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)

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