Stage and movie thespian John Arcilla couldn’t contain his excitement when he learned that Hollywood director Tony Gilroy had praised him and other local actors cast in the action thriller, “The Bourne Legacy.”
Arcilla told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that he received good feedback from Gilroy right on the set when the movie was shot in the country early this year.
After shooting one scene for eight hours, Arcilla said, Gilroy told him, “You’re amazing.”
Arcilla, who played the head security guard in a laboratory, recalled that they had been shooting the same scene repeatedly. “[Gilroy] took long shots, medium shots and closeups, from different angles.”
Gilroy praised Arcilla for keeping his portrayal fresh and interesting. “He was pleased that I never got bored and delivered the same intense performance in all those takes. He said that he was impressed by the professionalism of Filipino actors.”
Arcilla said he didn’t have the heart to explain that most of the bit players that the “Bourne” team had hired were theater-trained thespians. “I didn’t want to sound immodest. But that was our training in theater. Since we do a show several times for weeks, we have to keep our performances new and exciting every time.”
The other theater-trained Filipino actors who bagged small roles in the Hollywood film are Lou Veloso, Madeleine Nicolas, Ermie Concepcion, Archie Adamos, Ruby Ruiz, Anne Garcia, Bong Cabrera, Ruth Alferez, Andre Tiangco, Kathlyn Castillo and Joel Torre.
It also helped, Arcilla said, that Filipino actors were not as inhibited as foreigners. “We are very connected with our emotions.”
Like most Filipinos, he was thrilled to see the “Bourne” trailer in local cinemas. But he hasn’t decided whether or not he’d watch the film in a movie house when it opens on August 8.
“I’m nervous. I don’t want to disappoint people who may expect too much,” he explained. “They may think we have big roles in the movie. My role is small, though significant.”
Everywhere he goes in the country, he said, he is greeted, “You’re the ‘Bourne’ actor!” It’s embarrassing, he said. “We are not the lead stars in this movie.” Actually, he pointed out, the bigger star of “Bourne” is the country.
Arcilla explained: “It will be interesting to see how a foreign filmmaker has captured Manila onscreen,” he said. “We may get to see the country in a different light.”
It was not Arcilla’s first time to impress a Western director, truth to tell.
He received plaudits from Oscar-nominated British filmmaker Sean Ellis, who shot the film “Metro Manila” also this year with a cast of Filipinos, including Jake Macapagal, Althea Vega and Leon Miguel.
“Sean used to be a photographer; he knew what he wanted, how to frame each scene,” Arcilla said, surmising that Ellis truly enjoyed the country because “he named his firstborn child Manila. The experience must have been really special to Sean.”
“Metro Manila” is being primed for a major international film festival, said the actor. “Sean told me that we got a top distributor in France as well.”
Arcilla hopes that “Bourne,” “Metro Manila” and other international productions shot in the country will lead to more projects and meatier parts for local actors.
“I’m very proud of our countrymen,” he said. “Maybe in the future we will land bigger roles. Even if we’re just the villain’s assistant… that would be great. We have what it takes to cross over.”