‘Die Beautiful’ lead shares the challenges of playing a glamorous transgender woman
Makeup transformation—the act of copying a famous personality’s look using cosmetics—may have been one of the biggest online fads in 2014, but Paolo Ballesteros, the netizen-inducted “king” of this challenge, proved that he can successfully take the magic of his brushes beyond the confines of the Internet.
Flushed from the success of “Kalye Serye” in the noontime show Eat Bulaga, Ballesteros started 2016 in high spirits what with his notable role as gorgeous grandma Lola Tidora, thanks again to his amazing transformation skills.
In terms of his acting career, he eagerly took on supporting roles in several movies and television shows, until his biggest break came along—the role of the fabulous transgender woman Trisha in Die Beautiful.
Both the character and the movie, directed by internationally-acclaimed filmmaker Jun Lana, won top awards in October’s Tokyo International Film Festival, and Ballesteros is on top of the world.
From actor to collaborator
On Monday, at Die Beautiful’s grand media conference as an entry to the forthcoming Metro Manila Film Festival, Ballesteros talked more about his makeup skills, and how they came in handy to pull off the movie’s premise: Trisha’s dying wish to be transformed into different celebrities every night of her wake.
“We had makeup artists on the set but most of the time I did my own makeup,” the actor acknowledged, citing his onscreen transformations as celebrities as the trickiest to do.
In fact, so as not to keep the production staff waiting for him to complete his look, Ballesteros said he would often come to the set earlier than his call time to start his transformation.
Zooming in further on this particular challenge in bringing Trisha to life, The Manila Times asked the 34-year-old actor at the sidelines what steps he took to perfect the character.
“For one, I always made sure that I was able to achieve the look that the script needed for specific scenes. For instance, our first shoot needed me to look like Julia Roberts, but after the take, I checked the monitor for playback and didn’t feel satisfied with my register. Hindi ko kamukha!” Ballesteros intimated.
And while his co-stars assured him he looked every bit like the Hollywood star, Ballesteros still believed he could improve his transformation.
“It was my work and I needed to feel that I had perfectly achieved the look so I got my makeup out, and instead of doing a retouch, reworked my entire face. I asked for the monitor and worked with [director]Jun to figure out the proper light to use so I would look exactly like Julia Roberts,” Ballesteros detailed to The Manila Times.
As for his wardrobe, Ballesteros tapped his knowledge in achieving the female figure—a skill he learned since he emerged as one of the most beautiful male co-hosts in Eat Bulaga’s 2005 segment “Bebot.”
“We had a stylist and people specifically working in wardrobe, but since I’d like to meddle,” he laughed, “I also gave input in that department. I brought shoes as well as binders that I use to achieve the female curve. I even brought bras not only for myself but for my co-stars as well,” Ballesteros said.
The actor who, since joining show business in 2000, has always been a “single-man team,” has admirably gone through showbiz without the customary personal assistant nor a driver to late night and faraway shoots, Die Beautiful included.
“I’ve always been like that—I’m hands on in everything. Sometimes it’s more difficult to tell people what to do. Usually, I end up doing whatever it is myself anyway,” Ballesteros openly chatted.
“For Die Beautiful, I just tried to share whatever expertise I had to get things going, and I’m grateful that Jun accepted my inputs, and that the whole team supported me when I felt the need to refine things.”
All of Ballesteros’ efforts paid off when the dramedy took home the Audience Award from the Tokyo International Film Festival, and bagged him the prestigious Best Actor Award.
Die Beautiful hopes to make a sweeter triumph here home when it competes with other official entries in the upcoming 42nd Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).
Ballesteros’ director-cum-mentor, Jun Lana, is all praises for the actor—even before the world took notice of his acting prowess. As he had emphasized in several interviews, Lana did not choose Ballesteros to portray the titular role for his makeup skills alone.
Two years ago—back when the makeup transformation craze had yet to be conceived in the world wide web—the director had already asked Ballesteros to audition for Trisha. After reading a few lines from the script, Lana knew he had found the perfect actor for his transgender muse.
When The Manila Times asked Lana just what he saw in Ballesteros back then, the director replied, “He understood the character and he handled his audition with so much compassion and humanity. In that very moment, I saw magic—which is really hard to find—and I knew that I found my Trisha. He was perfect for the role.”
Truly proud of Ballesteros, Lana said in parting, “When Paolo went to Tokyo in November, he was best known as part of Eat Bulaga with a few movies to his name. When he returned to the Philippines with that Best Actor award, he was suddenly a big star! I’m overjoyed with what the movie has done for him—a movie that was handed to him at the right time. I really think Die Beautiful was meant to be his.”
Produced by Idea First Company and distributed by Regal Entertainment, Inc., ‘Die Beautiful’ opens in cinemas on December 25.