Christopher de Leon explains dilemma of directing Vilma Santos

By: Marinel Cruz - | December 15,2023 - 10:14 PM


Japan was chosen as the backdrop of the film’s love story because it is photo-worthy, said lead star Christopher de Leon. (Photo from JG Productions via YouTube)

The initial plan for filming the romantic drama “When I Met You in Tokyo” was in Italy.

However, Christopher de Leon, the lead actor and associate director of the film, expressed that the vibrant and picturesque atmosphere of Japan prompted the change in location.

Christopher explained that their team actually went beyond Tokyo, “[We needed] to shoot some scenes in the beautiful countryside. This was supposed to be in Italy, where a lot of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) reside. But we realized that we will just be seeing the same things. Japan, on the other hand, is so colorful because of the cherry blossoms. There, every season has its own color. The flowers are different. The fields, the fruits and trees are also different, depending on the season,” he told reporters over dinner recently.

“The Japanese culture is very much different, too. Also, if we just stayed in Tokyo, we wouldn’t be able to see most of these, so we shot in the outskirts where we met some farmers. We also have scenes that feature them during harvest season,” said Christopher.

As an outcome, Christopher said he and leading lady Vilma Santos also had to memorize long lines in Japanese, or Nihongo. “My character is supposed to have a lot of Japanese friends because he has been living there for a while. One time, Vi had to shoot a scene with her speaking in Nihongo. Unfortunately, she had to do several takes. After doing her third take, she sat on the floor and said, ‘Ayoko nang mag-Hapon!’ She got it eventually,” Christopher recalled.

MMFF entry

“When I Met You in Tokyo” talks of unconditional love, sacrifice, and aging from the perspective of two elderly workers. Kind-hearted Azon (Vilma) meets Joey (Christopher), a divorcee who still harbors the scars of his ex-wife’s infidelity. It is an official entry to the 2023 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), which will start on Christmas Day.

Christopher explained that part of his work as associate director was “to approach Vi and tell her what to do when the other two directors (Rado Peru and Rommel Penza) are too shy or intimidated to do it. How do you tell someone like Vilma Santos that you find her acting in one particular scene lacking and that she has to do it all over again? How do you explain to her that you need to see this particular emotion from her? How do you call out to her if you want to ‘cut’ a take? That’s what I was tasked to do,” said Christopher, who has been doing movies with Vilma since the late 1970s.

Meanwhile, Vilma said she personally requested for Christopher to be the associate director, adding that she even threatened not to do the project if the latter refused. She explained that, as a former Batangas representative, she took a break from making movies for six years, so she expected that there would be times when she wouldn’t feel too confident acting in front of the camera.


“I said I will need somebody I’m comfortable working with who will help me feel motivated during the shoot. Every time Yetbo (Vilma’s pet name for Christopher) would direct me, especially when we were already shooting the ending, he would also cry or become teary-eyed while showing me how I should deliver my lines. We would get so carried away by the emotions of our characters, sometimes. It’s a plus factor for me that Yetbo is directing and guiding me. He would also inform me whenever the camera would do a closeup and when I would need to make fewer movements,” Vilma recalled.

According to “When I Met You in Tokyo” producers Rowena Ramaji and Rajan Gidwani, Christopher is so hands-on that he personally picked the movie’s theme song, Apo Hiking Society’s “When I Met You.”

“We called up Jim Paredes in Australia to ask how we could go about using the song for the project. You’d think we already have a great singer in Darren Espanto, who is part of the cast, but it was Christopher who recorded the theme song. I saw him give his all to singing it,” said Rajan. The song was composed by Jim and National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, and sung by Danny Javier.

“Each and every line of the song tells the story of ‘When I Met You in Tokyo,’” said Vilma. “We also discussed that, since we’re all experiencing hard times, we want our story to be something that will make its audience feel happy, to make them kilig. If you go back to the films that Christopher and I did together, our characters were always fighting and hysterical. We would have confrontations. There was always a third party. Here, there’s none. The story is more on how the love between Azon and Joey was formed and how they would face challenges together later on.”

She continued: “It’s also about forgiveness and second chances — for his character — as well as the experiences of OFWs who worked so hard abroad only to discover that the money she has been sending all those years were not put to good use. That’s my character. It also tries to ask the question: At our age, can we still fall in love?”


Vilma Santos leaves a little mystery; Christopher de Leon keeps things romantic

Vilma Santos’ resemblance to granddaughter Isabella Rose wows fans

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of Cebudailynews. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

TAGS: MMFF, Tokyo, Vilma Santos

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.