Japanese actor Yuki Matsuzaki said he was “blown away” by Eugene Domingo’s performance in “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank”—so much so that he watched the comedy film seven times.
Yuki is Eugene’s leading man in the Leo Abaya movie “Instant Mommy,” which debuted at the 2013 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival in July. Nationwide screening of the movie starts today.
The actor, who was in Hollywood films like “Pink Panther 2,” “Letters from Iwo Jima,” “The Last Samurai” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” said he had to convince his manager to let him do “Instant Mommy.”
“My manager wasn’t that supportive at first because 10 days of work in the Philippines equals only a day of work in Hollywood [in terms of talent fee],” he told entertainment writers recently.
He said he enjoyed “Septic Tank” so much that when he found out the Filipino crew of “Instant Mommy” was interested in getting him, he told his manager: “I want this role. Say nothing more about it; don’t even negotiate with them. I’m doing this.”
Casting for the Japanese actor was a “pretty long process,” according to coproducer Joji Alonso. “It was Chris (Martinez, scriptwriter-director) who sent word to Japanese actors and talent managers that we needed a Japanese actor. Chris did this when he and Uge (Eugene’s nickname) brought their movie ‘I Do Bidoo Bidoo’ to a film fest in Osaka last year. We got a lot of responses when they learned that it was for Uge’s next movie project. We then limited our choices to four.”
Eugene said one look at Yuki’s photos and credentials, and she knew he was perfect for the project. “People said Yuki and I had chemistry. They were all delighted to see us together,” the actress said. “It’s one of my dreams to collaborate with another actor from Asia. It’s a different experience. When Yuki arrived, I was worried about his reaction to the shooting environment. In one small house, everything was happening. There was a pictorial going on in one corner and then an interview in another. In another spot, people were setting up for a scene—and it was the peak of summer.”
Yuki said he expected to have difficulty communicating with the production crew. “But I was surprised that everyone was talking to me in English. It was almost as easy as communicating in an American indie film production. People patiently taught me Filipino; only Uge taught me some bad words,” he quipped. “Everyone was so friendly and the set was extremely comfortable.”
He added: “I couldn’t forget my first encounter with Eugene. I went to her room to say hello. She answered, ‘Kumusta? We have a love scene, you know?’ I was shocked. The love scene eventually came. It was hot. I don’t understand why Uge still doesn’t have a boyfriend.”
In “Instant Mommy,” Eugene plays Bechayda, a wardrobe assistant for TV commercial productions. In order to maintain her relationship with her Japanese lover, Kaoru, she pretends to be pregnant with his child. The film follows her as she grapples with her situation, up to the point where she makes a fateful decision as a way out of her predicament. Or so she thinks.
Yuki gave this advice for Filipino actors who want to break into Hollywood: “I also strongly suggest that Filipino filmmakers dub their movies in English so these can be shipped to different parts of the world. This way, Filipinos will have bigger exposure worldwide. In Hollywood, people work at a much slower pace. It normally takes three to six months to shoot a film. Considering Eugene’s character, making two films a year is not enough. It will just waste her time and talent.”
The actor related that he worked on “Pirates of the Caribbean” for six months with very few speaking lines. “The movie took so much time to make. I think Uge would be bored with that. It would be better if she shot a good film locally, where there are so many passionate and amazingly talented people, and eventually show her work to the world.”
Yuki likewise noted: “The Philippines is the only country in Asia where actors can speak fluent English. In Hollywood, they cast non-English-speaking actors and later work on their English dialogue. This process takes a while because the actors aren’t used to acting with English dialogue. In this regard, I think Filipino actors should be recognized outside of their country.”
He said he was surprised that Eugene learned her Japanese lines very quickly and just by listening. “She had a language coach but the way she threw her lines was totally convincing. Her Japanese was extremely believable. She delivered it from the heart.”
Yuki was likewise all praise for first-time director Leo Abaya. “He knew what he wanted but at the same time, he was open to ideas,” Yuki stressed. “Leo’s set reminded me of the set of ‘Iwo Jima.’ Leo was shooting [Clint] Eastwood-style, doing very few takes. Most of my scenes with Eugene were shot in only one or two takes.”
The actor first came to the Philippines at age 14. “I have a friend here and I stayed at his place for a few days. That was a long time ago. When I returned this year, I found Manila to be extremely modern. I went to the malls here and felt like I was in Los Angeles.”
He moved to the United States when he was 15. He has been working in Hollywood for 13 years now.
He said he’d love to work in Manila again. “My only problem is reading the script. I didn’t know that scripts here were written in Filipino,” he said. “Hollywood is so different in the sense that actors aren’t allowed to disclose future projects. I’m surprised that people here are permitted to post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram the photos taken on the set. I was totally shocked when Uge posted our photo on the set on Instagram.”
“We call that paandar,” Eugene replied. “In English, it means a jump start, a form of promotion.”
“Instant Mommy” also features Luis Alandy, Rico J. Puno, Shamaine Buencamino, Tuesday Vargas and Nicco Manalo; with cameo appearances from Angel Aquino, Madeleine Nicholas, Suzette Ranillo and Nico Antonio. Story concept is by Chris Martinez and Jeffrey Jeturian.