Judy Ann Santos has made no secret of losing confidence in her acting after a hiatus from showbiz to focus on her family. This, despite her superstar status being backed by decades of award-winning roles on the small and big screen.
The 39-year-old actress was candid about her apprehension in promotional interviews for "Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes," which posed an extra challenge for the drama veteran. Not only was it her comeback film, it was also primarily a comedy.
The Jun Lana film, which has so far raked in ₱120 million at the box office, centers on two women (Santos, Angelica Panganiban) who connive after finding out their respective husbands (Joross Gamboa, JC de Vera) are having an affair with each other.
"Natakot (Terrified)" was how Santos described her initial feeling being paired in the project with Panganiban, her former "Sa Puso Ko, Iingatan Ka" co-star who has since made a name as a comedienne.
"In fact," she explained in the January press conference for the movie, "after the third shooting day, I had to talk to sina Direk Jun and the rest of the production staff to ask if, 'Okay ba 'yung trabaho ko? May kulang ba? Ano pa ba ang dapat kong gawin?' Ganoon ako kawalang ka-confidence at all sa trabaho ko or sa sarili ko as an actress. (after the third shooting day, I had to talk to Director Jun and the rest of the production staff to ask if, my work is just fine, is it enough, do I still have to do more, that is how I am apprehensive about my work and myself as an actress.)"
One such scene had Lianne (Santos) trying -- but failing -- to seduce her husband, Gary (Gamboa), after undergoing breast enlargement surgery. In that scene, Cindy is seen sipping wine before turning to show her newly implanted "enhancements."
That glass of wine, director Lana now reveals, was the actual thing. Before the cameras rolled, Santos needed a drink to let down her inhibitions."Talagang takot siya, e, (she is really terrified)" Lana told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview. "When we were doing the film, takot talaga siya, nararamdaman ko. Nagtutulungan talaga kami. (When we were doing the film, she is really terrified, I can feel it. We just help one another.)" "Yung eksena lang sa swimming pool -- I think I can now tell this story -- bago namin kunan iyon, kailangan niya uminom, kailangan niya mag-wine. Nakadalawang baso siya ng wine, (The scene at the swimming pool, I think I can now tell this story, before shooting it she needs a drink, she needs to have a wine, she even finished two glasses of wine,)" the filmmaker narrated.
Lana continued: "Natatakot siya. Sinabi niya sa akin, 'Kung gagawin ko 'to, kailangan i-embrace ko, kasi kapag hindi, hindi maganda ang eksena.' So sabi niya sa akin, 'Bigyan mo ako ng ilang minuto, iinom ako!' Nag-work naman! (She was terrified. She said to me that, If I am going to do this I need to embrace it, because if not the scene will not be good. So she ask for a few minutes, she just need to have a drink, and it worked!)"
And work it did, as Santos earned raves not only for her serious moments as the vengeful Lianne, but also for her comedic timing. Among others, a scene where she is bed-ridden and under the effects of potent anesthesia -- while learning for the first time her husband's infidelity and actual sexual orientation -- was a hit among critics and moviegoers. "By Santos's own admission, it took time for her to feel, genuinely, that she is still a competent actress. That pivot in her mindset, it seemed, unfolded on television via "Tonight with Boy Abunda," when Santos couldn't hold tears after being prompted by the TV host to tell her reflection the words she needed to hear the most, at this point in her life." After a thoughtful pause, she answered: "Okay ka pa rin. (You are still fine)"
On the other hand the scene, posted by producer Star Cinema on YouTube, shows Cindy learning of the medical reason behind her difficulty conceiving: she has "lazy ovaries." Cindy is then seen breaking down inside a toilet cubicle. The emotional scene gets a comedic twist, however, with Cindy addressing her ovaries. "Wala namang ganyanan!" she says, in tears. "Baka puwedeng mag-relax kayo 'pag 40 na ako, o kaya meron na akong tatlong anak sa asawa ko. Huwag naman ngayon. Kinakarir ko ang lahat matanggap lang ako ni mom. Sige na naman, guys, please. Tulong-tulong tayo! Group effort!" The scene ultimately didn't make it to the final cut of the acclaimed film.
Moviegoers who have seen the revenge comedy by Jun Robles Lana, which is currently on its third week in cinemas, will not recognize this plot point; Cindy being potentially barren was not mentioned throughout the film. Lana, in a phone interview with ABS-CBN News Wednesday, explained that the scene was part of the original two-and-a-half hour cut of "Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes." "It was a hilarious scene, and at the same time, set up 'yon for the audience to understand what the character is going through. Nahihirapan siya magbuntis, that's why napaka-desperate siya na mahalin siya ng asawa niya," he said.
The filmmaker cited a number of factors behind his decision to exclude the plot point altogether, one being Panganiban's "brilliant acting." "Sometimes when you write a script, as a writer, you tend to provide all the information. And then when you start making the movie, you realize na ang galing-galing ng mga artista, may mga puwede kang alisin [na eksena], kasi sa portrayal pa lang nila, marami na silang naki-kuwento na hindi mo kailangan i-verbalize," Lana said. "It wasn't really moving the story forward. We decided to let go of that," Lana said, adding that he also had to trim the film's final run time.
This was one of the reasons behind the exclusion of another scene, where Judy Ann Santos' Lianne is seen being strictly professional with a patient who opens up about her own experience of being cheated on by a partner. As can be inferred from that deleted scene, Lana confirmed that it was supposed to take place after Lianne's open letter to her cheating husband Gary (Joross Gamboa) went viral on Facebook. Aside from giving the audience "a glimpse of Lianne's professional life," Lana said the scene was intended to show what the character "has to deal with after inilabas niya 'yung Facebook post."
But, more importantly, the filmmaker saw that it risked interfering with "the rise and fall of emotions ng mga characters," pointing out that it would have been shown shortly before a pivotal confrontation between Lianne and Gary in a hospital. "I was trying to imagine kung ano rin 'yung pagdadaanan ng audience," he said. "I felt na it was just really too long and nada-digress from the main point of the story." "Hindi na kailangan. Nagpapatawa na lang, e. Parang punch lines na lang ang mga 'to na puwede mo na alisin," Lana added, referring to a part where Lianne quips she is not Charo Santos of "Maalala Mo Kaya," where letter senders share real-life drama.
A third deleted scene also released by Star Cinema, meanwhile, was meant to flesh out a sub-plot involving Panganiban's Cindy and Nico Antonio's Steve. It shows the two talking about random encounters while having dinner at a restaurant, Ma Mon Luk, where a four-way confrontation among the Reyeses earlier took place.
The deleted scene, he explained, was meant to "flesh out the romance, and makita pa 'yung chemistry ng dalawa." "Kasi iyon talaga, inalis, e. Wala na 'yung mga tinginan, 'yung getting to know each other, 'yung falling-in-love stage. Iyon, nawala lahat 'yun," he added. Aside from the scene being "too long," Lana shared that his decision to do away with the scene was a matter of trusting the audience's intelligence. "Pag gumagawa ka naman ng pelikula, you don't really have to provide all the answers," he said. "Otherwise, there's really nothing left to discover. Magandang napapaisip ang audience, magandang nakikiliti sila." "I think noong makita na si Steve 'yung katabi ni Cindy, makikiliti 'yung audience: 'Sila ba? Magkakatuluyan ba sila?' Mas interesting iyon," the filmmaker said.
Asked if he regrets not being able to include several scenes his team had already shot, Lana answered readily, "Hindi." "I'm really merciless when it comes to editing my own films," he said. "Siguro if I had more time, baka ibang movie pa 'yung nailabas ko, e. Iyon talaga ang process ko. I believe in the input ng mga taong kasama ko sa production, ng cinematographer, ng production designer, ng editor." Lana, whose award-winning career as a screenwriter and later as a director spans over two decades, knows full well that after the process of filmmaking, "posible at madalas talagang ibang-iba 'yung lumalabas na product doon sa original blueprint or screenplay. " "Basta masaya ako sa kinalabasan, iyon ang pinaka-importante -- na feeling ko, lumabas 'yung vision ko as a director, and na-serve ko 'yung hinihingi ng kuwento," he said.