Direk Victor Villanueva's reaction when Enrique Gil said yes to 'Big Bird': 'Ha? Talaga ba?' | Inquirer Entertainment

Direk Victor Villanueva’s reaction when Enrique Gil said yes to ‘Big Bird’: ‘Ha? Talaga ba?’

/ 09:16 AM July 14, 2023

Enrique Gil

Enrique Gil and director Victor Villanueva. Image: Instagram/@exgangleader

The recently announced raunchy comedy “I Am Not Big Bird” was under development with Anima Studios before the COVID-19 pandemic but, because it will be filmed mostly in Thailand, had to be shelved due to the travel restrictions. It was revived from the freezer earlier this year when restrictions were eased and was offered to Victor Villanueva to direct. The big question, however, Villanueva said, was if there will be anyone willing to play the lead role since the film’s theme is irreverent and mature. “Who would be crazy enough to do this material?” he wondered.

By the second quarter of this year, they had an answer and it was a name that wouldn’t normally be associated with this type of genre: Enrique Gil.


Gil has been on hiatus from show biz since 2020 and talks about forthcoming projects remained rumors–until this movie. The actor mostly stayed out of the limelight attending to his businesses but the creative team at Anima Studios thought of trying their luck anyway.


“Alam mo parang ano lang, try natin. We were looking for someone unexpected for the role. So they pitched,” Villanueva told Inquirer.net. “Natawa sila (Gil’s team). And the next thing we know, gustong-gusto ni Quen. Haaaa? Talaga ba?” he laughed.

“Happy kami na on board siya, it’s nice to have that kind of optimism and collaborative spirit for a project na mawala yung inhibitions, something that is different. In a way it’s a new challenge. How do you go into that direction together? Doon ako na-excite,” he added.

Villanueva is no stranger to irreverent, “crazy” plots, or “kabastusan” as he calls it. His filmography is filled with unconventional films including such titles as “Boy Bastos” and “Beach Bros,” and more recent works “Ang Babae sa Likod ng Face Mask” and “Ang Lalaki sa Likod ng Profile.” But his most known work to date is the dark comedy road trip film “Patay Na si Hesus” released in 2016.

The director who was born in Davao but grew up in Cebu admits that he gets reminded every day by random people about the success of “Patay Na si Hesus.” “When I was making that, I just wanted it to be fun, ganun lang siya. Wala akong pakialam … nagtatawanan lang kami sa set. It was just a fun movie that we wanted to make.”

There apparently has been a meeting of the minds between Villanueva and Gil, who said at the announcement of his comeback movie last Wednesday night that he “just wants to have fun” and give moviegoers a good time.

“I Am Not Big Bird” is about a 30-something male who gets mistaken for a famous porn star while traveling in Thailand with his friends. The script, based on a true story, was written by Palanca awardee Lilit Reyes and Joma Labayen. Nikko Natividad, Red Ollero and Pepe Herrera join Gil in the cast plus a cameo by a still unnamed actress and Thai actors on location in Bangkok and Pattaya.


The film is backed by four production companies: ANIMA, Black Sheep Productions, Epicmedia and Gil’s own Make-a-Break Productions. The team will be supported in Thailand by a crew that had worked with award-winning Thai filmmakers including world-renowned director Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Villanueva said the cast displayed palpable chemistry at their first meeting when they read lines. “I advised them to embody their character. Mahilig ako sa adlib so kung may interpretation or may gusto [sila] na idagdag sa character, gawin natin ‘yan. ‘Wag kayong matakot na magmukhang tanga, kasi ‘yan ang comedy,” he told them.

Everyone’s eyes will be on Gil since this is his comeback film after four years and Villanueva understands this more than anything. “We’re happy na part kami ng comeback. Medyo nape-pressure ako na Diyos ko, si Quen? For this movie? Parang shit, nakakakaba, at the same time exciting kasi when you look at the filmography of Quen, versatile talaga siya na actor. Kaya niya ang horror, drama … But I’m happy to help out in expanding his repertoire in comedy.”

Comedy is not new to Gil, who has done romantic comedies in many of his projects. This time, however, the actor himself has been involved in the writing process. “Tumulong din siya mag-isip ng eksena, mga lines. He wanted something different, a solo project na crazy. Gusto niya ng ganung challenge. At the same time, totoo ba?” Villanueva asked, still in disbelief. “Kasi if you watched ‘Patay Na si Hesus,’ ganun kagago ang film, medyo irreverent and absurd … But at the same time this is something exciting for Quen,” he said.

One thing that Villanueva and Gil have in common is both are gamers (the director’s social media is filled with animes) and they’re also Bisaya. Though Gil is Spanish-Filipino, he grew up in Cebu, so Villanueva is able to speak to him in Bisaya at times. “Sometimes if it’s hard for me to explain things, binibisaya ko na lang si Quen. I have this affinity working with Cebuanos kasi there’s not many of us in the industry. I want to highlight that Bisaya representation kind of thing,” he said.

This is not the first time they would be working together though. Villanueva had a bit role in “Alone/Together,” which was Gil’s last movie released in 2019. During the pandemic, Villanueva also directed Gil’s Greenwich Pizza commercial through Zoom. “Naalala ko, Quen had to do all the props and designing sa kanyang camera. Gusto ko na ngang puntahan para tulungan siya,” he recalled.

The pandemic has changed many things including people’s viewing habits. Villanueva acknowledges this but explains that there is nothing like experiencing a film in the theater. “I want people to watch this movie kasi iba rin na manood ka sa sine at magtawanan kayo together in such a communal aspect of cinema na mahirap i-replicate at home. You connect and resonate with the movie together. Masayang pastime and bonding pumunta sa sinehan. That’s what we hope to achieve in this crazy comedy: a different Quen, and the only best way to experience that is in the cinemas.”

Villanueva, a self-confessed movie junkie who watches even bad films, said he’s not looking to beat “Patay Na si Hesus” in his future projects. “I’m not trying to carry that into the films that I make. Ang importante lang naman nakakatawa, maka-connect sa audience. I really don’t care about the awards. Mas care ko naman ang mga manonood.”

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“I Am Not Big Bird” will be shown in local cinemas this year. They aim to bring “Big Bird” to international festivals in Europe and the United States next year.  /ra


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TAGS: Enrique Gil, Victor Villanueva

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