camera and action-direct some new actors or actresses. So, this is a new beginning.
Currently I am also choosing and preparing some new actors and actresses to perform in action films, but we also hope that we can collaborate with other stunt teams from overseas and learn from others. Currently I have two mentors, Alip Sak from Hong Kong and Gareth Evans (The Raid), supporting me, so I hope to have a breakthrough in the near future.