Even in a cool black leather jacket, director Enzo Williams is anything but flashy. He could choose to be so with right, though—he is the badass who challenged Philippine history and declared Andres Bonifacio the country’s “true first president”—but the brainchild of the controversial and multi-awarded biopic, Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo (2014), draws hardly any attention to himself. Instead, he keeps a keen eye on everything around him; quietly observing how people move, what people say, as if always in search for the truth amid the surface of reality.
“My work relies heavily on research, ” Williams said in a low voice at the sidelines of a grand Regal Entertainment media conference. It was his first for the decades old movie outfit, and despite the constant praise that met him as Regal’s mother-and-daughter tandem of Lily and Roselle Monteverde introduced their newest director with pride, Bonifacio’s erstwhile hero was self-effacing albeit gracious and grateful.
“It took me two whole years of research to complete Bonifacio’s story,” he continued in this one-on-one with The Manila Times. “Then there was the actual filming, which also took months for accuracy; then for the next seven months, we took the movie to schools all over the country [in response to the significant impact the movie made among history teachers and the Department of Education itself]and finally to a few international screenings. It burned me out,” he added laughing. “But it was all worth it.”
The Los Angeles City College film graduate took a long break back in the US when the fascination over Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo eventually subsided to recharge, refresh, and plan his next move.
Returning to the Philippines this year, he pulls out a big surprise in terms of the theme of his follow-up movie.
“The Escort is a very sexy drama,” he acknowledged against a backdrop of Philippine movie’s hottest male actor Derek Ramsay locked in a seductive embrace with sultry actress Lovi Poe. “It’s rated R-16.”
As if anticipating the next question—how exactly he decided go from a powerful biopic of a martyred patriot to shooting erotic scenes between a showbiz Adonis and a sought-after siren—Williams explained he needs versatility to grow in his craft.
“To be honest, I actually think that Bonifacio might be the last [historical figure]who’s worth doing—at least for me—with the amount of work and the kind of passion that went into that movie,” the director confessed. “But doing The Escort, sexy as it is, it also entailed a lot of research on my part, because the movie aims to bring out the truth why this reality takes place—why a woman would even take on a ‘job’ like this, and why a powerful man would go as far as paying a woman to be by his side.”
According to Williams, the concept of The Escort came from Roselle Monteverde, who in turn told The Manila Times that the topic often came up among friends who knew successful businessmen and politicians who sought the services of lady companions.
“That in itself is interesting, why a powerful man would even have to hire an escort, when we would normally think he could have any woman he wants,” rejoined Williams. “All these realities will come out in the movie, so that when you watch it, you’re not just going to get carried away by all these sexy scenes, but you will also come to understand the different characters, empathize with them, and realize that there is love amid all the erotica.”
In The Escort, Ramsay plays an ex-escort, Xyrus, whose back story shows him abandoned by his mother and later in life dumped by his fiancée a few days before their wedding day. His misfortunes drive him to curse women and vow never to fall in love again.
Poe, meanwhile plays the role of an eldest child left to raise her siblings after their parents die in an accident. As the beautiful Yassi, she will meet Xyrus who tries to convince her to take on a job as an escort to a rich real estate mogul portrayed by Christopher de Leon.
“There will be many unexpected twists in that plot,” conveyed Williams, “which all in all will prove that the film is not just about showing skin. This is something real and something happening all around us.”
And with that, director Enzo Williams politely said his thanks and goodbyes, took a quiet corner amid the din of the busy showbiz gathering, and with his black leather jacket cloaking him, kept his eyes open for the next reality to pursue for his art.
‘The Escort’ opens on November 2 from Regal Entertainment.