Singaporean actress Beatrice Chien, who had appeared in movies such as Crazy Rich Asians and Ramen Teh, died on Tuesday (6 July). News of her passing was announced on her Facebook page, which included details of her funeral. The 81-year-old was reported to be in ill health before her death.
According to Straits Times, actress Catherine Sng, founder of The Glowers Drama Group, a seniors' theatre group that Chien was also a founding member of, said that Chien told her last year that "she had late-stage pancreatic cancer."
"She was very strong. She said since it's already late-stage, she just wanted to live out the time she had left, happily."
Chien did voice acting in radio dramas for Rediffusion and then-Radio and Television Singapore, now known as Mediacorp, in her younger years. In an interview, Chien shared that her adoptive mother took her along whenever she sang or acted in Chinese operas staged at various Chinese clans. Chien was offered a lead role in a drama series, portraying a female martial arts hero, after her first year of voice acting.
Chien, who was trained in nursing after her O levels, became a nurse for 40 years before returning to the stage again in her 60s. A regular on both Channel 5 and Channel 8 productions, Chien scored a recurring role as a rubbish collector in 2009 on the long-running drama series Your Hand In Mine, starring Chen Liping and the late Huang Wenyong.
Fluent in English, Mandarin and Cantonese, Chien also starred in a Singapore Airlines commercial where she was flown to various cities in Germany. In addition, she had starred in Eric Khoo's Ramen Teh, a Singapore-Japan production with a star-studded cast including Japanese actor Takumi Saitoh, Seiko Matsuda and local actors such as Mark Lee and Jeanette Aw. Chien also portrayed the nanny, of the lead character Nick Young (Henry Golding), in the Hollywood blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians.
Khoo recalled Chien's acting, letting on that Chien was the one who nailed the role he was looking for. "I saw about 10 people for the role of the grandmother in Ramen Teh, but she was the one who really nailed it," he shared. "I didn't even need to audition her. We had a 30-minute conversation, and she knew exactly what I was looking for."
Her kindness was evident in the many short films she took part in, requested mainly by film students and graduates from media schools such as Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and the now-defunct Tisch School of the Arts.
Students approached her and were quoted saying, "Auntie Beatrice, we are students and have no money," to which Chien told them to "pay me what you can, and if you really cannot afford to pay, I just ask for transport money".
Filmmaker Koh Chong Wu last worked with Chien in his short films such as Please Give Me A Chance. "A lot of my classmates worked with her when they were in school, and we remember her very fondly. We call her the nation's grandmother because she has played grandmother to so many people on screen, but off-screen, she was also like a grandmother to us," he said.
"She was very professional, but also loving and understanding."