MANILA -- Cristine Reyes has the daring down pat. She walks into the boardroom of the Viva Entertainment offices with her lovely long hair shorn and dyed red and a blouse with a plunging neckline that reaches Death Valley.
But daring for the 30-year old Reyes is drifting from her traditional drama and comedy roles into an action star.
Reyes stars in the Pedring Lopez-directed film "Maria," which is about a former assassin who is marked for death by the crime cartel she used to do wetworks (black operation, assassination) jobs. The action flick also stars Jennifer Lee, Ivan Padilla, KC Montero, and Ronnie Lazaro.
“This has been my most difficult film to date,” Reyes bared. “On top of the physical preparation for conditioning, muscle toning, and the fight sequences – that goes without saying for an action film – it is committing to do something like this.”
“It is not about being the first Filipina actress to do a modern action film, but pushing the envelope. Obviously, it is also about empowering women. It isn’t only that. It’s also bringing Philippine cinema to the world.”
Reyes admitted that her dream is to do international films. “You watch all these films in Hollywood and the rest of the world and you really want to do the same. And if 'Maria' can make that possible, then I am happy I am doing this. It’s a process though.”
“We have seen Korean and Indonesian films really become the benchmark for Asian film,” chipped in Lopez. “At the very least, we should match them and we have the talent to do that. Hopefully, this does well that we can get budgets that will allow us to make bigger and even better films.”
Reyes was happy to note of certain coincidences with the Brie Larson film, "Captain Marvel," that is currently showing in cinemas all over the world. Both "Captain Marvel" and "Maria" were shot around the same time and both will be showing within weeks of each other in this month of March which celebrated as Women’s History Month.
"I took my daughter Amarah to watch 'Captain Marvel' and we both enjoyed it. And Brie Larson is a great actress. She too crossed over from rom-coms to action films. She’s also an inspiration,” she said.
“During the filming of 'Maria,' I learned that if I really work hard on something and put in all the passion and heart, the outcome will be something everyone can be proud of.”
Prior to the filming, Lopez asked Reyes to watch "Nikita" (starring Anne Parillaud) and "The Long Kiss Goodnight" (starring Geena Davis). Both films are about female assassins.
“While the story features an assassin, at its heart, it is a revenge story,” explained Lopez who also said that "Maria" was written with Reyes in mind. “Cristine is the one and only choice for the film as she has a martial arts background and the drama experience to act out the other parts.”
"The parts where I play the mother is easy because I’ve done that,” added Reyes. “It’s the action that is a new game for me.”
“I have a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu background but I am just a white belt,” smiled Reyes. “Now it is different when you are just practicing it and trying to put it on film. (Fil-Am stunt guru) Sonny Sison taught me how to throw a punch and kick for the camera. And I also had to learn how to properly hold a karambit (knife) and fight with it.”
According to Lopez, 90% of Reyes’ action scenes were done by the actress herself. “She even wanted to do the more dangerous scenes but we had to hold her back because not only might she get injured but we needed her for more shooting days,” the director said.
“The bruises are worth the final product,” smiled Reyes.
“Watching the advance screening, I was nervous going to the cinema. When I saw the outcome, I felt really satisfied. But the actress in me also saw something I needed to improve on – my acting and the fight sequences.”
“After watching 'Maria,' I cannot wait to start on Part 2. I want to improve my craft and do even more kickass action scenes.”