Hindi na si JM de Guzman ang gaganap sa sinasabing “role of a lifetime” na San Pedro Calungsod sa religious-historical-drama film na San Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir, official entry sa 39th Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).
Kinumpirma ito ng writer-director ng pelikula na si Francis Villacorta sa PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), sa ekslusibong panayam namin sa kanya sa isang restaurant sa Makati, kahapon, Martes, Hulyo 2.
Ilang oras bago ang interview ay sinamahan namin si Direk Francis sa contract signing niya with Hubo Productions, represented by Ida Tiongson, na siyang producer ng San Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir, sa opisina nito sa Legaspi Village, Makati City.
Ngunit ilang araw bago ito ay kasama rin kami ni Direk Francis nang tumawag sa kanya ang ama ni JM na si Roniel de Guzman, na nagtatrabaho sa Manila Bulletin.
Kahit nakapirma na si JM ng “commitment letter” na isinumite sa MMFF Executive Committee, bilang requirement, tinawagan ni Mr. de Guzman si Direk Francis sa cell phone.
Dito sinabi ni Mr. de Guzman na “iwi-withdraw” na niya ang partisipasyon ng anak na aktor sa pelikula dahil sa “health reasons.”
Ayaw raw ni Mr. de Guzman na mag-“risk” ang produksiyon sa shooting sakaling “magkaproblema” si JM habang ginagawa ang pelikula, sanhi ng “pinagdadaanan” nito ngayon.
WITHDRAWAL. Sabi ni Direk Francis, “For the longest time, everybody knows that we have stuck with JM to play the lead role of San Pedro Calungsod.
“But unfortunately, I was informed by his father that JM, his son, is suffering from some health concerns which he has to attend to.
“He informed me, he called me. Sabi niya, it will be for the best interest for everyone—the production and our lead actor—that JM withdraws his participation from the film.
“I respect that decision of Mr. de Guzman for the simple reason that he is also very much concerned about our production’s time table.
“Since we are included in the 39th Metro Manila Film Festival, there is a time table that we have to follow.
“He feels that while his son is attending to some health concerns, it might take time for JM to concentrate and focus on his work ahead.
“And this is a very demanding role emotionally, mentally, physically.
“So, I accepted their withdrawal from the project.”
Tumawag ang ama ni JM ilang araw pagkatapos i-announce sa media ang Magic 8 ng MMFF 2013 noong June 18.
Pagpapatuloy ng direktor, “He called me after the announcement of the Magic 8. Nalaman niya na anak niya ang bida [sa pelikula].
“It being the case, he feels that San Pedro Calungsod is an important film that needs focus, and he feels that the actor would need time.
“E, dahil yung concerns nga ni JM, it will be difficult for JM to work for the project.”
Nagparamdam ba ng panghihinayang ang ama ni JM?
Sagot ni Direk Francis, “Nanghihinayang siya, pero at the same time, he doesn’t want his son to be blamed for whatever delay in the production might occur, in the long run.
“I appreciate that. I appreciate his concern for both his son and our project.”
IDEAL ACTOR TO PLAY SAN PEDRO CALUNGSOD. More than two years nag-research si Direk Francis for the script. From the start ay matindi ang paniniwala niyang kayang-kaya at bagay na bagay kay JM ang role bilang San Pedro Calungsod.
Si Pedro Calungsod ay isang katekistang namatay sa ngalan ng Kristiyanismo noong 1600s sa Marianas (old Guam), at na-canonize bilang santo—kasama ang iba pang bagong mga santo sa buong mundo—sa Vatican noong October 2012.
Bilang “creator” ng material at writer-director, ano ang naramdaman ni Direk Francis nung tumawag ang ama ni JM upang iparating ang pag-withdraw nila sa proyekto?
“I felt the sadness inside me,” sagot niya.
“Because I have always felt that JM is really the ideal actor [to play] as Pedro Calungsod.”
Bakit niya nasabi ‘yon?
“It’s all in his eyes. It’s just there. I can see it.
“And I think, translated on the big screen, it will even more manifest to the audience…
“It will be clear to the audience why the director chose him.”
Hindi raw siya bumitiw kahit may mga naririnig o nababasa siyang negative issues sa batang aktor.
“Yeah, I did not let go of him, until the last minute.
“I believe in miracles, e. The fact that San Pedro Calungsod is included in the roster of the official entries of the 39th Metro Manila Film Festival, it’s a miracle in itself!
“So, why should I not believe in the miracle that can happen to JM? Puwede naman, di ba?
“But now that the situation is here, being professionals, we have to confront it. We have to face it.
“So, we are seriously considering a few people to do the part.”
Maliban sa nanghihinayang at nalulungkot siya sa pangyayaring ito, naniniwala si Direk Francis—tulad ng maraming naniniwala sa kakayahan ng mahusay na aktor—na “makakabalik” si JM sa sirkulasyon sa hinaharap.
Sabi niya, “JM will always bounce back.
“He can be ‘comeback kid’ in this town, ‘coz you know, he’s really a good actor.
“And good actors don’t fade away that easily.”
Ano ang reaksiyon ng Hubo Productions, na producer ng pelikula, sa pangyayaring ito sa kanilang lead actor?
Sabi ni Direk Francis, “It’s a wonderful thing that our producer has given me the blanket authority on this project.
“Ms. Ida Tiongson of Hubo Productions has entrusted the project to me completely.
“And that she knows that since I have nurtured the project for the last two years, that I know what I’m doing.
“Part of that wisdom, it has given me or accorded me the right to choose whoever actor I deemed to be the best to play as San Pedro Calungsod.”
MMFF EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE. Ipinaalam na rin daw ito ni Direk Francis sa MMFF Executive Committee at formal letter na lang ang ipapadala doon sa lalong madaling panahon.
Ano ang naging reaksiyon ng MMFF Execom sa pag-withdraw na ito ng ama ni JM?
“With regards to the MMFF, I have informed them na that the father of JM de Guzman is withdrawing his son’s participation formally, and MMFF is just waiting for my formal letter.
“They are waiting for my formal letter and so, I will be attending to that every soon.”
Wala bang penalty na dapat bayaran ang producer sa pagbago ng lead actor sa isang MMFF official entry, o pasok pa ngayon sa “grace period” bago ang pag-submit ng final casting sa komite?
Sabi ni Direk Francis, “Wala namang penalty na sinabi sa akin, I have not been informed about it.
“Ang importante lang kasi sa MMFF at sa MMDA [Metro Manila Development Authority], the actor [replacement] has to be of equal importance or standing in show business.
“So, we’re in search right now on the one who will actually do it on the big screen.”
Idinagdag pa ni Direk Francis na since independent producer ang produksyong nagtiwala sa proyekto, naniniwala siyang puwedeng maging “inspirasyon” ito para sa mga indie producers na lumahok sa taunang MMFF.
Naniniwala siyang ang isang mabigat na basehan ng pagpili ng committee ay ang ganda ng script, bukod pa sa commercial viability, at iba pang factors.
Pahayag ni Direk Francis, “Our inclusion here is proof that indie filmmaking can crossover to mainstream audience.
“And come December , if we are able to prove that with the audience’s participation, then I suppose indie films would have come of age.
“It’s in the material. They [indie producers] have to be enterprising in telling the stories that will matter and stories that will affect the population, the audience itself…
“Hindi yung we’re just doing this for whatever material gain, but you are really working on something that is really worthy.”
Bakit nagtagal ang announcement na finally ay tuloy na ang paggawa ng pelikula?
Paliwanag ni Direk Francis, “Because there were lots of ins and outs.
“People [investors/ producers] coming in, shaking hands but, you know, backing out in the process.
“I suppose, since we’re telling a story of faith, it takes some kind of faith in the material and in the subject for people to really commit to the finish line.
“And I’m so happy that Hubo Productions is doing that for us. They have that faith, which will take us to the finish line.”
UNAFFECTED BY INTRIGUES. Nilinaw rin ni Direk Francis ang ilang naglabasang “intriga” na wala naman daw producer ang proyekto noon pa.
Sabi niya, “We had a contract signing [with Hubo Productions] just today. This week, we paid the delivery bond of P500,000 to the MMDA.
“So, they just have to wait for the finished product, to watch it and enjoy it.”
Hindi siya naapektuhan ng mga intrigang ‘yon?
“Hindi naman, it’s been more than a year. If I gave up, then, wala tayo ngayon dito.
“So, it’s really persistence of vision. It’s really a devotion to what you are doing.
“And I always believed that one day, we will be able to tell the story of San Pedro Calungsod to the Filipino audience, and probably not only to the Filipino audience, but to the whole world, to inspire them.
“I don’t even refer San Pedro as the ‘second Filipino saint’—he is a Filipino saint for me.
“Kasi, you know, just like San Lorenzo Ruiz, San Pedro has sacrificed our life in the Name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
“So, everyone is of equal importance. The Bible says it that in the eyes of God, we’re all equal. We are all loved.”
Para kay Direk Francis, kung sino man ang gumanap na Pedro Calungsod sa kanyang pelikula, mas mahalaga sa kanya ang mensaheng nais niyang iparating sa mga manonood.
“There will be more about San Pedro Calungsod that people would know or discover in our film, including the way he probably thought, and the things that were related to the way of life then.
“We can see San Pedro’s youth here.
“Just like what Pope John Paul II mentioned that San Pedro Calungsod is an inspiration to the Filipino youth and to the youth in general.
“And since World Youth Day is approaching on the second weekend of July 2013 in Rio de Janeiro [Brazil], I suppose a story of a young martyr like San Pedro Calungsod will be an inspiration to the young people.”
Kasalukuyang nakikipag-usap ang production sa ilang managers para sa ilang aktor na kinukunsidera na ipalit kay JM.