Director-producer Mike de Leon has a stellar ensemble cast for his newest movie Citizen Jake, which opens in Philippine cinemas nationwide on May 23.
Citizen Jake is about Jake Herrera, journalist and estranged son of a powerful Philippine Senator. Driven by disdain for his father, Jake moves to Baguio City where he attempts to build a new life. But circumstances force him to try to solve the brutal killing of a young, female student in the university where he teaches in. Jake conducts an investigation—a move that leads him to face corruption and his personal demons. The screenplay is written by Mike de Leon, Atom Araullo and Noel Pascual. The film is produced by Cinema Artists Philippines and distributed by Solar Pictures.
The star-studded cast includes Cherie Gil, Dina Bonnevie, Nonie Buencamino, Adrian “Luis” Alandy, Gabby Eigenmann, Max Collins, Teroy Guzman, Lou Veloso, Richard Quan, with Victor Neri, Allan Paule, Anna Luna, Elora Españo, Cholo Barretto, Raquel Villavicencio, Nanding Josef, Ruby Ruiz, and featuring Atom Araullo as Jake Herrera.
Many of the actors auditioned for their roles, while others like Dina and Cherie, were stars that Direk Mike had worked with in the past. In a series of posts on the Citizen Jake movie Facebook page, Direk Mike revealed some behind-the-scenes stories about his cast.
Gabby, for instance, was told by others to “underact” for his audition as Roxie, the congressman-brother of Jake. Direk Mike found the “underacting” advice strange. Gabby then did a more intense second reading. “The transformation was amazing,” said Direk Mike. “Right there and then… I decided I would cast him… He was so good in the film that I wrote two new sequences later.” For the director, Gabby possessed the intensity of his father, the late Mark Gil, whom Direk Mike had worked with in Batch ’81.
Max Collins, meanwhile, purposely dressed down for her reading of Mandy, Jake’s significant other and fellow university teacher. Direk Mike noticed that she prepared. “I was immediately very impressed,” he said. “She came across as a very honest, sincere person and this was reflected in the genuineness of her reading.” Direk Mike likened Max to French film star Isabelle Adjani of The Story of Adelle H. In spite of being a bit young for the role, Direk Mike said Max was credible and moving. “She can only get better in time,” he said of the Kapuso actress.
Direk Mike also had good things to say about Adrian “Luis” Alandy who plays the role of Jonie, a Baguio pony boy who is the best friend of Jake. “Most of the actors who auditioned for the role were good but Luis impressed met he most. He had a certain sensitivity and vulnerability and I imagined that this actor could easily switch scenes of casual banter to ones of deep tragedy.” Direk Mike found out he was right because during the shoot, Luis proved to be consistent from rehearsal to take. “He’s perhaps the finest actor I’ve worked with since Jay Ilagan,” Direk Mike added.
Cherie Gil, Teroy Guzman and Lou Veloso are three of the more experienced actors in the cast. Cherie was among those who did not audition since Direk wrote the part of Patti Medina (a cunning businesswoman with political connections) with the award-winning actress in mind. “From the very first draft…” Direk emphasized. Years ago, Cherie and Direk Mike had collaborated on the video film Bilanggo sa Dilim. “The Cherie I encountered in ‘Citizen Jake’ has honed film acting to an unprecedented degree. Wala siyang kapantay,” he raved.
Teroy’s extensive work in theater made his characterization of Sen. Jacobo Herrera (the father of Jake) smooth. “Only in his 50s, (he) plays the role of a man in his 70s… You learn to appreciate, though not necessarily like, the character being portrayed because the character of Jacobo can easily slip into caricature. But with Teroy, it never did. It is the subtleties you watch as he performs and you feel fortunate to be working with an actor like him,” said Direk Mike.
Lou—who auditioned for his role as the hippie professor Lucas—has a major contribution to the film. He recited his own poem, “Bayan Mo” in a totally improvised scene with Atom. For that, Direk Mike thanked the veteran film/stage actor. “He is capable of serious nuanced acting and his grizzled weary old rebel looks adds much to this.”
As for TV journalist Atom Araullo who not only acts in the film but is also co-writer, Direk Mike said, “I was amazed by Atom’s keen mind and his contribution to the screenplay was substantial… As an actor I believe he did a good job and I won’t say the usual ‘in spite of…’ There were scenes where he acted unevenly but there were also scenes, many of them major, where he was terrific.”
For updates about Citizen Jake, follow Citizen Jake on Facebook, @citizenjakefilm on Instagram and @thecitizenjake on Twitter.
Photos courtesy of Citizen Jake Facebook page and Cinema Artists Philippines