Jane de Leon beat more than 300 aspirants for the coveted role of Darna. Photo at center shows Jane’s face superimposed on the body of Angel Locsin.
Erik happy for the new Darna
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - July 20, 2019 - 12:00am

During the search for the new Darna, director Erik Matti said that Nadine Lustre was the perfect replacement for Liza Soberano (still in the US recuperating from a surgery on an injured finger) because she personified the qualities (morena, etc.) of the iconic Filipino superwoman. He told Funfare that Jane de Leon is a good choice.

“I am happy that they’ve finally found a new Darna,” according to Erik who quit as the original director of the multi-million-peso remake of the Mars Ravelo creation and was replaced by Jerrold Tarog. “She has a fresh face. With the popularity of the superhero character Darna, a debuting lead actress will make the franchise very contemporary and exciting.”

Last seen in the Kapamilya soap Halik as Jericho Rosales’ sister, Jane beat more than 300 aspirants (among them Kapuso Bianca Umali) for the coveted role played through decades by Rosa del Rosario (said to be the perfect Darna), Eva Montes, Liza Moreno, Vilma Santos, Nanette Medved, Marian Rivera and Angel Locsin (who was “made” by the role).

“Jane was the unanimous choice,” said Olivia Lamasan, Star Cinema’s managing director for film who made the announcement, adding that she and Kapamilya resident director Lauren Dyogi saw “something” in Jane who was among the 13 “probables” presented to them two years ago by Star Magic head Johnny “Mr. M.” Manahan. It was when Olive saw Jane again in Halik that she knew Jane was “it.”

Angel Locsin in the ‘official’ Darna costume as originally drawn by the late artist Nestor Redondo in the komiks.

Budget of the movie is, well, “huge,” meaning more than a hundred million.

Incidentally, in the big to-do about Darna seldom, if ever, mentioned is artist Nestor Redondo when history credits him as the Darna co-creator of Mars Ravelo (1916-1988) who, according to research, created the first images of Darna in 1939 before World War II as a predecessor to a character named Varga. It is said that Mars, then a young, pioneering illustrator from Tanza, Cavite, thought of creating a female counterpart for Superman because “he believed in the concept that America is ‘male’ and the Philippines, then a colony of the USA, is ‘female’.”

A 2017 Funfare story (courtesy of Redondo’s son Roy Redondo) recalled that Ravelo’s inspiration for Darna’s heroic qualities came from his childhood fascination with Superman, and called his super heroine Kamangha-Manghang Dilag (The Amazing Warrior Maiden), inspired by his own mother who raised him single-handedly.

“Did you know that Ravelo’s idea of a Filipino super heroine was rejected by some publications that claimed female super heroes would not sell?” Roy was quoted in that story. “That is, not until the end of the war when Ravelo realized that Filipinos needed a superhero. It was Bulaklak magazine that agreed to publish the super-heroine story called Varga starting on July 23, 1947, with Varga’s mortal identity named Narda (an anagram of the eventual immortal komiks heroine Darna).”

Director Erik Matti and (right) Jessica Kam, senior vice president of HBO Asia Original Productions/HBO Asia.

Darna first flew across the big screen in 1951 played by Rosa del Rosario in a movie directed by Fernando Poe Sr. for his own Royal Films. Considered to be the best Darna, bar none, Rosa again played her the following year in Darna at Ang Babaing Lawin directed by Carlos Vander Tolosa also for Royal Films.

It was Nestor Redondo who drew the Darna komiks.

Added Roy, “The costume of Angel Locsin, one of the actresses who have played Darna, is described as official, the way my dad drew it…traditional red bikini with gold stars, red helmet with the gold winged medallion, gold medallion bracelets, golden medallion belt with white loincloth in the middle and gold-rimmed red boots.”

“When Darna appeared in the ’50s to early ’60s,” recalled Roy, “hindi pa ako tao noon; I was born in 1966. I remember that when I was four years old, our family had ARES Publication (on Recto Ave.), putting out Redondo Komiks and Palos Komiks. The characters Palos and Gagamba were portrayed by Bernard Bonnin.”

When Martial Law was declared in 1972, Redondo had to close his publication.

“My father was able to get projects from DC & Marvel in the ’70s, such as Rima The Jungle Girl, Swamp Thing and Savage Sword of Conan. The First Lady, Imelda Marcos, was a big supporter of the arts in the ’70s and that encouraged my dad to go into oil and watercolor painting.

“After the People Power in 1986, there were no jobs for my dad so he moved to Los Angeles where he worked for Calico company that produced Mr. Bogus. By the way, sometime in the ’70s, my dad exhibited his works at the San Diego Comic Convention. He died at age 67 in Granada Hills, California, on Dec. 30, 1995, and his remains were flown to Manila.”

That’s giving credit where credit is due.

Now that the new Darna is found, the attention will be focused on who will play the snake-haired Valentina (why not Vice Ganda?) and Darna’s sidekick Ding.

 Okay, Jane, will you please swallow the bato (magic stone) and scream “Darna!!!” at the top of your voice?

Going back to Erik Matti…he has been tapped with other Asian directors to direct one episode each for a new HBO series that revolves around food.

It was confirmed to The STAR by Jessica Kam, senior vice president of HBO Asia Original Productions/HBO Asia, during the recent junket for another HBO series (Invisible Stories) that will start streaming toward end of the year.

“Each director can pick what kind of food from his own country,” explained Jessica. “It’s not really about food but the story around it. All I can reveal now is that Erik’s story is about a Filipino who goes home from working abroad and the food that she misses most.”

According to Erik, the show-runner of the series for HBO is Eric Khoo, a filmmaker from Singapore whom he knew.

“He got me to join the eight directors from eight different countries,” explained Erik. “I represent the Philippines. I’m done with my island shoot. I have one more day to shoot in Manila. I’ve been working on this project since September last year.”

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

DARNA ERIK MATTI JANE DE LEON
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