Making herself at home

By Phoebe Cheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-08 10:02
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Making herself at home
Josie Ho plays the killer in the slasher film Dream Home. Provided to
 China Daily

The edgy gore-fest Dream Home is the first production from Josie Ho's film company, 852 Films Limited, Phoebe Cheng reports

The images are stark, bloody and dreadful - mayhem, in the commission of a dark scheme. It is difficult to imagine that the woman at the center of these scenes is Josie Ho Chiu-yee, daughter of Stanley Ho Hung-sun, the Macao billionaire gambling tycoon who, with his family, was ranked by Forbes Magazine as the 488th wealthiest person in the world this year.

Josie Ho, emerged from obscurity at the age of 19, back in 1994, when she defied her father's wishes and declared her intention to become an entertainer.

Josie describes herself as "the little black sheep" of the Ho family.

When her latest movie, the low-budget, slasher film, Dream Home, played at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City this April, and at the Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy on April 23, three viewers fainted and needed assistance out of the cinemas.

Ho plays a crazed killer who devises a scheme to force down the value of her dream home by killing people.

Dream Home is the first film launched by Josie's film company, 852 Films Limited, with funding from her father. She founded the company with her husband Conroy Chan in 2007. Josie is not interested in producing blockbusters. She and her husband love low-budget, edgy Indie films.

"We are different with a different vision. We cannot compete with other large-scale film companies in Hong Kong," she says. "What we are trying to do is to show people that we are different. As long as you have the vision, and as long as you believe in the project, you shouldn't hold back because of certain audiences and certain markets."

To establish an edgy style, she has been picky in choosing the script for their inaugural film. Ho does not like scripts that are too commercial. But she was thrilled when she read the script for Dream Home.

"I loved it very much when I first heard about it," she says. "The story is crazy but it is also newsy and reveals what's happening in Hong Kong."

She was so much taken by the story, she decided to cast herself in the lead role.

Dream Home is about an ordinary worker Cheng Lai-sheung, whose dream is to buy her family a luxury flat with a harbor view, on prime real estate in Hong Kong's Victoria Bay. Trouble is she can't afford the prices. She hatches a plan to drive down prices by giving the address a bad name. She literally executes her plan, slaughtering 11 people, all on the same night.

For all its bloody violence, the story manages to capture daily life in Hong Kong. It manages to touch viewers, as it projects the dreams and visions of those for whom their heart's desire is always out of reach.

Ho is confident the film will get good box office returns. She set out with a determination to shock Hong Kong viewers, not only by way of the slasher film genre, but also through the dedicated production effort, as well as her own performance.

"Pang Ho-Cheung was demanding. We could not change any line of the script thus we had to remember every single line of the script," she says. "Also, if we did anything wrong in one shot, we had to do everything again."

Josie described having to dig deep into herself to discover the misery and psychosis for her role. Besides reading books she recalled her feelings when she just started her career as an entertainer.

Acting used to be stressful for Ho as she was only thinking about getting people's recognition. It was not until she realized the real beauty of acting, when she had the chance to participate in different plays, that she discovered the excitement and playfulness and different personalities.

"I had the chance to participate in different plays. The directors and actors of the plays asked me, 'You come here for what? You come here to play.' I learnt that only if I am playing with my role, only if I enjoy what I am doing, can I then act well. I focused too much on people's recognition before," she says.

Instead of people's recognition, it is now the "performing bug" and "adrenalin high", she said that have made her addicted to acting and performing.

"There is no other job which is as exciting as being an actor," Ho says. "You can live another life. It's just like a roller coaster. You have to get yourself into the role and let the role lead you through the ups and downs. It's so exciting. And you don't need to be responsible for that life. When the movie is over, it's over and you can live another life again."

Josie has participated in about 42 movies. For the 42 "lives" she has lived, she has adapted some personalities that she likes and which made her a better person, like the optimistic character of Chiu Long-long in the movie Naked Ambition. The role gained her the Best Supporting Actress award at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2004.

Everybody, including her family, thought she would not take her career seriously. She was once requested by her father to quit the entertainment business and go back to study. Yet she insisted.

"They can't move me," Ho says. "They want to see achievement or awards then they will think that I have succeeded. It's the traditional way of thinking."

Josie also treats acting as a therapy to her strict upbringing during childhood, which has made her a very serious and practical person.

"I was asked to sit straight and speak proper words in a serious tone. That's not my style," she says. She had a cool and serious manner that scared people away, "People thought that I was unfriendly."

No one in her family thought she would succeed until she was awarded the Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Bauhinia Awards and Hong Kong Film Awards in 2002 and in 2004 respectively.

Getting the Best Actress awards and giving them as a gift to her father was once her goal but not anymore. What she wants now is to have fun and be playful while she is acting.

"I dreamt of being famous or of getting the Best Actress award, but I'm not thinking in this way now," she says. "I am able to do what I want to do and I can do it well, I am already successful. It's also important for you to know your position. I'm sure I'm not a famous mainstream star. But I have my own kingdom and my own direction."