Mario Maurer arrived in Manila Saturday last week, a rainy day, to promote his comedy-horror movie “Pee Mak,” which reportedly just became the highest-grossing locally-produced film of all time in his native Thailand, with a box-office turnout or US$33 million.
From the airport, Mario was whisked straight to Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City for a series of interviews with the show biz press.
The Thai-German actor, who shot to fame after being cast in the gay romance drama “The Love of Siam” in 2007, looked as though he had just stepped out of a toothpaste commercial, hair perfectly brushed up and seemingly incapable of breaking a sweat. His “Suddenly It’s Magic” screen partner Erich Gonzales wasn’t kidding when she once said, “Mario doesn’t have pores.”
With his Thai agent, Mario carefully went over the questionnaire we submitted a few days prior, clarifying a few English words and making sure we didn’t sneak in anything about his alleged romance with comedienne Kakai Bautista. (No questions about his love life, we were warned.)
After a few minutes, the agent gave us the green light. The first question we asked: Was he was always this proper and put together?
“Not at all,” said the mild-mannered 24-year-old, insisting that he had a “crazy side,” which he got to show in “Pee Mak.”
He elaborated: “I wear unfashionable clothes and unflattering hair in the movie. I had to color my teeth (to illustrate an old Thai practice of chewing betel nut). I can be goofy… crack jokes, [do] slapstick.”
Based on Thai folklore and set in the early 19th century, the movie tells the story of Pee Mak (Maurer), who goes to war leaving behind his pregnant wife Nang Nak (Davika Hoorne). When the war ends, Mak returns to his hometown. Unknown to him, his wife and their unborn son died during labor and turned into ghosts.
How did you find playing Pee Mak?
It was like playing two characters. When Mak is with his friends, he acts like a leader. But when he’s with his wife, he’s like a child. He’s scared of ghosts, but doesn’t let this affect his love for his wife.
What was the most challenging part of doing the movie?
All my costars were so funny, I had to control myself and not laugh too often.
The story of Pee Mak and Nang Nak has been retold many times. What’s different this time?
The folk tale is usually told from Nak’s perspective; this time it’s from Mak’s. Also, most of the past versions are more horror than comedy.
Do you think Filipinos could relate to Thai humor?
Yes, of course. Filipinos are a very funny, fun-loving people. They may not get the gags that are language-based. But it’s mostly an easy, fun movie. Audiences will learn more about Thai folklore… I think Filipinos are also superstitious.
You did a movie last year under Star Cinema, “Suddenly It’s Magic.” What was it like working here, compared to working in Thailand?
There are not many differences, except… in Thailand, it’s easier for me to get acquainted with coworkers. When I did “Suddenly,” I had to use my second language (English). But the Filipinos never let me feel I was from a different place. I was happy to work with them.
Would you do another movie here?
Yes, of course. If I find time, I’ll come back—no problem. But first I want to speak better Filipino. It’s a very cute language.
Any particular actor you want to work with, or places you want to visit when you come back for a new movie?
I’m open to working with anyone, and I don’t have a particular role in mind… I would love to go to Palawan.
What are you like with friends?
When I’m with friends I don’t talk about business or work… I’m relaxed. We do extreme sports like downhill bike riding and skateboarding.
What do you do for leisure?
I just like to stay at home and take care of my classic cars and bikes. I have a Harley-Davidson bike and a 1962 Volkswagen Beetle Ragtop.
(Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun— the man behind the hit 2004 horror movie “Shutter”—“Pee Mak, distributed by Star Cinema, opens in Manila theaters Aug. 28.)