MANILA -- ‘Yes, I still love Claudine.”
That was the declaration of Mark Anthony Fernandez, who is paired with his erstwhile love team partner and real-life sweetheart, Claudine Barretto, after 27 years in director Joel Lamangan’s upcoming suspense-drama, “Deception.”
“As an actress, as a friend,” Fernandez told ABS-CBN News. “Crush-wise, hindi nawala ang pagka-crush ko sa kanya all these years. Kahit ano pa ang situation, lagi ko siyang crush.”
That they could have ended up with each other in real life has been a constant thought plaguing the minds of Barretto and Fernandez.
“Lagi kong iniisip ‘yun,” Fernandez said. “Ang importante, close pa rin kami hanggang ngayon ni Boss Clau. Hindi man kami nagmamahalan bilang lovers, bilang magkaibigan, natutuwa pa rin ako at nakaka-usap ko siya at ganu’n din siya sa akin.
“Ang lagi kong minamahal kay Boss Clau how she is an actress and how she loves being an actress, on and off the screen. Hindi nagbago ‘yun. Hanggang ngayon, hinahangaan ko pa rin siya.”
“Boss Clau” is how Fernandez endearingly calls Barretto of late. “Nakakatuwa ang tawag niya sa akin,” Barretto said. “Nakaka-aliw talaga si Mark.”
Had it been a different time, Fernandez doesn’t think they will be working on the same script or be given the same material for their reunion film.
“Nagpasalamat ako that this film had suspense and drama. Pagsisisihan ko ‘to kung hindi ito ang nagawa ko,” he said.
Expectedly, the scenes of Barretto and Fernandez together thrilled the production staff while they were filming “Deception.”
“Lagi akong kinikilig kay Boss Clau kapag ka-eksena ko siya,” Fernandez said. “Kinikilig din ako sa script. But I’m careful na mag-overshoot ang kilig na ‘yun.”
While filming “Deception,” Barretto and Fernandez nonchalantly thought about their life together, the what could have beens, if things had been different.
“Ano kaya itsura ng anak namin kung nagkatuluyan kami?” Fernandez thought. “Napag-usapan namin ‘yan. Para sa akin, hindi pa huli ang lahat. Who knows, I will still get an access na ligawan siya again, bakit hindi?”
“Mangarap Ka,” their last film together in 1995, was a love story, although the material was not intense.
“Dito sa ‘Deception,’ nag-uusap kami ni Mark kung ano gusto naming gawin sa scene,” Barretto disclosed. “Walang ilangan. Happy ako. Ano pa ba ang pwedeng hilingin?
“Palagi kaming nagtatawagan ni Mark while shooting this movie regarding the issues, scenes namin sa movie.”
Barretto was only too happy that Borracho Films of lawyer Ferdinand Topacio and Viva Films gave their full support to the project.
For his part, Fernandez was likewise thankful that their reunion project finally pushed through. “More excitement ang feeling ko,” he said. “Matagal na dapat kaming gumawa ng reunion movie, hindi lang natutuloy.
“Naka-tsamba kami sa script nitong ‘Deception.’ I think this is the script na bagay talaga sa amin.”
“Deception” or betrayal is “close to home” for Barretto. “Alam ko ang feeling na ‘yun. Lahat ng tao, nakaranas ng ganu’n at one point in their lives. From my ex-husband [Raymart Santiago] at sa mga taong pinagkatiwalaan ko, I experienced so much deception in my life.
“Ang mga taong tinulungan mo na, ikaw pa rin ang masama, I’ve had so much betrayal. The relationships I had, friendship, at work, sa family or sa ex-husband, napagdaanan ko na. Kaya dapat, mas extra careful ka.”
Fernandez cannot be thankful enough that his director motivated him to deliver what was required for a particular scene. “He [Lamangan] was injecting a thought at mas doon ko nakukuha ang hugot kung paano niya ako ma-direct.”
The script by Easy Ferrer that touched on the justice system, easily appealed to Lamangan when the project was offered to him.
“Gusto ko may lalim ang storya for Claudine and Mark Anthony,” maintained the director who did not prefer a romantic-comedy to be the screen reunion of the former partners.
“Deception” failed to make it as one of the entries in last December’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). Yet, Lamangan felt it was simply a “blessing in disguise,” since all the entries fared poorly at the tills.
“Hindi maganda ang turnover ng MMFF,” Lamangan said. “Hindi pa ready ang mga tao na pumasok sa sinehan sa panahon ngayon. Ako nga, tuwang tuwa ako nu’ng bagong taon dahil naka sampung pelikula ako ngayong pandemya lang.”
The challenge was how to give life to the screen reunion of two extremely popular actors, who didn’t do any movie for more than two decades. How they will be effective in portraying their characters in a film.
Lamangan attested he didn’t have a hard time pairing Barretto and Fernandez again. “Napatunayan nila na sa muli nilang pagtatambal, hindi nag-iba ang kanilang kategorya bilang mahusay na actor at actress.”
The award-winning director noted the chemistry of Barretto and Fernandez was undeniable, despite not working together for more than two decades.
“Alam mo na sila ay mga professional at mayroong tinatagong kahusayan. Nu’ng silang dalawa ang binigay sa akin bilang mga artista ko sa ‘Deception,’ I asked myself kung paano ko gagawin na pagtambalin ulit ang dalawa after 27 years?
“Ganu’n pa ba silang kahusay o ka-professional? Ako ay hindi nabigo. Mahusay pa rin silang umintindi. Meron akong dalawang artistang intelihente. Naintindihan nila kung paano bibigyang buhay ang mga chacraters na assigned sa kanila.
“Mas malalim sila ngayon dahil sa mga nakaraang taon at sa mga karanasan na nasagap nila sa kanilang buhay. Mas lalong naging malalim ang kanilang perception sa realidad na kinakaharap nila at na-translate nila ‘yun sa kanilang pag-arte.”
Barretto previously worked with Lamangan on TV. “Deception” is her first film with him. “Iba ang relationship namin at style ni Direk Joel sa TV. Pandemya ngayon, so hirap na hirap din kami sa shooting, kasi talagang napaka-higpit ang lock-in shooting naming.”
Fernandez explained: “Kailangan bigyang buhay talaga ang mga characters namin. Lalo na ‘yung sa akin, dalawa ang naging identity niya. So that was the challenge I faced bilang artista. Paano bigyang buhay ang mga characters I portrayed.”
Barretto was undeniably impressed at how Fernandez improved as an actor today. “Mas lumalim si Mark bilang actor,” she noted. “Nag-mature siya at pinag-aralan niya ang role niya.
“Mas adventurous talaga siya at nag-explore siya sa pelikulang ito. Binibigay niyang lahat ang mga requirements ni direk Joel for his role.”
She refused to think Fernandez has changed through the years they haven’t seen each other. “Wala namang nagbago sa kanya. He’s the same. Very protective, very loving, very sweet. Lalo lang siyang bumait ngayon. Very professional lang. Malalim siya.”
Meanwhile, Fernandez also glowingly remarked about working with his love team partner anew. “Very inspiring siyang katrabaho,” he said about Barretto. “Nag-bloom siya bilang lady. She is also a loving mom aside from being a superstar.”
After “Deception,” Barretto wishes to make a follow-up film project with Fernandez. “Something like ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith,’ with Brad Pitt at Angelina Jolie,” Barretto said. “May action naman para kakaiba.”
Fernandez butted in. “Naisip ko, kung gagawa kami ng action, kailangan detailed. Napaka-importante ng details at punchlines. ‘Yun ang pwedeng magbago ng buong kwento.”
“Deception” starts streaming on Vivamax on January 28.