"I hope I haven't played her yet."
That was what veteran actress Joan Chen said when asked for her favourite role.
With a decades-long career spanning across Asian, European and Hollywood screens, Chen was in town to receive a befitting honour - the Cinema Legend Award at the Singapore International Film Festival.
In an interview with AsiaOne, the multi-hyphenate actress, producer and director opened up about her journey of self-discovery on screen.
"We are always forced or, in a way, obliged to again and again give birth to yourself," she said, while discussing her transformation from acting to directing.
With films like The Home Song Stories and Red Rose White Rose under her belt, the 57-year-old has played a variety of roles over the years.
However, there was a point she felt that the roles she was receiving were not interesting and stimulating.
But a novel written by a close friend inspired her to try her hand at directing.
"I felt it was not career planning of any kind. It was just an urgency to tell a story."
After two previous feature films, Chen's latest directorial challenge is English, slated for release next year.
Set during the Cultural Revolution, it is about a boy who learns the language despite his deprived surroundings.
"I could relate to the film as it was around the time I learnt English," she shared about the period when China allowed and encouraged English to be taught again.
"It opened up windows. It opened up my imagination. It makes you dream."
The movie stars Wang Zhiwen, Yuan Quan and Huo Siyan.
While in Singapore, Chen also featured in a dialogue session at the National Museum of Singapore today (Dec 8).