It’s been three years since Bela Padilla acquired the script for the Philippine adaptation of Spellbound, the top-grossing 2011 South Korean romantic-comedy film. She received the project after the former pairing of James Reid and Nadine Lustre, collectively known as JaDine, declined after their on-screen love team ended.
Joining Bela in the lead role is Marco Gumabao, marking their first on-screen pairing. However, it was not the first time they had worked together on a project. Bela and Marco were colleagues in Jame Robin Mayo’s film Apple of My Eye (2019), with the former as a screenwriter and the latter as the lead actor.
However, much has happened since then, especially since the project hit several snags before completion. Viva Films announced the adaptation of Spellbound in 2019, but filming halted because of the Taal Volcano eruption and nationwide lockdowns due to COVID-19. Bela relocated to London in 2021 but returned to the Philippines to resume filming late in 2022. Now, Spellbound serves as Viva’s pre-Valentine offering.
Despite the challenges in production, Bela and Marco’s experience working with each other as a love tandem was agreeable.
“For me, acting and working with Bela was a breath. It was such a fun shoot, a fun set. Sana, this won’t be the last and sana magkaroon pa kami ng maraming projects together,” Marco said during an online presser for their upcoming movie.
Bela resonated with Marco’s sentiments, saying it was “super easy” for her to share the spotlight with her first-time co-actor and leading man.
“Marco has been a friend way before we started Spellbound. We also started shooting before the pandemic, so parang ang haba ng process of us shooting this. Parang magandang catch-up na din siya when we finished filming last year,” Bela said.
She actress plays Yuri, a beautiful lady who became a ghost magnet after surviving an accident in her early years. Meanwhile, Marco plays Victor, a street magician who easily attracts people through his charm and good looks.
Bela found similarities between her character and her genuine personality.
“Ang pinaka-close similarity namin ng character ko is parehas kaming sobrang duwag. In real life, kung mapapansin niyo, hindi ako gumagawa masyado ng horror films. Before Spellbound, ang horror project pa lang na nagawa ko is a Halloween special for MMK (Maalaala Mo Kaya),” Bela said.
In the meantime, Marco found his character fun because he learned how to do magic by attending a workshop. He’s ecstatic to know some tricks and hopes to perform them for others for fun—if he remembers how to.
Directing Spellbound is Jalz Zarate. Although it’s not the first time the Filipino filmmaking industry to adapt material from foreign movies, there’s always the pressure of making it unique from the original piece.
For Spellbound, Zarate shared that they stuck with the original South Korean version, only adding Filipino touches like nuances and humor.
“The Korean version was medyo matagal na—in 2011. We had to modernize it a bit para relevant to our time today,” Zarate said.
Completing the cast of Spellbound are Rhen Escaño, Cindy Miranda, Benj Manalo, Ronnie Liang, and Moi Bien.
Spellbound opens in cinemas nationwide on February 1, 2023.