Sat, 01 Mar 2003

Buzz: Cover story: More of her love

By Meor Shariman

JULIA Roberts did it. Both Renee Zellweger and Gwyneth Paltrow did it. Now, Malaysia's most bankable actress, Erra Fazira is going to do it! Yup! Erra is going to put on weight to play a 120kg fat lady in Cinta Kolestrol, one of the most controversial films of the year.
And, believe it or not, this award-winning actress has until March 15 to make fat trendy, just like what Roberts, Zellweger and Paltrow successfully did in American Sweethearts, Bridget Jones' Diary and Shallow Hall, respectively.
Fortunately, Erra doesn't need to be under the watchful eye of a dietician or face the fear of losing her perfect figure since her transformation will be done using make-up effects.
The make-up effects will be done by Fido Film, a premier special effects company in Scandinavia brought in by Metrowealth Movies Productions Sdn Bhd (MMP).
But is the RM200,000 allocated for the make-up effects worth it? Buzz recently met the people behind this ambitious project to get the answer. This is a project that is expected to bring local movie-making to a new level.
CINTA KOLESTROL: THE IDEA "The idea to make Cinta Kolestrol came to me in the late 90s," said Professor Madya Abdul Razak Mohaideen, the man behind this project.
He admitted that he was inspired after watching The Nutty Professor, in which Eddie Murphy was transformed into a fat professor.
"Unfortunately, no producer was willing to take the risk of spending money for the transformation,' he said.
But after the successful Mami Jarum and the early good buzz on Mistik, Razak pitched the idea to producer David Teoh who immediately showed interest.
"This is a different kind of love story and I wanted to try something new for the good of the local film industry." Razak said he was confident that movie-goers will be curious to see her transformation. "Fans have always seen her beautiful. A fat Erra Fazira is going to attract attention," he said.
Erra will not be featured as a fat lady throughout the movie since she will be transformed from an ugly duckling into a swan! Razak hoped that Cinta Kolestrol will open the eyes of other filmmakers to the importance of make-up and special effects.
He said that local movies have to move forward and not follow the norm to entice movie-goers to support Malaysian-made films.
THE PLOT Cinta Kolestrol is about an arranged marriage that goes awry. Two families make a pact to match-make their children when the right time arrives.
The two children are Fazira (Erra) and Yusry (Yusry KRU). About 20 years later, that time arrives. Yusry turns out to be a handsome young graduate who just returned from abroad while Erra has become an obese girl who lacks fashion sense.
When told of the pact, Yusry is depressed especially after he meets Erra. He refuses to marry her and falls for a prettier girl.
Erra tries to get closer to Yusry but is shunned. Devastated, Erra disappears until one day, she returns with a new look to seek revenge.
THE PRODUCERS THREE companies are joining forces to turn Cinta Kolestrol into reality but of course, the main player is MMP which is spearheaded by controversial producer David Teoh. The other two companies are KRU Motion Pictures and Erra Fazira Entertainment.
Teoh said he agreed to do Cinta Kolestrol because he wanted to make a Malaysian film of international quality. "I wanted to be different from other producers and I'm confident that Cinta Kolestrol will be successful," he said.
He also admitted he was not sure that Erra would agree to the project when he approached her. Teoh also admitted to bluffing the actress to ensure her involvement.
"I told her that we have contacts with special effects companies for her transformation," he said. And when Erra signed up for the project, Teoh and Razak went into panic mode.
"After she signed, I surfed the Internet to look for the best special effects and make-up companies as such companies do not exist here." The search got them Fido Films in Sweden. "We went there a few weeks ago and found what we were looking for," he said.
Teoh said Fido Films was responsible in doing make-up and special effects for several Hollywood films like Frankenstein and The Haunting, as well as replicating the monsters from Lords Of The Rings: The Two Towers, for its official launch in Scandinavia.
"My early fear was that the effects would not look real. I don't mind spending money on the best make-up effects," he said. His second fear was that the make-up would affect Erra's skin, or worse, scar her face.
"I don't want to be known as the producer who damaged Erra Fazira's face!" Teoh said he was banking on Cinta Kolestrol to make an impact on the international market. "Cinta Kolestrol will be shown at the Stockholm International Film Festival in November," he said, adding that the company's suspense thriller, Mistik, will also be shown there.
"If things work out, we''ll look for a distributor to distribute both films for the international market." THE MAKE-UP EFFECTS FIDO Films chief executive officer, Thomas Deutschman said he wanted to get involved in Cinta Kolestrol because of the commitment given by Teoh. "He briefed us about the script and the contract and we liked it," he said.
Deutschman said it was also an opportunity for the company to spread its wings to Asia, and admitted that working with an Asian is a challenge.
He said Erra's transformation will be done by his partner Kaj Steveman and make-up artist Eline Kumlander. "Both will be on the set to ensure a smooth transformation." Deutschman said he was quite impressed with Erra who did not complain during the process of making a live cast of her face. "Her face was covered with dental plaster ... some people just cannot stand that." He said the life cast would be brought back to Sweden to sculpt Erra's new look. "We will use latex foam to create the mask which will be glued on," he said, adding that up to 15 masks will be made for the duration of the shooting since each mask could only be used once.
He said a two-piece body suit weighing seven kilograms is being made.
"The experience of wearing the mask and the body suit will be excruciating," he said.
He added that Erra would need at least five hours of make-up time each day for the transformation with another two hours to remove it.
WHAT ERRA SAYS "It will be the most challenging role for me," said Erra, who jumped at the project because of the make-up effects, and attracted by the fact that she would be transformed into a fat lady.
"I know it's not going to be an easy process... it's scary, but I take it as a new challenge and experience," she said.
"My whole face was covered with plaster. I was in total darkness for 45 minutes," she said.
She had also tried out the body suit. "I tried it in an air-conditioned room and it was hot! I can't imagine wearing it on set for ours," she said, adding that she would need a few days to get used to the heavy body suit.
Face mask, hot body suits. All to be a fat lady. And thanks to all that sweating it out, Erra's going to end up losing weight! Strange how things turn around, isn't it?