MANILA -- Bela Padilla’s fans have been constantly wondering what she has been busy with in London, UK, since she started to relocate there in 2021.
Since then, the actress-screenwriter-director has been returning to Manila occasionally when she needed to complete a film project under Viva Films, the production outfit she is under contract with.
Uprooting to London after15 years of working in local showbiz has allowed Padilla to “live my life,” she said.
The 31-year-old actress has apparently devoted half of her life to working in the business.
Today, riding her bicycle to her favorite bakery in London to buy bread for breakfast, is part of Padilla’s simple and regular activities.
She enjoys her laid-back life in London although in most of her days, she delivers work for her projects in the Philippines, such as writing scripts.
Padilla has successfully charted a number of blockbuster “hugot” films with sad endings, like Irene Villamor’s “On Vodka, Beer and Regrets” (2020) and “Meet Me in St. Gallen” (2018), Jason Paul Laxamana’s “The Day After Valentine’s” (2018) and “100 Tula Para Kay Stella” (2017).
For a change, Padilla is given a rom-com, with a touch of horror in Jalz Zarate’s directorial debut, “Spellbound,” the Filipino adaptation of the top-grossing South Korean romantic-comedy shown in 2011. It was also titled “My Girlfriend Can See Ghosts.”
Padilla, who is paired for the first time with Marco Gumabao, admitted she herself was surprised with the knack for comedy she exhibited on “Spellbound.” She credited her two “friends” – Miguel and Jack – San Miguel and Jack Daniels.
“I really enjoyed shooting ‘Spellbound’ because Marco and I really had fun working on the set,” Padilla said. “Direk Jalz made everybody very, very comfortable. Pinabayaan niya kami kung gusto naming magpatawa.”
“On the set, we were simply doing our jobs. I didn’t expect that we will have chemistry onscreen. It is rare that I get thrilled in the scene that I’m doing. But it happened to me here [in ‘Spellbound].”
It was easy for Padilla and Gumabao to work together since they have been friends for a long time. Yet, the chemistry readily showed in most of their scenes together.
“I’ve known Marco for a long time,” Padilla said. “Either way, the scenes can go really, really well or they will not work at all because you are friends and there was no more spark.
“There’s also nothing in between. What happened was shocking for me, but in a very pleasant way.”
She fell in love with the script and it excited her more knowing the story was based on a South Korean film.
“I had no expectations coming in,” Padilla shared. “They just told me, ‘We have a script here. It’s a Korean film. We are going to adapt it. Maybe you want to read it and let us know if you want to be a part of this project.
When I watched the film, I was so scared. I had to watch the original ‘Spellbound’ in two days. I couldn’t watch it in one go. So, I found the project so challenging and different. I wanted to try it.
“When you read the script, they don’t tell you who you are going to work with, who is your director or co-actor. I fell in love with the script.”
When Padilla learned back in 2020 that she would be working with Gumabao, she didn’t have any hesitation. “I know Marco personally. He is a very light person to be around with. Plus, I wanted to do something fresh and light. It was easy for me to say yes.”
“Spellbound” took three years in the making. “We experienced the eruption of Taal Volcano,” disclosed Padilla. “You will see a scene where we had blankets as our jackets, that’s for real. It was really cold when Taal Volcano erupted. There were ashes everywhere.
“Then the pandemic happened. It was only in April last year when we started shooting again. This wouldn’t work if the captain of the ship wasn’t as stable as Direk Jalz. He was messaging us personally and checking on us.
“He assured us, ‘The movie is still happening, guys. Don’t be scared.’ It’s really important when the person who’s in charge of all of you really knows what he’s doing.”
After “Spellbound,” that started its regular theater run last February 1, Padilla’s next film is “If,” which she also directed. The film was shot in the Philippines and Korea last October, with Korean actor Yoo Min-gon and Lorna Tolentino. It is slated to be shown this year.