Same but different Piolo Pascual in movie comeback

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Same but different Piolo Pascual in movie comeback
Piolo, star and co-producer of Netflix’s My Amanda: ‘I’ve always wanted to showcase Philippine movies to the international scene, to the international markets. We go to festivals to sell our films, we spend so much and we don’t get distributed. And yet, Netflix took a risk by getting our film My Amanda launched globally, because I feel that we have a voice and that voice needs to be heard globally as Philippine filmmakers.’

MANILA, Philippines — Piolo Pascual returns to the movies via Netflix’s My Amanda, a film about close friends who are each other’s constants through good and bad times.

The directorial debut of Alessandra De Rossi, who also plays the title role, it tells the story of TJ (Piolo), a commitment-phobe but who’s all-out in his friendship with the free spirit Amanda. Complete with pet names for each other, Fuffy and Fream, they have a bond that raises hopes they can be more than friends, even better than most lovers. If friendship makes a good foundation for a relationship, then theirs is a sure bet for a lifetime together.

My Amanda presents the same yet different Piolo. It required the 44-year-old actor to just be himself, at the same time, break out of the “box” he’s been put in by his solid record of playing “ultimate” leading man — he’s not “Papa P” of fans for nothing! — on screen.

“Dirty Papa P,” Alessandra jokingly described how Piolo is in My Amanda during a virtual presscon last Wednesday. In a separate interview with The STAR, Alessandra said it was really her intention from the onset to make Piolo do “something out of the box.”

“Kasi na-box rin naman talaga siya pero sa ibang klaseng roles. Magaganda naman films niya, pinanood ko lahat, gwapo (ka) lagi dun. Na-box siya na parang leading man type na dito kahit papaano nagmumura-mura (laughs), maiba-iba naman, naka-sando lang, long hair, actually mas gusto ko siya na long hair eh,” she said.

“Gusto ko rin ng ibang Piolo makita siya. Kasi kahit papaano, naging paulit-ulit yung lahat ng roles for me. Sorry, I don’t know if you (addressing Piolo) feel the same way, pero yun din yung nakita ko sa kanya na teka nga, basagin nga natin ito for once and see (what happens).” (Note: More about Alessandra’s transition to directing in another feature.)

Besides starring in it, Piolo co-produced My Amanda under his movie outfit Spring Films. It wasn’t hard for him to say yes to the project. When Alessandra first pitched it, he recalled her saying, “I have a gift for you and I hope you like it.” The actress was grateful to him and Spring Films for “turning my life around” after casting her as the female lead in the rom-com Kita Kita, one of the highest-grossing Filipino indie films of all time.

“I didn’t think twice because I knew it was a good film, and it’s a good story to tell. It’s always risky to produce, but once you believe in a project, once you believe in the idea, you go all in, you dive headfirst,” explained Piolo.

The STAR also learned that My Amanda was inspired by Piolo himself. Or to be specific about it, his long-time friendship with filmmaker and fellow Spring Films founder Joyce Bernal was an important point of reference for Alessandra in developing the film’s central characters.

The movie took three years to finish, and was already shot and edited before Netflix came in. The streaming giant flew Piolo and Alessandra to Los Angeles for a press tour, ahead of the film’s global premiere on July 15.

“We’re so privileged to do something like this, this big, this grand. I’m thankful to Netflix that we’ve been given this chance. After so many years, we’re finally able to show the film and we’re simply happy because it’s so close to heart,” the actor said.

Piolo, who last starred in a film in 2019, Lav Diaz’s Ang Hupa, also praised Netflix for taking a chance on them. “I’ve always wanted to showcase Philippine movies to the international scene, to the international markets. We go to festivals to sell our films, we spend so much and we don’t get distributed. And yet, Netflix took a risk by getting our film launched globally, because I feel that we have a voice and that voice needs to be heard globally as Philippine filmmakers. I’m just happy that they gave us this chance to do it and I hope it will open doors for more Filipino filmmakers to do it from a global perspective.”

Here are more excerpts from the interview:

On Alessandra’s directing and acting in My Amanda:

“One thing I realized about the film upon watching it so many times, this is Alessandra at her most uncensored, this is the real Alessandra that people don’t know anything about. What you see in indie films that she’s done, she’s such a chameleon but in this film, she let go of that. She went overboard in terms of giving all that she could give and in return, we got so much.

“You’re gonna be entertained watching her for 90 minutes and just watching her stripped, not literally, but her personality and just opened up about life. It was such a delight to see her perform and be in her creative process. That’s why this is closest to home, not just because she wrote it and conceptualized it, but also because I think this is Alessandra in real life.

“(And) it was easy being directed by her because she knew her material. She knew her script. She knew what she wanted. She knew her shots. I didn’t have to think about Alessandra as an actress because I knew she could take it on. I knew she could handle it. I knew she could wing it no matter what.

“I just believed in the script, I just believed in the project and I just went along with her, and I just had fun. I didn’t have to think about anything because when she asked me, ‘I just need you to be yourself, just come as you are.’... I (didn’t) have to think about anything, how to act, how to be this character because we were just actually being ourselves.”

On his “effortless” portrayal in the film:

“Yes, it wasn’t hard for me, seriously. For me, this is one of the easiest roles I’ve ever done. I just had to grow my hair out and then I had a permanent injury here because I pierced my ears, six piercings for the role, and (the ear is) permanently damaged.

“(But) I learned a lot from my character, doing the film. I also know for a fact that it is possible to have girl best friends that you treat like one of the guys. And being around Alessandra, it was easy for me because that’s how we are in real life. It wasn’t hard for me to get into the character because we were just literally developing the chemistry. We didn’t realize that there was chemistry because she was doing a lot of things on the side. But once she started saying, ‘Roll!’ and we got into the character, we then realized there’s not much difference in real life.”

On the film’s messages on friendship and love:

“Not giving away too much, I think the gem of the film is the relationship between these two friends who went through a lot individually and together. And, you know, we would always want them to end up together, but of course we don’t want to give away the ending. But it was because of this relationship that something was born out of that. And that for us was, wow, that’s the kind of feeling you want to have after watching the film. And I hope that we’re able to address that and make it more universal because it really happens in real life.

“Siguro masyado lang tayo… we always want to romanticize relationships between a guy and girl. So with Alessandra’s creative mind, she was able to come up with bits and pieces from her relationships with her friends, and one point of reference was me and Joyce Bernal, like how she sees us as friends. So, this came about and we feel like there are actually people like us, you know.

“(But) pwede naman magkaroon ng malisya (between best friends) but it depends on a person and how far you wanna take it, and how far you wanna go with that kind of relationship. You wanna lose that relationship just because you love each other romantically or you just want to keep the friendship but you love each other just the same. It’s a matter of choice.”

On working with Netflix:

“There were certain requirements, of course, and especially being tapped to have a global launch, it was a big deal for us because we really wanted to show it in the Philippines, but to have a streaming platform such as Netflix, that has so much what do you call it? A presence globally. So, when they said they’re going to do a global launch, we were like, ‘Oh, gosh, how are we going to do this?’

“That’s why when they gave us a deadline, we made sure that we put in all our efforts, whatever we could do to make this a beautiful film. I don’t want to brag about it, but it was good for Alessandra to take her time and not to be bothered by the deadline because she really had so much time to discover more, edit it better and just come up with something so beautifully done in a way that will just make you sit down and watch it. That was a good discipline for us, thanks to Netflix for it. Because of that, we’re able to adjust and learn as well and grow as producers.”

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