Dolly de Leon takes on the pressure, excitement of Oscars buzz, campaign

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Dolly de Leon takes on the pressure, excitement of Oscars buzz, campaign
Dolly de Leon talks about the Oscars buzz, a new Hollywood project and how life has happily changed after Triangle of Sadness.

MANILA, Philippines — “Woman of the hour” Dolly de Leon electrified the opening night of the 10th edition of the QCinema International Film Festival, gracing the Philippine debut of her international film, Ruben Östlund’s Cannes-winning Triangle of Sadness.

Apart from being QCinema’s opening film, the social class satire — which has been brought to the country by TBA Studios — will have a theatrical run nationwide, starting on Nov. 30.

Dolly’s homecoming came on the heels of a two-month producers’ campaign and series of media interviews abroad for the movie that’s giving her Oscar buzz as Best Supporting Actress contender.

In the film, the 53-year-old actress plays a toilet cleaner at a luxury liner who rises to a leadership position after a shipwreck upends social hierarchies. Her portrayal had New York Times hailing the Pinay as the power player of Triangle of Sadness and that the film hinges on her surprising character. Vanity Fair called her the “scene-stealer of the year’s most outrageous film” while Deadline said that Dolly “at this point has to be a front-runner to win” following her Cannes breakout.

When asked why she’s drawing so much media attention, Dolly humbly admitted that she’s clueless. “‘Di ko po alam. Siguro dahil meron silang parang gusto nila manalo underdog? Because the perception of us (is) underdog kasi galing tayo Pilipinas, ‘di tayo represented sa ibang bansa. Siguro yun ang hinahanap nila and nagbabago na yung mundo ngayon, ‘di ba? We’re now more about inclusivity,” she said during an interview on the sidelines of the recent opening night at Gateway Cineplex in Quezon City.

The Filipino film community is harboring high hopes that Dolly will make the cut and if that happens, she will be the first-ever Filipino to become an Oscars nominee. She’s hoping but at the same time, managing her expectations, saying a lot can happen from now until the official announcement of nominees early next year.

“Sana kasi para sa atin lahat ito. Pakiramdam ko dito hindi ako nag-iisa kasama ko ang buong bayan dito, kasama ko kayong lahat,” she said.

“Ang dami pang pwede pong mangyari because it’s still November, we still have two months to go. So, may mga bagong pumasok, ‘di natin alam. Pero sana talaga. It feels medyo weird ng konti. At the same time, ayoko rin umasa masyado kasi ayokong sumama yung loob ko kung ‘di tayo pumasok…”

Dolly gave us an idea of how “solid” the Triangle of Sadness’ Oscars campaign for her nomination is. “Ang sipag-sipag nila na i-campaign tayo at ang pelikula and back-to-back yung mga pangyayari. Interview then photoshoot, screening then Q&A, then cocktails and back again. (I) wake up early and sleep late so the campaign is really solid,” shared the actress, who was supposed to be in the US still, but came home “because this is important to me,” referring to the screening of Triangle of Sadness in the country.

Nevertheless, Dolly said that it feels good to be finally gaining recognition for her work after being in the industry for three decades.

“It feels good, it’s a great feeling. Medyo may pressure din because before, pag-umaarte ako, enjoy ko nalang, like it’s another day at work. But ngayon parang may biglang mga mata na sa akin. May pressure na ganun.

The veteran actress gets escorted by hunky models, a playful reference to a scene from her film, at the red-carpet opening of this year’s QCinema filmfest at Gateway Cineplex. The festival runs until Nov. 26.
Photos from TBA studios

“I really try to get that out of my head so I can just enjoy the process. That I get to enjoy these new opportunities coming in,” she added.

Asked by The STAR how she’s been dealing with the pressure, she said, “Oh my gosh! How do I deal with the pressure? Sleep, hahaha! Tinutulog ko nalang talaga. And I ground myself, I talk to my friends who really bring me back to the reality na fleeting naman po lahat ito. Hindi naman ito tatagal. Dadating ang panahon makakalimutan tayo. That’s the reality and tanggap ko yun. Kung mangyari yun, I accept that wholeheartedly because that’s how things are. Ma-re-recognize lang tayo ulit ‘pag may trabaho na naman na bago.”

But don’t get her wrong, she’s also savoring every moment of this exciting, albeit loaded season of her life.

“Pinagkakasya ko lang talaga lahat kasi ini-enjoy ko yung moment kasi hindi natin alam — alam niyo na (laughs). Di ba? Maraming pwedeng mangyari. So nilulubos ko na habang kaya pa ng katawan ko, habang may lakas pa ako,” she further said.

“Of course, I’m really savoring this, I’m really enjoying this… That’s why I hope what’s happening to me will give inspiration to fellow Filipinos who are struggling in their day-to-day lives, especially our actors. I am hoping this gives them hope that it’s never too late.”

In a previous STAR interview, Dolly spoke without any bitterness about never “breaking out” in the country’s entertainment scene, taking on nameless and non-speaking roles on TV and film for years. She experienced various challenges, including long waiting hours on set only to shoot a single scene.

“Maraming paghihirap ko bilang artista. I’ve been acting for more than 30 years and naranasan ko na mag-extra, naranasan ko na mag-talent, naranasan ko na yung mga characters na walang linya, mga characters na walang pangalan.

“Naranasan ko na rin yung maghintay magdamag sa isang set na minsan natutulog nalang ako, pagkukunan lang ako, isang eksena lang. I experienced all that.

“And I would just accept and accept all kinds of acting jobs because I just wanted to work and enjoy this industry. Nowadays, (the situation) is changing a bit but I still appreciate the little things in life because if not for the struggles I’ve experienced, I wouldn’t be the kind of person that I am now. So, I’m also grateful for all the hardships.”

Meanwhile, Dolly is expected to spend Christmas in the country, while waiting for the nominations announcement on Jan. 24, 2023, as per Variety. That she’s generating Oscars buzz, “I think we’re definitely headed for a global audience, we’re headed to, you know — we’re out there, tayong mga Southeast Asians, there’s more representation in the international stage so papunta na talaga tayo dun. Ramdam na ramdam ko yun na mas may diversity ngayon sa casting talaga,” Dolly stressed.

And not just actors, she added, there’s more representation behind the scenes and other areas of entertainment, from director of photography to music composers, hip-hop artists and stand-up comedians.

“The door has been opened, papasukin nalang natin,” she noted. “Marami-rami na tayo, konting tiis pa guys, maabot natin lahat.”

As for Dolly, Triangle of Sadness has certainly kicked the door open for her in Hollywood. “So mukhang magtatrabaho tayo sa America in March. It’s a film. Excited ako dun. Ano ako dun, medyo mean or masungit na stepmom ni Jason Schwartzman. It’s a comedy,” she revealed.

She also has two upcoming Filipino films under directors Carl Papa and Kerwin Go. “Secret muna ang iba,” she added.

For her international career, she is now being managed by Fusion Entertainment and represented by Gersh, according to Variety.

In Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winning film, Dolly plays a toilet cleaner in a luxury ship who rises to a leadership role after a shipwreck.

Whether she gets nominated or not at the 2023 Oscars, Dolly is dedicating this whole experience to her loved ones, including her four children.

“Pinagtawanan lang ako ng mga kids ko, as in para sa kanila isang malaking kalokohan lang itong nangyayari (laughs),” she said when asked about her children’s reaction to her newfound fame. “But of course, they’re very proud of me, they’re very proud of everything but sila yung nag-ga-ground sa akin.”

She also remembered her late parents. The STAR learned that her mom, whom Dolly previously mentioned had congratulated her for Triangle of Sadness’ Palme d’Or win at Cannes last May, recently passed on at the age of 91.

“I would dedicate this to my father and my mom… and yung lola ko kasi kung hindi dahil sa kanila hindi ko ipu-pursue yung pag-aarte. Kasi kahit na alam naman natin yung mga magulang may pagka-protective sa anak, pero sa akin, hinayaan nila ako, yung pinili kong profession. They accepted that and they embraced my decision. So sa kanila talaga akong nagpapasalamat,” she said.

Dolly also offered the campaign to the late South African actress and model Charlbi Dean, the Triangle of Sadness female lead star, who died in August reportedly due to “a sudden illness.” The co-stars became close during the film shoot.

“This is for her. And I hope everyone recognizes her talent. Hindi lang dahil maganda siya… but it’s really more of her talent and the beauty of her soul. Napakabuting tao. This is for her, Charlbi,” she said.


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