Celso Ad. Castillo ‘packs up,’ 69

Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - November 27, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Lights! Camera! Action!

Unfortunately, multi-awarded director Celso Ad. Castillo won’t be calling the shots in January next year when he was supposed to start work on his latest movie because the lights went out on him and the cameras snapped shut for him at 2 o’clock yesterday morning when he “packed up” due to cardiac arrest at his home in Siniloan, Laguna. He turned 69 last September.

Called the “The Enfant Terrible of Philippine Cinema” because of his radically innovative style of filmmaking, Celso was finishing work on a book about Burlesk Queen, his landmark movie starring Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos, when he died, his wife Ophelia told The STAR.

“I was shocked,” said Vilma who played the title role in the movie that marked the turning point in her career. “He was too young to go.”

According to Ophelia, Celso suffered from asthma which must have caused the chest pains Saturday night that led to the cardiac arrest.

“He was a good husband and a good father,” said Ophelia. One of the couple’s children, Chris Ad. Castillo, used to be an actor. He’s based in L.A.

“Celso Kid was the first director who told me na aktres na talaga ako after we shot Burlesk Queen,” added Vilma who won Best Actress at the 1977 Metro Filmfest, but the same award, including those for Best Director and Best Film, were taken back after a controversial Awards Night. “That was the turning point of my career,” said Vilma.

After Burlesk Queen, Vilma worked again with Celso in Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak which took three years to finish, causing a big rift between them.

“I didn’t only star in the movie, I was also its producer,” recalled Vilma. “I remember Celso Kid as a genius, an intense director. We have forgotten our differences and we resumed our communication. I knew that he was sick. Only a few days ago, I was coordinating with him for his book. He was asking for pictures for the book’s cover. I will pray for the repose of his soul and for his family. I just hope that he was able to finish the book.”

Celso also directed Vilma in Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw,” the movie that launched Vilma’s long-running team-up with Christopher de Leon (they have starred in more than two dozen movies since then).

To the cinema born, Celso followed in the footsteps of his father, Dominador Ad. Castillo, who produced movies in the ’60s. Among Celso’s early works was Zebra, Ang Babaing Gubat which starred Ruby Regala, the mother of John Regala. His other classic movie was Nympha, starring Rizza, done in black-and-white and later remade with Maricar de Mesa in the title role.

He’s also best remembered for his iconic sex drama Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa which launched 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz to stardom in the early ‘70s, also remade with Ruffa Gutierrez, another world beauty queen, in the title role. Likewise, Celso directed the so-called Softdrink Beauties Sarsi Emmanuelle, Coca Nicolas and the late Pepsi Paloma in Virgin People and Snake Sisters.

“Celso was a patient director with his actors,” said Gloria. “But he was also passionate in demanding what he wanted from them. He always spoke to me in whispers which calmed me and made me listen more intensely. He was always behind the camera shots and was tireless until he got what he wanted.”

Added Gloria, “I’m super sad over his demise but also sad about the realization that I am aging. Fortunately, my kids are okay and I’m still looking forward to my work every day.”

Another legendary actor that Celso had directed was Fernando Poe Jr. in several films, including the classic action-drama Asedillo and also FPJ’s widow Susan Roces in Maligno and Patayin Mo Sa Sindak si Barbara, one of which won for her a FAMAS Best Actress award.

His last film was a horror drama that never got shown.

According to Ophelia, her husband’s body will not be brought to Manila anymore. The wake will be held in Siniloan, Laguna. Interment date will be announced later.

Celso is the third director to die this year, after Mario O’Hara in August and Marilou Diaz-Abaya barely a month later.

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