MANILA — Darna’s stone has finally found a new owner in Jane De Leon, signaling the komiks icon’s flight to the big screen after half a decade of anticipation.
De Leon landed the coveted role of the Mars Ravelo character after ABS-CBN Films and Star Hunt opened auditions, in light of Liza Soberano’s injury-related departure from the film project.
The casting of the 20-year-old Star Magic artist on Wednesday came six years after ABS-CBN acquired the rights to 13 Ravelo titles or characters, and five years after Star Cinema’s film adaptation was first announced.
Here’s a look at the key events, dating back to April 2013, leading up to the introduction of De Leon as Darna:
April 2013: ABS-CBN inks deal with the Ravelo family
“ABS-CBN is an institution, and based on their products, I think mas maganda talaga na sa kanila mapunta ‘yung projects. Hindi lang ABS-CBN ang option namin, but the best option is ABS-CBN,” Rex Ravelo, son of the late Mars Ravelo, said of the partnership that secured the Kapamilya network rights to 13 titles or characters created by the komiks master.
June 2014: Angel Locsin is introduced as Star Cinema’s Darna
Locsin, who first portrayed Darna in a 2005 TV series, turned emotional as she confirmed her part in the project, which she billed at the time as “a first in Philippine cinema” in terms of scale. Acclaimed filmmaker Erik Matti was also announced as the director of the movie.
October 2015: Angel Locsin departs from ‘Darna’ project, citing spine injury
Two months after being diagnosed with a disc bulge in August 2015, a tearful Locsin announced in a televised interview that she will no longer be able to take on the role of Darna, which requires stunts and further physical conditioning.
December 2015: ‘Darna’ film teaser surprises MMFF audiences
A teaser for “Mars Ravelo’s Darna” was shown in cinemas during the 2015 Metro Manila Film Festival, surprising moviegoers in light of Locsin’s recently announced exit. Matti, the director, later explained that “ABS-CBN, particularly Star Cinema, immediately decided to make the teaser, so that everyone will be assured na matutuloy ang Darna, kahit na ganu’n ang nangyari kay Angel.”
March 2017: ABS-CBN, Angel Locsin announces final decision after ‘trying’
After their joint 2015 announcement of Locsin’s departure from “Darna,” ABS-CBN and the actress sought to have her return if her condition improved, she belatedly revealed. However, she was ultimately advised against it by her doctor, according to Locsin. “I tried, ABS-CBN tried, pero may mga bagay na kailangang i-let go para sa mas makakabuti. Ako, tanggap ko na. Sana maintindihan din ng mga tao na hindi ko na magagawa ang Darna,” she said at the time.
May 2017: Liza Soberano is introduced as the new Darna
Soberano, then a fan-favorite in polls as the new Darna following Locsin’s exit, assured that she would give “more than 100%” to the coveted role which she referred to as her biggest break as an actress.
December 2017: Angel Locsin meets Liza Soberano
Soberano has credited Locsin time and again as a supportive presence amid the pressures of taking on the Darna role. “She told me that she knows I can do it, and that she always believed that I could be the next Darna,” Soberano said in a later interview. “I’m blessed to have her defend me from bashers. It’s rare to find people in the industry who genuinely care for each other. She’s one of the reasons why I want to do so well because I want to make her proud.”
March 2018: Action-packed ‘Bagani,’ starring Liza Soberano, debuts on primetime
“Bagani,” an action epic set in the fictional Sansinukob, marked Soberano’s first-ever action role and was widely seen as one of her preparations for the role of Darna.
July 2018: Liza Soberano confirms having filmed scenes of Narda
Soberano at one point juggled filming scenes for “Bagani” and “Darna.” The actress confirmed in an interview that she has had “many shooting days” particularly as Narda, the superhero’s human alter ego.
August 2018: Liza Soberano is injured on the set of ‘Bagani’
Soberano sustained a fractured finger during the filming of a fight scene in the fantaserye, she revealed in a press conference. “We were able to practice the scene before we took it. But in the middle of the scene, I guess the emotions took over. Accidents happen and natamaan ‘yung kamay ko nung sword. It got fractured, but it’s fine now,” she said at the time.
October 2018: Erik Matti bows out of ‘Darna’ movie
ABS-CBN Films cited “creative differences” in its announcement of Matti’s departure from the project, adding that it is “fully committed to bringing the iconic character to the big screen for today’s generation of moviegoers.” Matti, meanwhile, wished Star Cinema and Soberano “all the best” in its production of the movie.
October 2018: Jerrold Tarog is named new ‘Darna’ director
Tarog, best known for the acclaimed “Heneral Luna” saga on the big screen, was introduced by Star Cinema as the new director of “Darna.” “We welcome Jerrold’s fresh take, innovative ideas, and signature directorial style to make Darna’s return to the big screen a rare cinematic experience for moviegoers,” the film outfit said.
November 2018: With ‘Darna’ changes underway, Liza Soberano focuses on new project
Referring to what would become the 2019 blockbuster “Alone/Together,” Soberano said: “We actually have a due date for the movie. I think we’re going to be doing that first, since ‘Darna’ has to be focused on by the new director. He’s taking over now, so there are going to be some changes.”
December 2018: ABS-CBN opens doors of its Bulacan sound stages, where ‘Darna’ will be filmed
Described as a Hollywood-caliber facility, ABS-CBN’s sound stages in Bulacan was opened for the first time leading up to the filming of pioneering Kapamilya projects there. “This really catapults us to the international stage, because the quality of the output, mapagyayabang,” said Grant Orbeta, head of ABS-CBN’s real estate and development group.
April 2019: Liza Soberano announces exit from ‘Darna,’ citing fractured finger
A tearful Soberano announced that she will no longer be able to do “Darna,” citing the injury she had sustained from “Bagani.” The bones of the finger were crushed, the actress said, vastly limiting the motions she can do when it comes to stunts and physical training for the superhero role. As recently as July 2019, Soberano underwent the latest in a series of surgeries to fix her finger in Los Angeles, USA.
May 2019: ABS-CBN Films, Star Hunt announce auditions for Darna role
After a month of speculation and hot anticipation surrounding the next actress to portray Darna, Star Cinema and Star Hunt, ABS-CBN’s flagship audition caravan, announced open auditions for aspirants who believe they can do the superhero justice.
July 2019: Jane De Leon is introduced as the new Darna
The former “Halik” actress was one of the 300 aspirants who auditioned for the role, according to ABS-CBN Films head Olivia Lamasan. “‘Yung Darna story natin ngayon is a genesis story, a coming of age. Ang requirement talaga is somebody na young and with an air of innocence but at the same time a strength of character,” the acclaimed director said of the reason behind casting de Leon.