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Columnists and bloggers are calling him Singapore’s Tiger Woods – not for his golfing skills but for an extramarital affair that has tarnished the image of the city-state’s most beloved film director.
On Thursday, in a news conference reminiscent of Wood’s confession on live television last month, director Jack Neo, admitted to cheating on his wife, culminating a week of revelations about a two-year relationship Neo had with a 22-year-old model.
Other aspiring actresses and models, including a 16-year-old, have told local tabloids this week that Neo aggressively tried seducing them, including promising to make them stars in his movies.
“It’s all my fault,” Neo, 50, said before covering his face with his hands and crying. “Please give us a chance.”
Neo’s wife of 27 years, Irene, was by his side. She said she forgave her husband and would stay with him. She broke down after speaking and collapsed while walking away. She had to be carried from the stage amid a blaze of photographer’s flash lights.
“I’ve already been hurt,” she said through tears. “I really need your blessings.”
Neo gained fame as a comedian on Singapore television in the 1990s and later directed popular Chinese and English-language movies – such as Money No Enough and I Not Stupid – that celebrated the importance of family among other topics.
His latest, Being Human, opened in Singapore last week.
The government has recognised Neo with public service and cultural awards and he shares a blog with Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo, who wrote on Sunday that Singaporeans should “rally around Jack, his wife and his children”.
Others have been quick to distance themselves from Neo. Mitsubishi Electric Asia on Wednesday dropped Neo as a spokesman for the company’s StarMex air conditioners.
“It amounts to Singapore’s very own version of the Tiger Woods sex scandal,” said Chia Han Keong, a columnist at newspaper My Paper. “Just like Woods, his act of unfaithfulness to his wife has elicited far more reprehension than perhaps he would have expected.”
Woods ended three months of silence last month and confirmed he had extramaritial affairs, at a televised public statement not attended by his wife, Elin. The golf superstar lost a number of advertising sponsors and says he is taking leave from the sport while working to save his marriage.
Neo’s saga began Saturday when Wendy Chong, a model who had small roles in two Neo movies, told a Chinese-language tabloid she has been his girlfriend for two years and confronted Neo’s wife last week.
“Aw come on, that girl is young enough to be your daughter,” wrote blogger Victor Koo. “Jack seems to be playing Tiger Woods.”
Newspapers have published allegations of more affairs and quoted actresses who say they spurned his advances.
Maelle Meurzec, 21, said that after a small role in Neo’s 2004 movie I Do I Do, he bombarded her with text messages and told her to meet him at hotels.
She turned him down.
“This guy is supposedly promoting family values but he can’t even hold himself back from sending text messages to a 16-year-old,” Meurzec told the New Paper.