When Inquirer interviewed Maui Taylor on Thursday, she had just received her invitation to the premiere of her Korean film, “The Taste of Money,” at the Cannes International Film Festival in May.
“The producers have told me to apply for a visa,” she said. “They’ve also asked me to prepare outfits for three events.” She plans to wear a terno on the red carpet. “It should be Filipino, but modern, elegant and sexy.”
She’s collaborating with young couturier Veejay Floresca for her Cannes wardrobe. “I liked his designs when he competed on the [reality TV show] ‘Project Runway Philippines,’” she said. Floresca will also create her dress for the film’s VIP premiere in Seoul on May 15.
She said she couldn’t wait to watch the entire film, directed by Im Sang-soo, who made “The Housemaid,” which also competed in Cannes in 2010. In “Taste,” which is in the Main Competition section, Maui plays a Filipino nanny who gets involved in a crime of passion.
She didn’t have to go to the usual audition. “The producers said that they considered several Filipino actresses. In the end, it was a toss between me and Katrina Halili.”
What sealed the deal for Maui was her work in Joel Lamangan’s “Ang Huling Birhen sa Lupa.” The Korean director interviewed her via Skype.
When Im and the Korean crew came to Manila last October to meet her, she was in hospital (for dehydration). “They visited me there, bringing flowers and stuffed toys,” she related. “Then they asked how soon I could go to Seoul.”
She worked on the film there for four months—November 2011 to February 2012—but would go home for occasional three-day breaks.
“I’m so happy for Maui,” said her mom Annette. “I pray that her performance will make our countrymen proud.”
In the middle of the shoot, the producers gave Maui a copy of “Housemaid.” She thought the story was “twisted.” She added, “It was erotic, but done in good taste.”
The daring scenes in “Housemaid” didn’t daunt her, and when it was time for her to bare all in “Taste,” she felt “protected” and totally at ease. “They granted my request—that only the director, cinematographer, and co-actor would be on the set, and that no still photos would be taken.”
The more challenging aspect was working in the dead of winter. “Our outdoor scenes were often delayed because of the snow,” she related. “I once had to do a swimming scene at 3 am. It was freezing; it gave me a headache.”
Fortunately, her co-stars, some of Korea’s top actors, were supportive. Lead actor Kim Kang-woo was her crush, she admitted. “He was playful and often gave me snacks.”
Lead actress Kim Hyo-jin was friendly too. “The first scene I shot was with her. Everyone was speaking in Korean; she translated for me.”
Baek Yun-shik, highest paid actor in Korea, was initially intimidating, she said. “He was quiet, but as the shoot went on, he warmed up. He always had a smile for everyone.”
She found character actress Yoon Yeu-jung “scary” at first. “Since I had seen her in ‘Housemaid,’ I wanted to have a photo taken with her.” The senior star’s response, “Why me?” gave Maui pause. “But she agreed,” she said.
When they had to shoot a crucial fight scene, Maui realized that Yoon was really motherly. “The director wanted the scene to be realistic, but she was worried that she might hurt me.”
Ever the perfectionist, Im asked them to repeat the choking scene six times. Maui recounted: “Ms. Yoon is very strong. After the third take, I started coughing. She hugged me and apologized.”
The next day, Taylor wore a red scarf. “Ms. Yoon wanted to take a look. Her hand had left marks on my neck!”
Maui hopes this film will prove that she’s not just a bold star. “It’s a step higher for me,” she said.
She’s confident that the film will not put overseas Filipino workers or the country in a bad light. “That crossed my mind on the plane ride home,” she admitted. “It’s a controversial story, the most-talked-about and a top trending topic on Korean websites. But the filmmakers said they didn’t mean to offend Filipinos. What happened was just a sad reality.”