Matteo Guidicelli is the new Pedro Penduko in Viva Films and Epik Studio's reimagining of Francisco Coaching's classic Filipino comic book character, Pedro Penduko.
29-year-old Matteo was tapped to play the lead role nearly four months after James Reid backed out from playing Pedro Penduko due to "spinal injuries."
Does he mind playing second choice to James?
"No naman," Matteo readily answered during a press con held at the Viva office in Pasig City on October 22.
More than anything, Matteo said he felt "overwhelmed" and that it was a "dream come true" to be playing a superhero that will showcase proudly Filipino roots.
"I just actually moved to Viva a few months ago."
Referring to Viva Entertainment's head honcho Vic del Rosario, Matteo continued, "And Boss Vic told me, 'You can be the next Pedro Penduko.' Sabi ko, 'Wow. Let's do this. Let's start na.'
"So after a few months of training, I hope we can finally begin."
It was in September when James decided to leave Viva Artists Agency and switch to his family-owned talent agency.
Matteo, for his part, transferred to Viva in February after being managed by ABS-CBN's talent management arm Star Magic for eight years.
At the press con, Viva Films producer Vicente del Rosario told PEP.ph that Matteo was a "mutual choice" of both Viva management and director Jason Paul Laxamana.
"Siyempre paglipat ni Matteo dito, timing naman na may opening na role. So natural mag-decide kay Matteo, among many other projects na niluluto for Matteo."
Viva Films supervising producer June Rufino went on to say the timeline when Matteo was first considered for the title role.
"About a month after paglipat niya, nag-usap kami who'll do Penduko, Matteo's name was unanimously suggested."
The project was supposed to be originally helmed by director Treb Monteras II.
Was the change in the lead actor also the reason for tapping a fresh team headed by Direk Jason and Hollywood stunt director Jason Sison?
Vicente replied, "Well, isa 'yon na reason. At the same time, nakita namin na may need for a commercial director to be attached.
"Even yung success rate ni Jason, at least sa mga movies na ginagawa niya sa amin, feeling namin mas mako-communicate niya yung kuwento ni Penduko sa mas maraming tao.
"Hindi lang dun sa fan boy, yung mga mahilig sa graphic novel.
"'Yon yung isang major decision kung bakit sabi namin, 'We better work with Jason Paul.'"
(Seen from left to right are Hollywood stunt director Sonny Sison, director-writer Jason Paul Laxamana, lead actor Matteo Guidicelli, and Viva Films producer Vicente del Rosario.)
It was Direk Jason who chose the one-word movie title Penduko for Matteo's depiction of the Pinoy superhero.
Talking about coming on board the project, Direk Jason said he has always been interested in Filipino folklore, which is why he jumped at the chance to do the movie with Viva Films and Epik Studios.
"Na-excite ako na natakot because I'm sure it's gonna be a make-or-break moment for me as a filmmaker.
"And you know, before this, pinakamalapit na nagawa ko ay horror film na may action, may harness...
"Pero I think, kung hindi ko pa gagawin ito ngayon, kailan pa ako magkaka-chance?"
Direk Jason said he's halfway through writing the script of Penduko and tailor-fitted the character to be a Bisaya just like Matteo who hails from Cebu in real life.
"Mas ni-root ko si Penduko this time sa Visayan folklore.
"Instead of a bow, he's holding a spear because ancient Visayans are known for bamboo spears.
"Mas grinounded ko siya sa actual history ng mga Bisaya."
At the same time, Direk Jason pointed out that moviegoers can still expect the standard Pedro Penduko, who is a "Filipino character na mata-thrust sa Filipino supernatural world, andun yung essence na 'yon."
As for Direk Sonny, he is in charge of Matteo's martial arts training and physical conditioning once they begin filming the action scenes.
"I love working with Matteo. When he comes to train, talagang focused siya sa trabaho niya," he said.
"He's really strong talaga, even just to work on mga technique sa cinematic fighting.
"Kasi he has the fighting spirit talaga in certain movements that he does."
Direk Sonny said he's confident that Matteo can pull off the stunts as well as pull the heartstrings of moviegoers.
"My experience often went, my actors, they focus solely lang on action. They forget about emotional content.
"Pero si Matteo, he's a natural with it. I look forward to training with him all the time."
Direk Jason added that Matteo's training as an army reservist would really help in terms of the stunts that will be required of him.
"As a writer, nage-enjoy ako kasi yung process ko, hindi yung, 'Kaya kayang gawin ito ng actor ko?'
"Kasi alam kong kaya niyang gawin, of course, with the help of Sonny.
"That's what's nice kapag yung actor ay very physically appropriate para sa role."
Penduko is slated to be shown in cinemas in 2020.