For many Filipino film actors, the opportunity to join the cast of a Hollywood film production might be considered their highest dream ambition. One of the lucky few to have done so is veteran award-winning movie star Cesar Montano. In 2002 he was privileged to join some major stars as Benjamin Bratt and Joseph Fiennes in “The Great Raid,” a war movie from Miramax Films that was eventually released in 2005. The film depicts the Cabanatuan raid from World War II by combined US forces and Filipino resistance fighters on a Japanese POW camp that saved hundreds of American prisoners.
Apparently this one overseas-produced outing may have impressed upon Hollywood studios that Cesar Montano is a viable actor for any World War II period movies featuring Filipinos. That is because, as ABS-CBN News puts it, he may have been tapped into a new production that might also involve boxing legend and Philippine Senator Manny Pacquiao. Montano himself has agreed to work on three films by Los Angeles-based Inspire Studios, in a deal made with producer Francis Lara Ho. The first project, entitled “Freedom Fighters,” will be another war drama that might be familiar ground now for Cesar, who has starred in local WWII-set movies too.
The new Hollywood film production came into being after Montano and Ho met in Las Vegas this past July, before the Pacquiao-Keith Thurman boxing match. A discussion on movies led to the two visiting some production people in five US states throughout November last month. Now, Cesar reveals that Inspire Studios is looking to begin filming of “Freedom Fighters” in April or May next year. Pacquiao was also given a role in the project, which is based on the memoirs of an American World War II survivor living in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation.
Louise Reid Spencer, author of the book that “Freedom Fighters” is based on, resided in Iloilo during the war and witnessed how many American civilians trapped by the occupiers risked their lives to help provide vital intelligence on the Japanese military plans to Douglas MacArthur for the eventual retaking of the Philippines. Cesar Montano will be cast as a Filipino Protestant minister, while Manny Pacquiao will portray a resistance leader.
Aside from that movie, Inspire Studios also has two further film projects they would like Cesar to be a part of. “Palawan: Last Man Out” is said to be another period picture focused on the Bolo Battalion in Palawan, while “The Rescue” is a new feature-length depiction of the abduction and 2001-02 captivity of American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham by the Abu Sayyaf group. Montano is especially invested in “Freedom Fighters” as yet another opportunity to show to film audiences how Filipinos and Americans worked together to survive and bring victory in Japanese-occupied Philippines.
Image from Central Philippine University