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Hollywood stars in my eyes

(A belated year-ender, sort of)

The late Joe Quirino was “seeing stars” all his life and so did (also the late) Ernie Evora Sioco who called her column Stars In Your Eyes.

As in previous years, I didn’t only see stars in 2012, I actually came face-to-face with them, mostly in Hollywood, and I would come home with stars in my eyes. I could say that I rubbed elbows (with some of them), phone-chatted (with a few of them) and exchanged views (with all of them) more last year than I ever did in the past ones.

In January, I interviewed Kate Beckinsale for Underworld Awakening in L.A. When she learned that I came from the Philippines, she broke into a wide smile and blurted out, “Kumusta ka?” Asked why she spoke Tagalog, she said, “I was in the Philippines a few years ago to shoot the movie Brokedown Palace (with Claire Danes) and I remember how warm the people were. I also remember the smell was quite strong — ang amoy ng itlog!”

Asked what she was referring to, Kate drew a circle in the air with her hand, “The egg with a chicken inside it.” Balut, balut kayo dyan! Did she taste it? “Oh, I did. Delicious!” And what other Tagalog words did she pick up? “Huwag yugyugin ang sasakyan,” Kate added, “and that was when people were crowding around the car we were in.”

During Hollywood junkets, the oft-repeated reminder to invited media guys is, “No photographs, please!” With the stars, that is. Imagine how surprised I was when Rihanna “violated” that “rule” during our interview at the flight deck of USS George Washington at the US Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan, for the movie Battleship (her first). I timidly asked her, “Okay to have a photo with you?” She said, “Yes, of course!” Shivering in the cold April spring breeze from the ocean, Rihanna took my celfone camera and clicked it herself. Bad shot! So she called her assistant and asked her to do the “clicking.” Good shot, at last!

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Whitney Houston had died only a few weeks earlier, so I asked Rihanna if, in case offered, she would play Houston in a bio flick. In all modesty, she said, “That’s a lot of pressure; that would be something incredible. It would be an honor. But, you know, I would really, really think about it, and prepare hard for it. Then, it would take a lot of training and preparation but I guess I would be up to it.”

Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna’s co-star, said sorry to Filipinos for a mistake not really his own making. When he guested on David Lettermen’s show, Lettermen mentioned an incident “in the Philippines” in which Kitsch had an unpleasant encounter with an immigration officer on his way to the shoot of Oliver Stone’s Savages (with John Travolta as co-star). It turned out that the incident did happen, not in the Philippines but in Indonesia, but Kitsch’s mistake was that he forgot to correct Lettermen. As a result, enraged Filipinos bashed him in the Internet. When Kitsch’s starrer John Carter flopped at the tills, they took it as karma. But during our interview, Kitsch did apologize for unwittingly putting the Philippines in a bad light.

In April, I was face-to-face with Zac Efron (who would visit the Philippines a few months later) at a suite of London Hotel in Beverly Hills. Penshoppe had just signed him up as endorser. A few days earlier, Zac dropped a condom when he dipped into his pocket during the red-carpet premiere of his movie Dr. Seuss The Lorax so I indirectly asked what his most embarrassing experience was. “I think I know what you’re talking about,” he blushed. “I’m always messing up here and there.” He explained in another interview (for another outlet) that he didn’t do a “pocket check” but had started to do so. The incident made Zac an accidental endorser of the safe-sex campaign.

Here are some quotable quotes from Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz from our interview for the movie What To Expect When You’re Expecting:

= J. Lo (mother of twins, by ex-husband Marc Anthony): “When I was about to give birth, it just suddenly hit me that I was going to be responsible for two other human beings. It hits you again when the kids start talking. You know, when you have kids you really have a great time every moment of the day. They just bring joy and happiness to your life. But it makes me feel guilty when I have to leave home to work when they ask, ‘Mommy, are you leaving again?’ And I say, ‘Yes, baby, Mommy has to work every day.’ Someday, they will understand.”

= Cameron (40 years old): “I’ve been in a room when my sister gave birth three times, so I kind of know what it’s like to be in a moment when everyone wants so much to have that child be part of the family…If I can’t have my own child, I can always adopt one.”

I became a member of Jean-Claude van Damme’s family after I did a one-on-one with him for The Expendables 2 at a function room of Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. When he learned that I was from the Philippines, Jean-Claude’s eyes lit up. “How is she?,” referring to the “singer-actress” who was briefly linked to him (yes, Jessica Rodriguez, now happily married to David Bunevacz and settled in California). I told him that she’s married. I wanted to take a picture of Jean-Claude with his family (wife Gladys Portugues and children Kristopher, Bianca and Nicolas), and he pulled me to join them and let his assistant take the shot. Click! All in the family!

More quotable quotes:

= Liam Neeson (during the interview in Seoul for Taken 2): “You’re asking how I enjoy life? No, I don’t enjoy life, I just love doing films…Do I cry over movies? Oh yes, I do. I’ve seen a lot of movies that made me cry. Some of them made me cry because they were so bad. I watched E.T. and it made me cry because it’s so good.” Deeply spiritual, Neeson said that he says The Lord’s Prayer every day and that he lived only for today because, according to him, “We can never be sure what tomorrow will bring.”

= Olivia Newton-John (a cancer survivor, during a phone interview three weeks before she came for a concert at the Big Dome): “Message to women in the same condition? Look, here I am; I’m still here 20 years after I was diagnosed. You, too, can get through it. Have a regular mammogram. But better still, do the checking yourself. That was how I found mine.”

Other memorable interviewees: Lee Min Ho (who was celebrating his birthday…June, in Seoul, during his pictorial for Bench), Benjamin Walker (in Sydney, for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer), David Cook (in Manila for his comeback concert), the teen sensation One Direction (in London, for Penshoppe), Daniel Dae Kim (in Singapore, for the revived TV series Hawaii Five-0), MiG Ayesa (in Manila when he topbilled the musical Rock of Ages, with his role played by Tom Cruise in the film version), Anna Maria Perez de Tagle (in Manila during her homecoming when she guested in the MOA Arena concert of the Jonas Brothers who are like her own brothers, she being managed by the boys’ father), Phantom of the Opera actor Jonathan Roxmouth) and a dozen others.

The year was capped by my fourth interview with the Twilight stars (for Breaking Dawn 2, in Hollywood), followed by those with director Ang Lee for Life of Pi with his star-discovery Suraj Sharma (in Taipei), and the cast of Les Miserables (Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and Amanda Seyfried) in Tokyo, along with director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and co-producer Cameron Mackintosh.

Here’s to more stars in your and my eyes in this Year of the Water Snake!

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

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