Monday, June 14, 2010

My chat with Richard & Claudine

Richard & Claudine in each other's eyes
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - Should the Los Angeles Lakers win this year’s NBA championship, Richard Gutierrez would be one of those who will be celebrating hard. In nearly three weeks that he spent in LA to shoot Mac Alejandre’s In Your Eyes, a co-production between Viva and GMA Films, the good-looking actor saw the Lakers play three times. And in those occasions he was able to meet and shake hands with several Hollywood personalities who came in droves to support the local team.

“I shook hands with Stallone, Jamie Foxx and (Olympic swimmer) Michael Phelps,” he disclosed. Like ordinary folks, Richard gets star struck, too. “I just tell them, ‘I am a big fan of your work,’ and then I shake their hands. They appreciated it. I know how it feels to be appreciated and they felt the same way.”

Richard is no stranger to being approached by fans himself. Being one of the most popular actors working today, he has reigned as one of the Philippines’ most bankable romantic leading men for several years now. He has been paired with the brightest stars in showbiz — most notably being KC Concepcion’s only screen partner so far — and now he is headlining a movie with another superstar, Claudine Barretto, and emerging box-office sensation Anne Curtis, whose latest film, Star Cinema’s Babe, I Love You, raked in huge box office money in both local and international screenings.

It would be recalled that Anne and Richard used to date and it wasn’t lost on Claudine who playfully teased Richard about it after I asked her if there’s anyone in particular she would want Richard, who is currently single, to date.

“Myself!” Claudine initially volunteered. “If I weren’t married — that is, but since I am married, si Anne. Kasi meron pa talaga. May history, may future... at may present, I swear.” Richard couldn’t help but smile almost conspiratorially while snugly holding on to his travel pillow. Claudine is married to Raymart Santiago.

This writer had a spirited chat with the two very warm and friendly superstars last Saturday after The Philippine Star was invited to cover the stars as they shot some key scenes at the popular Filipino bar California Wok in Orange County. They were shooting late into the night and by the time I got to the venue Anne was already gone.

The shoot ended past midnight and I was told they had a 6 a.m. call time. As it was rushed, we didn’t have time to find a quiet room to do a proper sit-down interview, so the next best place was inside their service van. It was a haphazard setup that turned out pretty well. Richard sat in the second row next to the window while clutching his travel pillow while Claudine initially sat on the floor of the van (the day’s shoot was so tiring, she could have sat on the pavement and still wouldn’t have minded it!). I positioned myself in the front seat while my photographer, Greg Leviste, went circling around the van to take good pictures.

Claudine, who told me that if there’s one place in America she wants to go it would be New York because she likes Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind, expressed her excitement to finally work with Richard: “It’s fun, super fun, really fun.”

“I told Richard that it’s harder for me to connect with my leading men as compared to my female co-stars,” she said before adding that Richard is only the third actor — after Aga Muhlach and Piolo Pascual — with whom she never had difficulty getting along on the first day of shoot. “We never worked together before and yet it was so easy for us. We are on the same page always at isang tinginan lang, yun na. We knew instantly what our likes and dislikes are.”

Richard and Claudine knew each other back in the days when Richard’s older brother Rocky was trying to woo Claudine. “We were so young then,” she recalled.

And although the courtship didn’t prosper to anything more than friendship, Claudine had fond memories of their Baguio trips and various activities.

The two never thought they’d ever work together. The obsessive network war has prevented them from starring in a movie together. But when Claudine’s contract with ABS-CBN expired, she signed up with Viva, which immediately rolled out several projects for their new prized talent.

Richard remembered feeling “excited and a little scared at the same time” when he learned of the offer to work with Claudine. He even initially addressed his co-star as “Ms. Claudine.”

To break the ice, Claudine presented her co-star with DVDs of some of her movies and Richard found Claudine’s turn in the 2002 movie Got 2 Believe quite endearing. “My favorite was Kailangan Kita pero nakalimutan ko na,” Richard shared. “‘Yung Got 2 Believe, it’s like watching a different Claudine, so funny!”

By this time, Richard should have presented Claudine with DVDs of his own movies after Claudine revealed that she hasn’t seen any of his movies although she is familiar with his TV work. “He owes me,” she said.

In the movie, Claudine and Anne play sisters who fall in love with the same guy played by Richard. The story is partly inspired by the struggles and sacrifices of not so few Filipino-Americans as they chase the so-called American Dream.

Richard described his character as “a drifter, go-with-the-flow-guy, who’s not really taking anything seriously and jumping into roller-coaster relationships.”

Asked if he was able to relate to his character, he replied, “Oo naman, dumaan ako dyan.” to which Claudine, with a wicked smile, sarcastically countered “Dumaan?” Richard laughed again and hinted that “there are certain attributes of my character na hanggang ngayon pinagdadaanan ko pa rin.”

“We made it in such a way that we will make a different kind of story.” Richard stated. “This is one of the most challenging and fulfilling characters that I’ve ever portrayed. Working with direk Mac, Anne and Claudine, kind of puts me in an excellence that I have to achieve.”

“If you wanna work with the best you also have to give your best,” the two said in unison.

Hearing Richard and Claudine talk passionately about their craft prompted me to ask them about their thoughts on Philippine movies in general.

During the past couple of years, Philippine cinema saw some resurgence after years of declining movie productions. The independent film movement ushered in a new set of visionary filmmakers and showcased several talented but largely unheralded character actors now crossing over to mainstream filmmaking — and are headlining their very own movies!.

“The Filipino audiences now are becoming very smart. You just can’t give them any kind of movies. You have to give them what they want. You have to give them intelligent films,” Richard acknowledged, “and that’s what motivates us to keep out doing our work.”

Would they consider doing an independent movie? “I’d love to do it but not now,” Claudine responded. “You just can’t go off-beat. You have your weaknesses as an actor and you just cannot say, ‘Okay, I will do this,’ because sometimes you can only do what you are supposed to do.”

Claudine further added: “I am so happy with what’s happening to our independent movies because they spend less money and yet they get so many awards and recognitions and it makes me so proud. It’s an opportunity for so many actors, new and old, and those who are very good who couldn’t find work get their breaks and shine.

We talked about showbiz gossip and intrigues and both agreed they’ve come to live with it although they would wish to correct so many untruths written about them. What they are, we didn’t have time to discuss anymore as the crew already signaled that they were about to leave. It was already a few ticks away from 1 a.m. and they had a 6 a.m. call time.

(Photos by Greg Leviste)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ricky Lo writes of encounter with Hollywood newbie actors

Chance encounter with Hollywood wannabes
FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo (The Philippine Star)

It happened at the P.F. Chang’s, the China Bistro at the ground floor of the Beverly Center, sometime last March when I was in Beverly Hills to attend the international press junket for The Back-Up Plan, Jennifer Lopez’s post-natal comeback romantic-comedy in which she co-stars with Australian hunk Alex O’Loughlin. P.F. Chang’s is the favorite restaurant of Tim Evans (of the US Customs and Immigration, assigned at the L.A. Airport) and Baby K. Jimenez (who, before she migrated to Canada, would treat visiting friends there, including Charo Santos, Raoul Tidalgo and myself). Food at P.F. Chang’s is, to say the least, heavenly (“burp”-worthy).

That’s why when my nephew Raymond de Asis Lo (this paper’s L.A. correspondent) dropped by Four Seasons (where the Back-up Plan interviews were held) and invited me to P.F. Chang’s for a quick lunch, I said yes right away.

The waiters and waitresses at P.F. Chang’s are artistahin (star material). They are very courteous and very attentive. If you say “Yes, please!,” they will show you how to mix the sauces and even how to pour it properly. They check on you every minute on the minute, asking how your food is and if you need anything — “An extra serving of fried rice, maybe?” Or, “Why not another scoop of green tea ice-cream?”

The waiter assigned to our table was a quiet one...tall, fair-skinned and good-looking. Raymond and I teased him that if he were in the Philippines, he would be in showbiz or on the fashion ramp. Why, at closer look, he struck us as a dead ringer for Orlando Bloom. He said his name is Nathan Keyes.

“In fact,” he said, “I’m an actor,” moonlighting as a waiter in-between (so far) bit roles. “In my next assignment, I will be appearing with Orlando Bloom. I play the hospital patient mistaken by Orlando’s girlfriend to be Orlando.”

We suspected that the guy was trying to pull our leg but we had our picture taken with him anyway as “proof” so that we could brag if and when he became a big star that we did meet him when he was just struggling.

By and by, a man approached us and gave us his calling card: Tim Sanchez, P.F. Chang’s manager. He turned out to be a Filipino born and raised in California. Even when he confirmed that the guy Nathan Keyes was indeed a “Hollywood actor,” we were not convinced.

On the way out, Raymond and I were stopped by a couple. The guy was a hunk, a basketball-player type, and his female companion looked undeniably Filipina. She said she’s a nurse and her name is Lourdes Duldoco, and the guy with her is her boyfriend, a “Hollywood actor” named Kevin Scarlo.

“We were seated three tables away from you and I recognized you from your TV show and I told my boyfriend that you are a journalist from the Philippines,” Lourdes said.

Another picture-taking and then, goodbye. See you when I see you!

Two guys trying to, uh, pull our leg?

Before we parted, I asked Raymond to check the Internet. The next day, he promptly sent me what he found out. No, the two guys were not pulling a prank on us. They are, indeed, Hollywood wannabes.

Nathan Keyes has been doing TV since 2006. Among his credits: The Nature of Blake, Three Moons Over Milford, Women’s Murder Club, Mrs. Washington Goes to Smith, Ben 10: Alien Swarm, Brothers and Sisters and The Good Doctor (I presumed it’s the movie Nathan said he was doing with Orlando Bloom).

Standing 6’2”, weighing 195 lbs. and athletic, Afro-American Kevin Scarlo has appeared in the TV shows Days of Our Lives, The Bold and the Beautiful, One Life to Live and Jimmy Kimmel Live. He dances, does martial arts and stunts, and plays all kinds of sports.

During that chance P.F. Chang’s encounter, Kevin said that he might come with Lourdes for a visit next month.

“You could be in Filipino movies,” I kidded him.

(Postscript: I promised the two guys that I would give a copy of this story when I see them again...if I see them again maybe in another chance encounter?)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Goodbye Blanche!

Rue McClanahan, 'Golden Girl' Blanche, dies
By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer

NEW YORK – Rue McClanahan, the Emmy-winning actress who brought the sexually liberated Southern belle Blanche Devereaux to life on the hit TV series "The Golden Girls," has died. She was 76.

Her manager, Barbara Lawrence, said McClanahan died Thursday at 1 a.m. at New York-Presbyterian Hospital of a brain hemorrhage.

She had undergone treatment for breast cancer in 1997 and later lectured to cancer support groups on "aging gracefully." In 2009, she had heart bypass surgery.

McClanahan had an active career in off-Broadway and regional stages in the 1960s before she was tapped for TV in the 1970s for the key best-friend character on the hit series "Maude," starring Beatrice Arthur. After that series ended in 1978, McClanahan landed the role as Aunt Fran on "Mama's Family" in 1983.

But her most loved role came in 1985 when she co-starred with Arthur, Betty White and Estelle Getty in "The Golden Girls," a runaway hit that broke the sitcom mold by focusing on the foibles of four aging — and frequently eccentric — women living together in Miami.

"Golden Girls" aimed to show "that when people mature, they add layers," she told The New York Times in 1985. "They don't turn into other creatures. The truth is we all still have our child, our adolescent, and your young woman living in us."

Blanche, who called her father "Big Daddy," was a frequent target of roommates Dorothy, Rose and the outspoken Sophia (Getty), who would fire off zingers at Blanche such as, "Your life's an open blouse."

Fellow "Golden Girl" Betty White called McClanahan a close and dear friend.

"I treasured our relationship," said White, who was working in Los Angeles on the set of her TV Land comedy "Hot in Cleveland" on Thursday. "It hurts more than I even thought it would, if that's even possible."

McClanahan snagged an Emmy for her work on the show in 1987. In an Associated Press interview that year, McClanahan said Blanche was unlike any other role she had ever played.

"Probably the closest I've ever done was Blanche DuBois in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' at the Pasadena Playhouse," she said. "I think, too, that's where the name came from, although my character is not a drinker and not crazy."

Her Blanche Devereaux, she said, "is in love with life and she loves men. I think she has an attitude toward women that's competitive. She is friends with Dorothy and Rose, but if she has enough provocation she becomes competitive with them. I think basically she's insecure. It's the other side of the Don Juan syndrome."

After "The Golden Girls" was canceled in 1992, McClanahan, White and Getty reprised their roles in a short-lived spinoff, "Golden Palace."

McClanahan continued working in television, on stage and in film, appearing in the Jack Lemmon-Walter Matthau vehicle "Out to Sea" and as the biology teacher in "Starship Troopers."

She stepped in to portray Madame Morrible, the crafty headmistress, for a time in "Wicked," Broadway's long-running "Wizard of Oz" prequel.

In 2008, McClanahan appeared in the Logo comedy "Sordid Lives: The Series," playing the slightly addled, elderly mother of an institutionalized drag queen.

During production, McClanahan was recovering from 2007 surgery on her knee. It didn't stop her from filming a sex scene in which the bed broke, forcing her to hang on to a windowsill to avoid tumbling off.

McClanahan was born Eddi-Rue McClanahan in Healdton, Okla., to building contractor William McClanahan and his wife, Dreda Rheua-Nell, a beautician. She graduated with honors from the University of Tulsa with a degree in German and theater arts.

McClanahan's acting career began on the stage. According to a 1985 Los Angeles Times profile, she appeared at the Pasadena (Calif.) Playhouse, studied in New York with Uta Hagen and Harold Clurman, and worked in soaps and on the stage.

She won an Obie — the off-Broadway version of the Tony — in 1970 for "Who's Happy Now," playing the "other woman" in a family drama written by Oliver Hailey. She reprised the role in a 1975 television version; in a review, The New York Times described her character as "an irrepressible belle given to frequent bouts of `wooziness' and occasional bursts of shrewdness."

She had appeared only sporadically on television until producer Norman Lear tapped her for a guest role on "All in the Family" in 1971.

She went from there to a regular role in the "All in the Family" spinoff "Maude," playing Vivian, the neighbor and best friend to Arthur in the starring role.

When Arthur died in April 2009, McClanahan recalled that she had felt constrained by "Golden Girls" during the later years of its run. "Bea liked to be the star of the show. She didn't really like to do that ensemble playing," McClanahan said.

McClanahan was married six times: Tom Bish, with whom she had a son, Mark Bish; actor Norman Hartweg; Peter D'Maio; Gus Fisher; and Tom Keel. She married husband Morrow Wilson on Christmas Day in 1997.
She called her 2007 memoir "My First Five Husbands ... And the Ones Who Got Away."

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