JOHN Estrada plays the most challenging role in his acting career as the late Antonio Halili, the mayor of Tanauan who served for five years until he was shockingly assassinated by a sniper on July 1 of last year while participating in their city’s flag ceremony. The movie is written and directed by journalist and film director Ceasar Soriano, who was able to interview the slain mayor just before the violent crime took place, that’s why the title of the movie is “The Last Interview: The Mayor Antonio Halili Story”.
“In that last interview, he talked about his dreams and aspirations for Tanauan,” says Direk Ceasar. “He’s very serious about his fight against illegal drugs and he became controversial for forcing drug users and pushers to do a walk of shame as part of their punishment, but for which he was accused of human rights violation.”
“I feel honored to be chosen to play Mayor Halili on the big screen because he has a very colorful life and an intriguing personality,” John Estrada says. “His life story is not only just interesting but very inspirational in his desire to do good in his job as a public servant. I prepared for the role by watching some of his videos to study his mannerisms, how he moves, how he makes gestures, how he speaks. I had to wear a wig kasi makapal ang buhok niya. I also talked to his wife to learn more about him as a husband and father. Direk Ceasar wants me to put on some of his real clothes pero ayoko. Takot kasi ako sa multo. 'Yung isang decoration sa wall nila, biglang nalaglag while we’re shooting in their house. Tapos, someone with a third eye said nakikita niya si Mayor na nandun pa sa loob ng bahay at palakad-lakad dun. May experience kasi ako sa ganyan nung bata pa ako. 'Yung lolo ko died tapos 'yung toy train ng brother ko na sira na, biglang tumunog at umandar. Few days later, my brother got sick and also died. Sabi nila, kinuha ng lolo ko kasi favorite apo niya 'yun. Mula noon, takot na ako sa multo.”
Is the movie some sort of propaganda? “No, not at all,” says John. “I told the director I won’t make it if it’s just propaganda na may bahid ng pulitika. It’s more like a celebration of the life of Mayor Halili and his accomplishments as mayor of Tanauan. Hanga ako talaga sa tapang niya sa kanyang paglaban sa droga. Kasama rin dito ang kabataan niya, where he’s played by Martin Escudero at kung paano niya niligawan ang naging misis niya (played by Kate Alejandrino).”
The movie shot on actual locations in the home of the Halilis and the city hall of Tanauan. “The Last Interview” opened in theatres Wednesday, May 22. It also stars Ara Mina as the mayor’s dutiful wife Gina, Mon Confiado as the mayor’s father, Martin Escudero as the young Halili, Phoebe Walker as the mayor’s daughter who is now the new mayor after winning in the recent elections, JM Soriano (son of Direk Ceasar) who plays the mayor’s aide who’s missing up to now, plus Michael Flores and Kate Alejandrino. Aside from this movie, John is also in GMA Pictures’ “Family History” with Michael V and in the primetime Kapuso soap, “Kara Mia”, with Carmina Villarroel.
Direk Ceasar adds: “Everything you see in the movie really happened. Walang dagdag o imbento, pati 'yung walk of shame na pinagagawa niya sa mga nahuhuli sa droga. 'Yung nagsasabing human right violation 'yun, you should understand that the mayor has his own strategy na matapang at walang kinatatakutan to stop criminality in his city and it’s effective kasi the people recognize that it produces good result and lessened criminality.”
Does John see himself joining politics someday, like his good friend Richard Gomez? “No, I don’t think politics is for me. May relatives ako sa Basilan na tumakbo, but ako, it never entered my mind. I’m happy being an actor.”