At his best when at his worst
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo () - December 20, 2003 - 12:00am
He’s very good when he’s very bad. The movie fans know it. When playing a kontrabida, Albert Martinez is at his best when he’s at his worst. Movie producers/directors know it, that’s why they cast him in all types of villains, like in Bong Revilla’s 2003 Metro Filmfest starrer, Premiere Productions’ Captain Barbell, where Albert plays Lagablab, one of Captain Barbell’s arch enemies (the two others are Freezy played by Rufa Mae Quinto and Taong-Daga, by Jeffrey Quizon), the one who spits fire.

"I almost died doing that role," Albert told Funfare. "I swallowed kerosene and it almost burned my liver and my lungs."

That’s how far Albert would go to be as realistically mean as he could – risk his life, that is.

"I prepare thoroughly for my roles," added the country’s best-looking – and, if I may add, most baby-faced – villain, "whether the role is a bida (as in Rizal sa Dapitan for which he won as Best Actor at the 1999 Cairo International Film Festival) or a kontrabida.

"People remember me now more for my villain roles than for my good-boy roles."

Let’s make a roll call of Albert’s villain characters and how he prepared for them:

Hindi Mo Ako Kayang Tapakan (1984, his first villain role, before he left for the States), as a rich couple’s son who maltreats the family maid (played by Charo Santos) after she squeals to his parents that he raped her. "My character is shown from age six to 60, so the preparation – and the internalization – was hard. The rape scene was hard to do. Direk Maryo (J. delos Reyes) orchestrated the scene very beautifully."

Pangako ng Kahapon (l994, directed by Joel Lamangan), as a greedy governor who married an equally greedy woman, played by Alice Dixson. "Having no background as a politician, I took a crash course with (the late) Rolando Tinio. I didn’t win any award but I got a grand-slam nomination."

Segurista (1995, by Tikoy Aguiluz), as a D.I. (Dance Instructor) who takes advantage of his clients (among them Michelle Aldana and Ruby Moreno, the female leads). "I took dance lessons for two months; I hung out with D.I.’s and observed how they treated women, kung gaano sila kagaling mambola ng mga matrona."

Mumbaki (1995, by Butch Perez), as an Ifugao who resists the "Westernization" of their culture. "He’s a kontrabida with a cause. I prepared really hard for the role; my hardest preparation ever. My body must look sturdy, somewhat stocky, like that of an Ifugao, so I worked out a lot even while I was shooting Segurista. I had to darken my skin. I had to look good because I was in G-strings. I took a lot of vitamin supplements to get that kind of body."

Buhay Mo Buhay Ko Rin (1996, with Bong Revilla and Mikee Cojuangco), as a drug lord. "It was easier for me because I used my experience in Pangako ng Kahapon in playing a smooth operator. My roles in the two movies were the same."

Talahib at Rosas (1996, with Cesar Montano), as a land-grabber. "It was a difficult role because it was very physical, with lots of action scenes. Lots of shooting and chasing scenes."

The Butch Belgica Story (1997), as Belgica’s gangmate. "My first true-to-life kontrabida character. Belgica and his gang were rich and powerful; nobody would dare touch them. I could have talked to the person (who became a town mayor) but I didn’t have the chance to. I based my characterization on what I saw in his TV interviews and the newspaper description of him."

Sidhi (l999, by Joel Lamangan), as a wife-beater with two wives (Nora Aunor and Glydel Mercado), the macho man of the ’50s. "It was in this movie where I did my first butt-baring, done long shot. Maraming requirements ang character. One, his emotions and mannerisms must be ’50s. Two, his ‘macho-ness’ must come out of the character. I patterned my acting after my father (former actor Bert Martinez) because he belonged to the last batch of ’50s macho men – you know, how he handled his children, his wife, his family."

Laman (2001, by Maryo J. delos Reyes), as a retired call boy maintained by a matron. "Did I hang out with call boys to prepare for the role? I didn’t have to; I simply watched a foreign movie, lent to me by direk Maryo, which was about call boys."

And now, Captain Barbell which almost cost him his life.

"I had a ‘double’ who was an expert in spitting fire. I had a pre-conceived idea of my character and I noticed during the rehearsal that my ‘double’ couldn’t get the kind of acting that I wanted. So I decided to do the scene myself. My ‘double’ warned me that I could burn my face if I wasn’t careful. So we did more rehearsals. During the ‘take,’ I did the fire-spitting four times perfectly, everybody was clapping. During the fifth ‘take,’ direk Mac (Alejandre) shouted ‘Cut!’ because there was something wrong with the lighting. While waiting for the set to be fixed, my throat muscles contracted and I accidentally swallowed the kerosene I was holding in my mouth. I didn’t know that the kerosene was toxic. Anyway, I was in the hospital for several days. Luckily, my liver and my lungs, which was filled with the kerosene, were not damaged. I’m asthmatic and it could have worsened my condition."

Asked what his dream kontrabida role is, Albert said, "As an assassin. I love characters which are cunning, roles that require ‘eyes acting.’ I want to find out what goes on in the mind of an assassin before he pulls the trigger."

And his three favorite movie villains?

"One, Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter only in Silence of the Lambs but not in the two sequels (Hannibal and Red Dragon). Two, Ed Harris’ distraught G.I. in Heaven and Earth. Three, Gary Oldman’s crooked cop in The Professionals."

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar.net.ph)

ALBERT MARTINEZ ALICE DIXSON ANTHONY HOPKINS BELGICA BERT MARTINEZ BEST ACTOR BONG REVILLA BONG REVILLA AND MIKEE COJUANGCO CAPTAIN BARBELL JOEL LAMANGAN
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