Dig deep into the psyche of Filipino society, and you’ll find a deeply ingrained sense of honor with regards to family and religious practice. In Honor Thy Father, John Lloyd Cruz gives a strong performance as Edgar, a man who finds his life inexplicably wrecked by greed and corruption in these same institutions, and who must rescue his own family from it. I spoke with Cruz about the film, the approach he takes with regards to his craft, and his favourite superhero movie.
What drew you to the role of Edgar? How did you start to inhibit the role?
Well, I think the storytelling–the way Michiko Yamamoto told the story. Erik Matti is such a visual director, and his other films are fantastic. When I read the script, it was very intimate and very personal and quiet and unsettling. So I think those are the factors that drew me in.
Yes, it’s a very intimate film all at once.
It is. Have you seen the film?
I have, I’ve seen it twice now.
I noticed that in the film Edgar is extremely restrained. You see him physically curling into himself at the beginning and then you start to see the emotions. How did you work with that?
I don’t know! [laughs] I always have a hard time explaining my process, but I liked how Michiko told the story for me, as a reader, and that’s more than enough for me to commit. But I really fell in love with the journey of Edgar’s character, a man trying to become a better man for the family, a man finally having a greater purpose in his life. And I felt his struggle when I was reading the script.
Yeah, it was an intense movie to watch. It was slow and then ramped up very quickly.
Did you like that?
You know, I did. It’s definitely not what I expected it to be. I think initially I thought it was going to be a comedy when I first heard about it at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. And it wasn’t like that. Which leads to my next question:What was the filming experience like in the tunnels?
It was crazy. We shot in the real mine camps, and especially when one of the mountains nearby–we could really feel the place vibrating. It was kind of stupid and crazy, but I think it helped everyone achieve what we wanted to achieve. If anything, it actually helped us.
So no crazy adventures in the mines?
The whole thing was a crazy adventure. The whole film was one for me. [laughs] A good crazy.
It’s not your newest film, I think. You have a film coming out with Jennylyn Mercado…
Yeah, it’s my most recent film, it’s called Just the 3 of Us from Star Cinema.
And you’ve had a pretty long storied career. So what film or series do you think best exemplifies your work as an actor?
It’s a complex question. It’s hard to say. I do films for the challenge of it, and for wanting to explore a new persona, a new character. I’m in it for the journey. Like this, my most recent film is not out yet, but that one was also quite crazy.
What was one particular challenge that you had to deal with in Honor Thy Father?
Honor Thy Father is my first film outside Star Cinema, outside my mother studio. That was my biggest obstacle over the whole journey.
It’s like stepping out of your comfort zone, and diving into the unknown. But what I learned about it was even more special to me. It was personal [to me]. It gave me a new sense of commitment to my craft. After Honor Thy Father, everything seems so personal to me. Give me anything, everything, I’ll do anything, but I’ll do it in a very personal way.
I do write for a comics-centric site, so I’m going to take the opportunity to now ask you: Batman versus Superman?
[laughs] You know, I don’t watch a lot of [superhero] movies. Deadpool?
That’s a pretty good choice! My next question was going to be on the Marvel side of things: Captain America or Iron Man?
Uh…Well, I fell asleep when I watched Iron Man. I’m sorry!
So I’m guessing it’s Captain America?
I never got the chance to watch those films. [laughs]
Maybe you’ll get a chance to watch them on the flight.
Are there any films you’re excited to hear at this festival?
I really wanted to see Apocalypse Child, but I missed it. I’ll have to wait until its regular run in the Philippines to see it.
That’s next on my list of films to watch as well. I hope you get to see it!
I have a new film coming out with Lab Diaz coming out in the next Metro Manila Film Festival. There’ll be lots of changes coming out in the MMFF so look forward to that. It’ll be interesting cause we have a new set of committees.
I look forward to it! Congratulations on winning the Gawad Urian for Best Actor, and for the Star Asia Award as well.
Thanks, I know, I feel like a star. [laughs]
Honor Thy Father screens on July 2, 2016 at the New York Asian Film Festival.