With his boyish charms, mild demeanor and well-spoken voice, it is quite impossible to picture Matteo Guidicelli as an action star. That is, until today—he hopes—as his first action-drama Across the Crescent Moon opens in cinemas across the country.
The actor, who went into showbiz with a privileged car-racing background, has always landed swoon-worthy leading man or patient-third-wheeler roles since starting his career. It is therefore no surprise that he eagerly grabbed an offer that has given him a very different kind of challenge.
“I feel very blessed to do this movie. People think that I can only be a goody-goody angel on screen but really, it has always been my dream to do action movies,” Guidicelli acknowledged at Across the Crescent Moon’s grand press launch.
In his first major starrer, Guidicelli plays Abbas, a Moslem Special Action Force (SAF) Exemplary Officer tasked to investigate a human trafficking syndicate. The assignment puts additional strain on his family, both sides of which are already at odds because his wife is a Christian, and in the process, also tests his fidelity to Islam and ultimately endangers his life.
Joining Guidicelli are a mix of the finest actors in Philippine cinema and promising newcomers, namely Christopher de Leon, Dina Bonnevie, Gabby Concepcion, Sandy Andolong, Alexandra Godinez, Joem Bascon, Ivan Carapiet, Jerico Estregan, Leo Martinez, Rex Cortez, Jackie Aquino, Garie Concepcion, Jerene Tan, Mariel de Leo and Ku Aquino.
According to writer, director and producer Baby Nebrida—whose credits include such classics as Langis at Tubig, Init o Lamig, My Only Love, Epimaco Velasco: NBI, Chop-Chop Lady: The Elsa Castillo Story, among others—it took them three months to finally cast the heartthrob.
Nebrida confessed she was initially unconvinced Guidicelli had the capacity to do an action movie. “I have to be honest, I didn’t know that he was a great action star. I thought he was just a romantic man,” she came clean.
But after spending several months with the actor, witnessing his dedication and acting and physical capacity, Nebrida boldly declared Guidicelli has found his calling in showbiz.
“After this movie, I think he’s going to be a big action star. Matteo is terrific in Across the Crescent Moon. The role was really meant for him,” the writed-director declared.
Nebrida by the way is not the only legend who is all praise for Guidicelli. Christopher de Leon, who plays the actor’s Moslem father, was also in awe of his versatility.
“In our first scene at the mosque, I was like, ‘This Matteo, is he the snobbish mayabang star of ABS-CBN?’ But it turned out he wasn’t. Matteo was so humble and accommodating, he was very gracious and I like that. Best of all, he is very dedicated to his craft,” de Leon shared.
The veteran recalled how Guidicelli came down with the flu one day and was shaking in between takes. No matter how sick he was, he insisted on continuing the shoot so as not to disrupt anyone’s schedule.
“Moreover, Matteo was willing to do all the action and dramatic scenes that Direk wanted him to do. No doubles. Even in our Tausug lines, he was perfect saying them,” de Leon continued.
Dina Bonnevie, who plays Guidicelli’s mother-in-law, also commended the actor for his talent and professionalism. “His emotional quotient is so high na talagang he feels his roles. He’s very observant and he is willing to learn.”
Physical, emotional preparation
The offer to do the movie came at a very opportune time as Guidicelli—ever the adrenaline junkie who engages in extreme adventures and physically demanding sports—just started training for the traditional Filipino Martial Arts, Kali.
He found his recently acquired skill useful in his complicated fight scenes, which Hollywood stunt directors Shawn Bernal and Tim Waid specifically devised for the film.
Nevertheless, Guidicelli had met many new challenges in the movie, besides having to imbibe a new culture.
“When we were shooting in the Mosque, I was asking all these questions, thinking what others also believe that Muslims are violent, what with all the wars and suicide missions around the world. They generously explained that according to the Quran, all religions have God at the center, so that all Muslims also want peace and harmony. I hope this movie breaks the notion that Muslims are bad. Their traditions are very strong and we should learn to respect that,” Guidicelli noted.
In parting, the actor explained why he is very thankful to be part of such a meaningful project. “All the challenges that we faced in making the film was all worth it—we all cried, we had sleepless nights but at the end of the day it was fulfilling.”
Incidentally, Across the Crescent Moon’s opening day today falls on the second anniversary of the Mamamsapano massacre, where an encounter with Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Moro Islamic Liberation Front led to the death of 44 SAF soldiers.