IN THE 1999 American film, "Brokedown Palace," directed by Jonathan Kaplan, actor Victor Neri played a fleeting role as a Thai soldier who framed up the character played by Kate Beckinsale in a drug dealing case. Next year, Neri will be in another foreign movie, "Root Cutter." This time he will play the lead.
"Root Cutter" will be shot starting January 2004 on Batan Island off the coast of Batanes and near Taiwan, with American-Italian director Joseph Nobile at the helm.
The movie will feature an all-Filipino cast, with Chin-Chin Gutierrez playing Victor's wife.
"I was told to meet with director Nobile, who also wrote the screenplay," Victor recalls. "He gave me one look and he said, 'You're hired.' He said it was like he wrote the role for me. But before we met, he had already been told about my credentials."
Nobile previously directed another US movie, "Closer to Home," whose cast included Filipino actors Joonee Gamboa and the late Ray Ventura. It is about a marine who goes back home to New York City and meets an Asian mail-order bride.
Victor says he is taking a break in December to prepare for his role in "Root Cutter." He has just finished work on the GMA 7 soap, "Habang Kapiling Ka," where he starred for one year, and on Viva's "Bugbog Sarado," where he worked for the first time in a movie with director Joel Lamangan.
Victor is also in the cast of another Joel Lamangan film, "Filipinas," that also features Richard Gomez, Maricel Soriano, Armida Siguion-Reyna and Aiko Melendez.
Victor considers Lamangan "one of the two directors I trust, the other being Toto Natividad." The latter directed "Notoryus," the movie that launched Victor as an action star.
"I've worked with Direk Joel on TV before, in the mini-series 'Liwanag ng Hatinggabi,'" Victor says. "If he tells me to do something, I do it without question, hesitation, argument or even compromise."
Victor has been in the business for 11 years, long enough to know how to deal with the intrigues that go with the job. Victor entered show biz when he was only 15, as a member of ABS-CBN's Star Circle Batch 1 and a mainstay of the afternoon youth program, "Ang TV." Two years later, he made his first movie, "Asero."
"Every year has been a good year for me since I started in show biz," Victor says. "God is good. I have no regrets being in this business. I have the best job in the world. I will not trade it for any position in any company. I love everything about show biz."