With his chiselled good looks and brooding demeanour, Taiwanese multi-hypenate Dylan Kuo has often been compared to Cantopop superstar Aaron Kwok, a fact the 35-year-old acknowledges by cheekily mimicking some of the latter’s signature stylised posturing during Men’s Folio’s photo shoot in Taipei.
However, it was only after some warming up that the popular actor/model/singer felt at ease showing off this spark of irreverence. In spite of his arresting physicality – lanky frame, well-toned physique and prominent bone structure – Kuo remains preternaturally reticent, a fact attributable to his troubled childhood growing up in a single-parent household (his parents divorced, and his mother passed away when he was in middle school). Nevertheless, Kuo’s star presence was undeniable as he strutted into the photo studio. “I’m shy by nature. It takes time for me to warm up to strangers,” he explains.
Down-to-earth and easygoing, he remained accommodating throughout the seven outfit changes and three-hour photography-cum-interview session that ran into overtime (it lasted four-and-a-half hours in the end). Exchanging good-natured banter with the crew of photographers, stylists and grooming professionals, Kuo showed genuine interest in the items Men’s Folio picked out for him to don, particularly the Franck Muller watch and Gucci equestrian boots. Though by his own admission, Kuo is no fashion plate. “I do not blindly follow fashion trends. I love to mix and match items in my wardrobe.”
Kuo rose to fame in 2004, after starring in the triad drama The Outsiders and its sequel. He has since dabbled in roles on both the big and small screen, often playing – not surprisingly – suave, pretty boy or privileged characters. Of late, however, he has landed less conventional roles, beginning with 2011’s sleeper hit Bear It, where he played a loveable loser. It’s a direction he welcomes wholeheartedly in his quest to hone his acting skills.
Tell us about your new projects.
My latest project is a TV drama called Love, I do that is currently being screened in Taiwan. It was shot and released in China last year, and it received generally good feedback and TV ratings. I’ve also finished filming a movie called Westgate Tango, (named after Taipei’s epicentre of youth culture – Ximending). I usually play the role of a rich man’s son but in this movie, I played a man burdened with sorrow and despair.
Among all the roles you’ve performed, which was your favourite and why? Which one was closest to your own personality?
It’s the one in Bear It, where I play a very optimistic and cheerful guy. Before this show, few people imagined I could be this jovial. Everyone thought of me as a ‘cool’ guy. But I’m shy by nature and it takes time for me to warm up to strangers. My closest friends, however, think I have a great sense of humour.
Taiwanese TV series and films are very well received in Asia and further abroad. How do you think the local TV and film industry has evolved over the last five to 10 years?
Previously, our films were geared towards the art-house genre, but nowadays they are more entertaining with subject matters that revolve around daily life. So now we have a wider audience.
You’re a model, singer and actor. Which role lets you best express your creativity?
It would have to be acting. As an actor, I have more opportunities to try out different roles and more room to play around with those roles. Acting allows me to express my creativity in handling the character being assigned to me, and I can craft my own unique actions, movements or idiosyncrasies of that character.
Do you still get the same buzz out of acting as you did when you first started out?
When I first started acting, it seemed to be a very glamorous career because of all the attention and limelight that I received. But after several years of acting, I get more buzz from being given different roles to play in films or TV series, as this gives me the chance to express myself.
Is there any other profession you wish to attempt in future? For example, producing or directing TV serials or films?
Right now I’m still very focused on my acting career. I want to do my utmost in every role that is given to me. I want to act even when I’m in my 60s and 70s! I’ve had companies approach me to produce short films but I turned them down because I think my strength still lies in acting.
“Acting allows me to express my creativity in handling the character being assigned to me, and I can craft my own unique actions, movements or idiosyncrasies of that character.”
If you had the chance to pen a film script, what would the subject matter be?
It would be a story about my young self, and my journey growing up.
Describe your fashion sense.
I do not blindly follow fashion trends. I am true to myself. I love to mix and match items in my wardrobe. I could wear a pair of ripped jeans with a pair of pointed-toe leather shoes.
If you were going to be exiled to a desert island, what books/music/gadgets would you take with you?
My gym equipment, as I would like to look fit if I’m ever allowed to return!
Tell us something about yourself that few people know about.
I love to collect stuffed toys, and I name every one of them!
What do you look for in a girl?
Someone who is pleasant looking, someone with whom I have chemistry.
Describe the perfect date.
Watching a movie with someone I like and sharing the same beverage.
What was an important memory from your childhood that sustains you now, and that you would pass on to your children?
Family unity is very important to me, so I will definitely strive to maintain that when I get married.
What is your definition of a rewarding life?
A rewarding life is one where every moment is spent being happy.
Photography: Jiang Ming shi
Styling: Wei Lun