Lav Diaz had been wanting to cast John Lloyd Cruz in Servando Magdamag for the past six or eight years.
This is what Ricky Lee revealed to PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) in an exclusive interview last night, February 10.
The renowned scriptwriter was one of the the three recipients of the Camera Obscura Award, the highest recognition of the 4th Film Ambassadors' Night of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP).
According to FDCP, Ricky Lee was given the Camera Obscura Award "for his exemplary accomplishments of Philippine cinema as a screenwriter and dedicated mentor to the next generation of scriptwriters." He has been conducting scriptwriting workshops for free since 1982.
The awarding ceremony was held last night February 9, 2020 at the Maybank Performing Arts Theater, BGC, Taguig City.
The two other awardees were film historian Nick Deocampo and director Cathy Garcia-Molina.
Ricky wrote the Palanca Award-winning short story Servando Magdamag, which is now being turned into a movie with the same title by Lav Diaz.
"Ang usapan namin ni Lav, based on the first draft that I wrote, in-absorb niya lahat then he did his own version. In fact, sabi ko sa kanya, own it. I'm sure he owned it."
John Lloyd plays the lead character of the film, which revolves around a family of hacienderos dealing with the death of their patriarch.
"Yung kuwento ko, punto de vista ni John Lloyd na apo ng isang haciendero. Pero siya [Lav Diaz], pinuntahan na niya ang agrarian unrest ng farmers. Kabisado niya yun."
Ricky then commended Direk Lav for wrapping up principal photography quickly for Servando Magdamag.
"Early January tapos na sila sa shooting. Nagkulong sila sa Bulacan. Nage-edit na siya sa New York ang alam ko."
Why is John Lloyd suited to play the lead character in this film?
"Years ago, sinasabi na ni Lav na bagay ito kay John Lloyd. Mga six or eight years ago.
"Matagal na itong project na ito. Hindi ko magawa-gawa and things happen.
"Pero nagpunta na ng Bacolod si Lav at nag-ocular. Nakahanap ng lugar.
"Bagay si John Lloyd dahil sa itsura...haciendero. Then age niya at mahusay si John Lloyd. Kaya niyang maging big star and yet being a big star does not stand in the way of his being a character and doing good acting. Hindi nakaharang ang image na big star."
In the past, Ricky has worked with John Lloyd in several projects. "Nakatrabaho ko siya from It Might Be You  to Maging Sino Ka Man ...and so on."
When PEP.ph asked Ricky to describe the changes that he has seen in John Lloyd since he went on hiatus and became a father, he pointed out: "I think matagal na siyang gustong makalabas sa kahon na pinaglagyan natin sa kanya..."
"[People are] expecting na magiging ganitong klaseng character siya...
"Which is not really bad. And he was doing really, really well.
"Pero siyempre minsan, bigla kang magugutom, e, at mapunta sa ibang direksiyon. Na mag-risk at gumawa ng mga bagay na maybe mahusay mong magagawa or maybe hindi mo masyasong mahusay na magagawa pero maga-allow sa iyo na mag-grow.
"I think matagal niyang nagutom dun. In a way, nakalayo siya dun sa dating [image]."
The renowned scriptwriter then gave his observation on John Lloyd who is making a movie comeback after going on an indefinite leave from showbiz in October 2017.
This project follows John Lloyd's cameo appearance in the Metro Manila Film Fest 2019 entry Culion.
"He's so cool and relaxed.
"I think he is doing what he wants to do right now both in his career and his life.
"Pero hindi naman ako authority na magsalita...pero sa nase-sense ko, I think he is in a good place."
(L-R) FDCP gave the Camera Obscura award to film historian Nick Deocampo, writer Ricky Lee, and director Cathy Garcia-Molina