Big Thing WAS Captain Barbell. Lyndon Santos and I had been tasked to write the new Captain Barbell film for Viva. Which was, honestly, a sort-of exciting proposition for me, not simply because of the comics/superhero angle (actually, superheroes as a genre doesn’t particularly excite me any longer) but because I actually DO have fond memories of the ’86 Herbert Bautista-Edu Manzano flick (I was six at the time, what can I say).
On the day I found out about it, there was already a meeting that evening, where we hashed out a plot in a little under 2 hours, mostly dictated by Ogie Alcasid, who at the time was the only star attached to the project (he was to play Tenteng, though none of us could remember the name, so we got it wrong and his character was named Enteng). I wasn’t exactly excited about this plot, which, while not bad per se, was a little traditional and obvious, so I drafted a different plot with some themes I thought would be relevant to Mars’s original work on the character. Thankfully the powers-that-be liked it, and we went to work with more research (under a ridiculous deadline). We went through some articles about the old comics material, Mars himself, etc. This research was used in a thesis by friends of mine, so I was glad it was close at hand. We were also given photocopies of old Barbell comics, written by Ravelo with other artists.
We wrote the first draft in something like 3 days. All at Quark’s house, using a pretty detailed outline we had come up with a week or two previous. Quark, at the time, had been attached to the project, even when it was announced as an entry to December’s Film Festival.
Anyway, I liked what we came up with. It needed some more tweaking, but I felt it was good, and could be good, and I was glad Quark was the director because we were worried about it falling into the hands of someone who wouldn’t get the comedy. There were nods to Mars everywhere, from locations to character names. Thematically, I thought we had the spirit of some of his original stories, but contemporized and, I suppose, re-imagined. We even had the continuities merged, where, out of fondness and respect, this film acknolwedged the events that transpired in CB’86. We even had a cameo appearance by Herbert.
And here our troubles began.
Quark was under pressure with Keka. He had a playdate/deadline that he had to stick to, which he met, but meant he was being rode hard. He was working almost everyday for several weeks, and it’s a miracle he didn’t get sick. Still, after this, he was understandably wanting a break and passed on Barbell.
Another reason is that they were taking so long on casting, and the “deadline” was looming. If this was a Film Fest entry, it needed to come out in December. And this has more effects, understandably, than your typical film. It was getting late, and the schedule looked like it was going to be ridiculous again, which none of us wanted (least of all Quark).
So. The project was given to Mac Alejandre to direct. And I guess he didn’t like our script, because he gave it to a friend of his to rewrite. Us writers weren’t told, I had to find out by talking to the producer and asking her about it on the set of another film. The new script has 3 super-powered villains (Daga-Man, Freezy, and some Pyro-like guy; this reminds me of that cartoon show with Spider-Man, Iceman, and Firestar). We had one John Constantine-like bad guy (the character that Epi said he enjoyed).
Anyway, it’s September, and they still haven’t started shooting. The cast changed almost every other week. Ogie as T/Enteng was solid, but Barbell went through (at first) Richard Gomez, then Ogie himself (which we all preferred, actually; Dolphy did it like this), then Marc Nelson, then Borgie Manotoc, then, out of the blue, Bong Revilla, and just the other day I found out that it’s now, get this, Edu Manzano. Again. The love interest was Nina, then Issa Calsado, then Jolina Magdangal, and now I think it’s Regine Velasquez.
So don’t draw any conclusions from me. Captain Barbell may be Redford White by the time it comes out.
They’re competing with Gagamboy from Regal, and Fantastic Man (Lastikman 2, basically) from Octo.
The possible happy ending is that, if they’re starting from a new script, Quark and us can still use our draft for Barbell 2, should they decide to make one. But I’m not holding my breath or anything.
I actually do hope that Barbell makes money, if only so we could do ours. At this point, though, I’m sort of glad that I’m not involved with the project any longer because it looks like their schedule will be murder, and good luck to them.
A happy PS is that I downloaded some issues of Alan Moore’s Miracleman the other day, and discovered that his treatment of the character’s transformation to and fro his alter ego was similar to how we treated it in our Barbell script: by focusing on the reactions of other people. Miracleman is a seminal series he wrote in the early ‘80s, that I hadn’t read until now.
And yes, the transformer above has nothing to do with Barbell whatsoever. Ain't it cool, though? :)