Max Eigenmann hopes to explore more mainstream roles

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Max Eigenmann hopes to explore more mainstream roles
Max says she didn’t expect to win Best Actress for her role as a woman dealing with an unwanted pregnancy in Anna Isabelle Matutina’s film 12 Weeks at this year’s Cinemalaya.
Photos from Max Eigenmann’s Instagram and Cinemalaya’s official social media pages

MANILA, Philippines — What is it really like to be part of the Eigenmann acting dynasty?

For Cinemalaya 2022 Best Actress Max Eigenmann, the Eigenmann family is just “normal as normal it can be.”

“What’s funny is that, and I’m sure a lot of my cousins, my siblings, or if Dad was alive, he would say the same thing, that when we’re together, we never ever talk about work,” the actress, who is the daughter of the late actor Mark Gil (or Ralph Eigenmann) with actress Bing Pimentel, told The STAR.

According to Max, members of the showbiz clan  — from her grandparents Eddie Mesa and Rosemarie Gil, down to her cousins, brother Sid Lucero and half-siblings Gabby Eigenmann and Andi Eigenmann — are so close and supportive of each other that she never felt any pressure to live up to the family name and reputation in the industry.

“In my knowledge and what I have experienced being in the industry for so long, a lot of people don’t know how tight-knit we are. We are sooo tight-knit, all of us, my siblings, my cousins, my titos and titas, we are so close. And that is why I believe that there’s zero pressure,” she added.

Asked what she learned about the craft from her family, she said that from her dad, it was to “love my job because it will love you back.” Her entire Eigenmann family, on the other hand, taught her to keep her feet on the ground and “be 100-percent authentically me.”

Max dedicates her Cinemalaya win to her aunt and ‘best friend,’ the late movie icon Cherie Gil.

“It doesn’t matter if the rest of the world doesn’t accept you for who you are, being who I am and being part of this family that I’m so proud to be in, is wonderful,” she said. “I know that all of them are extremely proud of me… and I can only wish I can continually make them feel proud.”

It was also her family, especially her late aunt and “best friend” Cherie Gil (who passed away in New York on Aug. 5 after a private battle with cancer), whom she thought of when Max was named Best Actress at this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival. She won for her role as a 40-year-old woman dealing with an unwanted pregnancy in Anna Matutina’s 12 Weeks.

Her portrayal as a mother looking for the person who killed her family in her other Cinemalaya entry, TM Malones’ Kargo, was earlier seen as a potential acting win for Max. Both carry strong messages, she pointed out, about women having a choice (12 Weeks) and forgiveness (Kargo). The films are still showing via regional screenings.

“When I was walking towards the stage, the first thing that came into my mind was Tita Cherie because she had passed away not even a week prior. She was on my mind the whole time, and how I wish she was there to see everything. But I know she’s proud of me,” she said. The award also felt like it was her dad and Tita Cherie telling her to smile amid the grieving and loss.

The recognition was “totally unexpected” for Max even if pundits were saying otherwise.

“To be honest, I’m my worst critic. Every time someone or if people give me kudos for the work that I’ve done, I’m very thankful for that. But at the back of my mind, I always feel like I can always do better,” she shared.

“So when that (award) happened, it was really something I didn’t expect because there were so many other actresses as well who were competing and giving the same amount of passion and great love for this industry. No, I would never expect that. Just to be recognized for that is really amazing and until now, it’s overwhelming.”

Though a certified child of the industry, Max entered showbiz rather late compared to others. “Actually, I never wanted to be an actress until I was later in age. I started very late. I did modeling first when I was 16. I flew to Bangkok for a few months. I was a fly-in commercial model at the time, and when I got back, I had my first child. I was 18 at the time when I had my first kid,” she recalled.

“The opportunities of acting came in a lot of the times when I was younger. I will admit that I was very interested at the time, but I wasn’t fully into the whole showbiz thing yet. Because I am a child of the industry, it kind of intimidated me. I was like, maybe it’s hard for me.”

However, when she was 19, she was asked to audition for a soap opera. “My dad drove me to the audition and waited for me at a coffee shop in ABS-CBN downstairs. He didn’t even go with me upstairs. He just said you’ve got this, kaya mo ‘to. I went to my first audition ever. I went up by myself and got the part. The rest is history,” said Max.

Her first official TV project would be TV5’s Lipgloss (2007) while her first movie was Adolf Alix’s Romeo At Juliet (2009).

These days, she couldn’t imagine herself anywhere else. Prior to Cinemalaya, she was Best Supporting Actress for Ned’s Project at the CineFilipino Film Festival (2016) and Best Actress at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in Australia for her performance in Verdict (2019), a film against domestic abuse.

The actress has earned praises for her acting in both Cinemalaya entries, 12 Weeks and Kargo, still showing in regional theaters.

Asked about her acting style, Max said, “It’s a very different approach for each character. But if there’s one thing that I am willing to share about my process — it’s that I don’t over-read a script. I read my script once when I’m about to begin. I feel like over-rehearsing it in my head will take away a lot of the magic that can happen on set.”

What’s next for Max? “I’ve been doing independent cinema for so long. It’s been about, maybe, 10 years that I’ve been doing independent cinema. I did my first soap (GMA 7’s Stories from the Heart) last year in six years. And that experience was pretty amazing. It really made me enjoy doing something mainstream. Hopefully, I can do a lot more mainstream stuff from now on,” she said.

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