Dennis Trillo felt nervous about meeting actual vigilantes who take the law into their own hands.
As the lead star of The Janitor, Dennis plays a modern-day assassin who is tasked to execute the masterminds of a gruesome crime.
Directed by Michael “Mike” Tuviera and written by Aloy Adlawan, The Janitor will compete in the Directors Showcase category of the 10th Cinemalaya.
(Read: What to expect from Cinemalaya 2014)
As part of their preparation, Dennis and Direk Mike interviewed real-life vigilantes. At first, Direk Mike wanted to do the interview alone, but Dennis insisted on going with him. They met the vigilantes in an empty room in a dark place. They couldn’t use any cameras or the vigilantes would walk out.
During a blogger’s conference held at Luna Fresca Bistro last July 1, Dennis and Direk Mike talked about their experiences in making the film.
Direk Mike recalled, “Their [vigilantes’] greatest weapon is that they can disappear. Yun yung mga learnings na nakuha namin mula sa kanila…nakita ko si Dennis pinapanood lang niya sila the whole time. The meeting was like three hours. Pinapanood niya yung tindig ng tao, yung pananalita. There was a certain timing to their dialogue…if you guys watch closely, in the movie pinasok ni Dennis sa character niya.”
Dennis recounted his experience interviewing the vigilantes. “Nung umpisa po medyo kinakabahan kami ni Direk Mike kasi inisip namin baka delikado…pero nung nakaharap na namin sila…para silang mga normal na tao na hindi mo aakalain na ganoong trabaho ang ginagawa nila.
“Madali silang kausap. Edukado sila…doon po sa grupo nila hindi lang sila basta-basta pumapatay. Sinisiguro nila na talagang masama itong mga taong ito at salot sa lipunan...medyo surreal yung pakiramdam kasi ang mga kaharap mo marami nang napatay na mga tao….masaya lang kami na nakausap namin ang mga taong yon para makatulong ng husto dito sa pelikula na ginagawa namin...”
Direk Mike, who is known as the director of The Promise, once again directs a movie after a four year hiatus. He has been busy directing television shows such as TV5’s Kidlat and GMA-7’s Faithfully.
Inspired by the real events of the RCBC Cabuyao branch bank robbery in 2008, The Janitor is set in San Pedro, Laguna. The film follows Crisanto Espina (Dennis Trillo) as he carries out his orders to pursue the criminals involved in the robbery/massacre. In an effort to get back to the police force, ex-cop Crisanto Espina hunts down each suspect while dealing with his own personal demons. He begins to realize that he is being consumed by the whole circus of the investigation and begins to question the brand of justice he once revered.
The movie also stars Derek Ramsay, Raymond Bagatsing, Alex Medina, Jerald Napoles, Nicco Manalo, Sunshine Garcia, Ricky Davao, Irma Adlawan, LJ Reyes and Richard Gomez.
The Janitor and other Cinemalaya films will be screened from August 1 to 10 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Greenbelt 3, Trinoma, Alabang Town Center, and Fairview Terraces.
Direk Mike wanted to make the movie because he was frustrated with how the RCBC heist remains unsolved.
He said, “Natandaan ko yung sinabi ni Direk Mike De Leon na one of the ways artists try to make sense of the world around them is to create…sabi ko sa sarili ko one day I will make a film about it that will personally, at least for myself, make sense in my head…”
Dennis talked about his preparations for the role. “Physically nagprepare ako para dito. Pinagwork out ako ni Direk Mike kasi gusto niya na, pag napanood eto ng mga tao magugulat sila kasi yung huling ginawa ko My Husband’s Lover tapos dito makikita nila ang ibang character.”
According to Direk Mike, Dennis took three months to prepare for the role. He changed his diet and worked out at the gym every day for two to three hours. Dennis is shirtless a lot of times in the movie, and his buff physique shows his hard work.
Direk Mike is impressed by the way Dennis embodies his dark character. “Hindi siya normal na artista. Artist siya talaga. He doesn’t just act. He plays a person. Kaya rin naman of all the cast and crew he was the first one we approached.”
Dennis has shot fight scenes before, so he knows the basics of shooting firearms. Dennis is also a mixed martial art practitioner, so Direk Mike could really push the envelope when it came to the fight scenes. The fight scenes he had with Derek Ramsay, Raymond Bagatsing, Alex Medina and Jerald Napoles were some of the most gruelling yet exciting parts of making the movie.
With regards to his fight scenes with his co-actors, Dennis related, “Kasi bawat isa sa kanila, kakaiba yung pagpatay ko sa kanila. So kay Derek at saka kay Raymond Bagatsing medyo physical talaga…kay Derek puro grappling. Kay Raymond naman medyo gruesome talaga…kay Alex naman saka kay Jerald iba din, barilan naman. Nakakatuwa dahil matagal ko na rin gustong gumawa ng action film...”
Dennis’ fight scene with Derek Ramsay was one of the hardest scenes he did for The Janitor. Dennis narrated, “Pinakamahirap siguro yung sa scene na pinakahuling pinatay ko yung lookout ng krimen [Derek’s character] kasi halo-halong emosyon. Ang dami niyang naiisip bago niya tuluyang mabaril ang taong ‘yon. ”
When asked if he has kissing scenes/love scenes with co-star LJ Reyes, Dennis replied, “Ano lang, kissing scene lang. Kaunti lang.”
Direk Mike disclosed how the dedication that Dennis and Raymond Bagatsing showed for their craft. “Yung sa fight scene ni Dennis and Raymond Bagatsing, they learned that choreography three weeks before production. Unbeknownst to me si Dennis at Raymond nagmeet pa many times after that to practice. On the day of the shoot itself it was very measured. The whole fight happens in an elevator…it wasn’t pleasant for the actors physically pagod na pagod sila we were doing it at 3 a.m. sa umaga…I was very lucky kasi physical yung mga artista ko.”
FROM GAY BF TO VIGILANTE. Dennis is thankful for the opportunity to play a different role, one that is wildly different from his previous role as a homosexual in My Husband’s Lover.
He elaborated, “Ako kasi yung artista na gusto ko iba yung nakikita sa akin…nageeffort ako sa sarili ko na kahit papaano mabago ko yung itsura ko, yung pananalita, yung kilos at nuances. Ginagawa ko yung conscious effort para naman yung mga tao hindi nagsasawang makita ako… I think necessity ‘yon para sa mga artista…kasi itong pagiging artista madali na nga lang tapos pabanjing-banjing ka pa sa trabaho mo. Yun lang kaya ko ginagawa yon.”
Dennis has acted in a number of Cinemalaya films including Astig (2009) and Ang Katiwala (2012). When asked why he often joins Cinemalaya, Dennis answered, “Dahil sa mga indie na pelikula doon ka makakakita ng mga projects na talagang matatapang ang tema. And nung nakwento sa akin ni Direk na gusto niyang gawin ‘to, hindi na ako nagdalawang isip...”
When asked if he finds satisfaction in doing indie films as compared to mainstream films, Dennis replied, “Siguro yung satisfaction para sa sarili mo matutuwa ka kasi makakalayo ka na sa mga kwento na paulit-ulit…pag indie hindi ka masyadong limitado sa mga pwede mong gawin. Kaya kahit papaano nakakapageksperimento ka ng kaunti...”
Dennis feels honored to have worked with actors he idolizes including Richard Gomez, Ricky Davao, Derek Ramsay, and Alex Medina.
For his next project, he will team up with Kris Bernal in the upcoming GMA-7 teleserye Hiram na Alaala. The show was initially titled Stolen Memories, but the title was changed. Dennis will also have a show in London with Tom Rodriguez, the other half of the “TomDen” love team from My Husband’s Lover.
Direk Mike expects that while watching the movie, audiences will question themselves as well. Direk Mike explained, “Yung morality question it’s not just for the characters it’s for the audience as well… where do you stand? Do you have a line that you have to cross? For example, if someone wronged you and I could send someone to fix your problem, papayag ka ba o hindi? That’s the moral question…if everything is a grey area, saan ka sa grey area na ‘yon?”