Singapore’s history as a filming location might not ever rival Tokyo or Hong Kong, but things are starting to look up: “Crazy Rich Asians,” the upcoming Hollywood adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s locally set novel, has already been touted as the biggest film to ever spotlight the metropolis.
The Warner Bros. release starring Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh joins other noteworthy international movies that have filmed in Singapore since its founding as a republic in 1965.
Possibly the biggest pre-millennium title was “Saint Jack” (1979), Peter Bogdanovich’s down-and-dirty adaptation of Paul Theroux’s novel, which was partly based on the author’s own experiences in Singapore. It was filmed illicitly and without the government’s knowledge, long before the city cleaned up its prostitution scene, with salacious bits shot around Bugis Street.
Singapore subsequently banned the film until 2006, and few Hollywood movies attempted to risk the country’s wrath in the following decades. The only noteworthy production was “Rogue Trader” (1999), with Ewan McGregor starring as real-life banker Nick Leeson, filmed predominantly at the iconic Raffles Hotel.
Things changed for the better in the mid-2010s, with two of the biggest Singapore-set Western productions came to town: 2014’s “Hitman: Agent 47” and 2015’s Kristen Stewart-Nicholas Hoult sci-fi film “Equals.”
Both had surprisingly similar production histories, though locations varied. Each saw their finances eased through grants from the Singapore Media Development Authority, created hundreds of jobs for local crews and were filmed on-site around Singapore and in-part at the then-newly built Infinite Studios, a 2,500-plus square-meter facility in the city.
Bollywood has long filmed in the country. Singapore’s large South Asian population automatically creates an audience for the movies, while its many contemporary skyscrapers offer a landscape rarely found in hubs Mumbai and Delhi. Recent Bollywood productions filmed in Singapore include “Krrish,” “Dear Zindagi,” “De Dana Dan,” “Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya” and “Pyaar Impossible!” Boasting Bollywood names Priyanka Chopra and Aishwarya Rai, the films were shot in such city landmarks as Sentosa, Esplanade and East Coast Park.