Why Matteo Guidicelli’s ‘Penduko’ stunts didn’t worry Sarah Geronimo
Like the Filipino comic book hero Pedro Penduko who draws power from a magical amulet, Matteo Guidicelli wears items he believes bring him energy like a gold necklace with a crucifix, miraculous medal, South Sea pearl pendants and an Italian talisman called the cornetto.
However, Matteo didn’t get to bring with him his ultimate lucky charm in his recent round-table interview for his upcoming film, “Penduko.” “The real agimat is back home, my wife Sarah (Geronimo),” he said, laughing.
Perhaps their fans would be so lucky to see them work on an acting project again?
“It all depends on our boss, Vic (del Rosario Jr., Viva Entertainment chair). Sarah is particular about the projects she does and what she likes. She believes in representing Filipino culture and art. She wants original songs and music,” Matteo said. “But working together is something I’m open to.”
Asked if starting their own family is also part of their conversation, Matteo told the Inquirer that it is one of their priorities. “At the end of the day, my priority is my wife and family, and that’s part of the plan,” the 33-year-old star related. “But we can’t plan too hard, because it’s God who gives us his blessings. We just hope for the best and do what we have to do.”
Case in point: “Penduko,” a modern retelling of National Artist Francisco V. Coching’s iconic folk hero Pedro Penduko, was first conceptualized about four years ago with James Reid in mind. After injuries forced James to pull out of the project, Matteo was tapped to step in.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and other unforeseen factors, the movie had to be shelved. For a while, Viva was unsure whether to stick with the original plan or turn it into a television series. Because of a stroke of luck, it ended up becoming an entry to this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), which starts on Dec. 25.“It’s all about timing. How can you say no to this kind of project? It almost didn’t happen because of several factors, but this only goes to show that sometimes you can’t really force things. They will inevitably fall into place. You just have to be ready. When the doors open, you have to be able to get in,” Matteo said. “It’s when you’re too impatient that things don’t materialize.”
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True enough, he didn’t have to think twice when the role was offered to him. The physicality of the role didn’t daunt him because Matteo has always been athletic.
“Aside from the physical aspect, you also have to be ready mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You don’t know when these blessings will come your way. If you say no to something, you might not get a second chance … And so, I make sure I train every day. I try to strengthen my faith, be a good person and do my best,” he said.
As one would expect from a Penduko reboot, the upcoming movie, directed by Jason Paul Laxamana, will be filled with magic and action-packed set pieces. And in such high-octane scenes, Matteo—a former kart racer, adrenaline junkie and Army reservist—is a natural.
“We were put in different difficult situations, but it was natural for me. I didn’t have to pretend or try to be something else. I just had to remember my training, so that everything else comes out subconsciously,” said Matteo, who dropped from 175 to 160 lbs. for the movie. “They wanted me to be leaner and more agile. I couldn’t be too buff.”
The fight scenes, choreographed by mixed martial artist Erwin Tagle, showcase Filipino disciplines like “arnis” and other local hand-to-hand and knife combat methods.
“For one week, we locked ourselves up in a beautiful studio where we did nothing but fight scenes. There were no injuries save for bruises there and there, but that’s part of it. Erwin did a brilliant job. We trained for months before we shot our scenes to make sure everything went smoothly,” he said.
Well, good thing Sarah wasn’t too worried about Matteo doing his own stunts. “‘Di naman. She knows that that’s what I want. She knows I love what I’m doing. I love putting myself in uncomfortable, dangerous situations. But it all came out nicely. I hope the fans get to see the rush and intensity of our work,” he said.
While he did watch clips of past Pedro Penduko adaptations with Ramon Zamora, Janno Gibbs and Matt Evans, Matteo intentionally avoided watching them in full, so as to not influence his own portrayal.
“Direk Jason Paul created a new story that reflects what’s happening in the world today in the age of social and digital media. And he interlaced that with Filipino culture and tradition. So, I had to come up with something new,” he said.
“I was a bit worried that I would end up mimicking previous portrayals. I wanted to go in with a fresh slate,” added Matteo, who described his approach to the character as relaxed and subdued, but with occasional moments of childlike joy and energy.
He had to do a bit of comedy, but nothing too drastic. “We did it in a way that was natural for me. In terms of acting, I dissected my script with Ruby Ruiz (acting coach and award-winning actress). She really helped me with it and was very patient with me. I just wanted to be prepared in every way,” he said.
While other entries or actors are worried about awards or box-office success, Matteo just hopes he can give viewers a fun and exciting experience in the cinemas. “I’m nervous because this is my first MMFF film. I don’t want to expect too much. But I know the movie will be great,” he said. INQ