Is one of the most prolific Asian actors in Hollywood a Singaporean?

Is one of the most prolific Asian actors in Hollywood a Singaporean?

Local actor Chin Han, who holds his own against Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in Skyscraper, talks to CNA Lifestyle about being Singapore’s only Hollywood blockbuster star.

Chin Han stars alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in Skyscraper
Chin Han stars alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the action-packed Skyscraper. (Photo: Skyscraper/UIP)

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s upcoming Skyscraper is billed to be the box-office hit of this blockbuster season. It even secured a Jul 20 opening in China, locking down the rare slot to screen during the lucrative summer window, which is usually reserved for only domestic Chinese film releases.

And it stars a Singaporean in a very meaty role.

In Skyscraper, homegrown actor Chin Han plays billionaire visionary Zhao, the owner of the titular skyscraper and in possession of an important asset that a terrorist (Roland Møller) desperately wants, while Johnson’s hero character gets caught up in the mix.

He is undisputedly Singapore’s only bona fide Hollywood blockbuster star.

Chin han skyscraper with Dwayne The Rock Johnson
A scene from Skyscraper in which Chin Han is on top of the world with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. (Photo: Skyscraper/UIP)

With a constant stream of supporting roles alongside A-list stars in massive films like The Dark Knight, 2012, Contagion, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Independence Day: Resurgence, Ghost in the Shell and now Skyscraper, it’s an obvious proclamation.

And an incredible accomplishment for the local boy who was part of Singapore’s first English-language soap opera back in 1994, the infamous Masters Of The Sea.

It’s a definitively glittering Tinseltown CV- one that is comparable to, if not more impressive than the respective Hollywood careers of other Asian stars like Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh.

Could Chin Han be the most prolific Asian blockbuster actor working in Hollywood today? It certainly is starting to look that way.

For the 48-year-old, whose full name is Ng Chin Han, that’s a label that works on two levels, he told CNA Lifestyle.

“On one level, as a working actor, that hasn’t changed. So when I go to set at six in the morning and get ready to rehearse scenes with a director like Christopher Nolan or Steven Soderbergh or (Skyscraper’s) Rawson Marshall Thurber, that process is the same,” he explained. “Working with actors like Dwayne Johnson and Christian Bale - that process is still the same.”

Yet, the Los Angeles-based actor recognises that there is also another level. 

“But now, talking about this body of work, yes, there is an acknowledgement of the need for accurate representation,” he said. “I think as Asians (working in the industry), that is the reality that we inhabit. So, I think that is the priority.”

Chin Han as Commander Jiang in Independence Day Resurgence
Chin Han as Commander Jiang in Independence Day: Resurgence. (Photo:  Independence Day: Resurgence)

More recently, Chin Han was one of the record 928 new members specially invited to join the ranks of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the governing board of the Oscars), in an effort to increase diversity.

“As an Asian actor, I’m so grateful for the time that we live in, with all the interest now in multi-cultural movies and diversity,” he said, adding that it was a huge honour. “I think more than ever, we are presented with opportunities to be part of these great movies. And I think, to be here - I’m grateful for the timing.”

That said, he is cognizant of that fact that there is still a long road ahead in terms of Hollwood's progress in general.

“It will happen in the time that it will happen in,” he said. “However, the most important thing now is that we take the initiative to create opportunities for people to participate, whether it’s by creating content or creating (roles for) directors, actors or even cinematographers.”

Chin Han with Morgan Freeman in The Dark Knight 2008
Chin Han with Morgan Freeman in 2008's The Dark Knight. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

For Chin Han, being in Hollywood all this time has made him realise it’s “an education and a process”. 

“I think in the multi-prong effort that will see us to the place we want to be - and it is a very big industry - you know decisions are made in a very complex way,” he said. “So I would think that as long as we keep moving, I will be part of this initiative.

“As long as we are moving forward, it’s better than not moving at all. So, I will continue the good fight, and hopefully we will see other (Asian actors) in blockbusters as well."

Skyscraper is in Singapore cinemas Jul 12

Source: CNA/gl