The ‘gatecrasher’ is now a director

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

SEOUL — When he walked into the ballroom of Conrad Hotel, most of the Asian journalists (especially this one) invited to the G.I. Joe: Retaliation junket probably thought that he was a Chinese businessman who lost his way to a business meeting. That’s because you could mistake Jon Chu for anything but a movie director, especially if you have forgotten (or didn’t bother to check) that he directed the Justin Bieber starrer Never Say Never. Most moviegoers are so focused on the stars that they overlook the director(s), don’t they?

Was he perhaps an accidental “gatecrasher?”

Seated during the round-table interview beside Dwayne Johnson (ex-The Rock), star of the sequel to the 2009 G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (which grossed more than $300M worldwide), Jon laughingly admitted that, yes, he was once a “gatecrasher” and he loved it!

“Did you know that I sneaked into the premiere of Scorpion King, one of Dwayne’s movies, at Citywalk?” To which Dwayne responded, “Did you?”, adding with a laugh, “I didn’t notice you.” 

Asked if it was scary directing a giant like The Rock (oops! sorry, Dwayne, who has dropped that monicker a few years ago when he crossed over from wrestling to acting), Jon confessed, “Yes, scary before I met him. People may find him scary and intimidating because he’s the one and only action star of the world and G.I. Joe is my first action movie, so I didn’t know how to handle him. So we talked about the character first.

“It wasn’t really about physicality; he knew that he was gonna get there. He’s an athlete and he treats acting as an athlete would. He trains, he focuses on the character, he’s on the set early and he’s the last to leave. It’s amazing to see someone of that status who is hardworking.”

Dwayne plays Roadblock, the second in command to Duke (played by Channing Tatum) who is the head of the elite G.I. Joe unit, described as “the spine and backbone of the group.” Roadblock is, according to the production notes, “a mountain of a man who helps lead the team with experience, honor and unbreakable dedication to his unit and country.” Based on Hasbro’s G.I. Joe (comics) characters, the movie is done in 3D which makes it even more so exciting that when the actors aim their guns at the audience, you can’t help but dodge lest you’ll be hit bull’s-eye. Also in the cast are Bruce Willis, Jonathan Pryce, D.J. Corona and Adrianne Palicki (more on them soon) and top Korean actor Byung-hun Lee (watch for him in next Sunday’s Conversations with Ricky Lo).   

“I can think of only one actor in the whole world who’s perfect for the role,” gushed Jon, “and he’s none other than Dwayne. He understands what it is to be a soldier and a leader. He brought a touch of humanity to the role. Dwayne is essentially a G.I. Joe and that’s something you can’t act or script out. I guess it’s in his DNA. Dwayne comes to mind when you think of someone who is almost a living action figure.”

More about Jon:

Born Jonathan Murray Chu on Nov. 2, 1979, Jon is one of five artistic children.

His father, Lawrence Chu, is a well-known chef who owns Chef Chu’s, a popular restaurant in Los Altos, California. Jon began making his own Super 8 films about family vacations before he shifted to shooting short subjects with his brothers and sisters. While in high school, he videotaped weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, memory videos for school and video yearbooks.

“I knew I was going to be a filmmaker,” said Jon who, while a sophomore at the University of Southern California, made an innovative film titled Silent Beats that unfolds its story to a tap-dance rhythm soundtrack. Dance is, in fact, a recurring feature in his later films, including Step Up 2: The Streets, The Biggest Online Dance Battle in History and The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, another (current) online hit. “People often ask me why, and I tell them, ‘Honestly, I don’t know. It seems so obvious, though. But there’s something about the dancers that motivate me the most. I don’t know if it’s just dance, but I do think that the dancers are amazing artists, and every time I meet a new dancer, that triggers something in my brain, and I’m more creative than I could ever be. When I feel that creativity burst, I go with it.” (That’s how Jon explained his fascination with dancers in an interview posted in the Internet.)

Jon confessed that he’s a big fan of G.I. Joe.

“I grew up with G.I. Joe and was familiar with it back before the cartoon and comic books, and I felt that we could tie in the brand to various generations. My version would be what any fan boy would want to see. For the movie, we span many different places around the world, from Tokyo to Pakistan to The Himalayas. The 3D brings the audience into those environments and makes them feel as if they’re really there.”

If he were an actor, which character in G.I. Joe would he want to be?

Gently tapping Dwayne on the shoulder, Jon broke into a wide smile.

“This guy right here! He has the build, he has the talent, he has everything. What else would you ask for? That’s the great thing about being a director. You get to work with people you look up to. I grew up watching wrestling.”

Cliché but true: Directing G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a dream come true for Jon Chu…in more ways than one.

(Released locally by United International Pictures [UIP] through Solar Entertainment Corporation, G .I. Joe: Retaliation is showing nationwide starting on Black Saturday, March 30.)

* * *

A mellowed and more mature Jet Alcantara is evident in these photos, one of which shows him in Kristo: Koronang Tinik, shot for a cancer-awareness campaign

Jet on right track back to mainstream

Thanks to his praiseworthy performance as Valentin (opposite BB Gandanghari as Molina) in the recently-staged Halik ng Tarantula (vernacular version of Kiss of the Spiderwoman) at the Teatrino, Jet Alcantara (real name: Amergit Singh Rai) is on the right track back to the mainstream where he used to be active after his discovery on the fashion ramp and winning in a male “beauty” contest.

Last Saturday night, Jet (who turned 31 last March 13) was in the cast of the GMA drama anthology Magpakailanman which featured the heart-wrenching story of a gay writer harassed by the parents of a child that he adopted. Jet played the child’s real father.

Friends said that Jet has mended his ways and keeping their fingers crossed that he wouldn’t look back (in anger?) and just focused on the road ahead.

“That’s exactly what I’m doing,” said Jet who has been doing mostly indies (Bath House, Night Job and Pikit Mata, Kagat Labi in 2005; Ataul for Rent in 2007; Tiltil, Sisa and Banal in 2008; Pasang Krus in 2009; Tarima in 2010; Tubero and So Much Pain, So in Love in 2011; and Gugma sa Panahon sang Bakunawa in 2012). 

In Tell Me, his latest film (premiere tonight at the RCBC Plaza, Makati City), Jet plays a Real Human Trafficker in the story about modern-day white slavery. Directed by Roland M. Sanchez, the docu-drama also stars Julio Diaz, Jao Mapa, Asia Culapa and Aileem Ching.

In the planned repeat staging of Halik ng Tarantula, Jet might reprise his role as Valentin. Aside from daring and baring onstage, Jet also did torrid kissing scenes with BB which was widely-applauded on the play’s last performance on March 9 at Tearino.

“I will be even bolder in the repeat,” threatened Jet whose derring-do rendered child’s play (read: very tame) the performance of less daring newcomer Jovic Monsod (also as Valentin).

(E-mail reactions at [email protected]. You may also send your questions to [email protected]. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)



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