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Johnny Manahan Himself Convinced Jane De Leon to Audition for 'Darna'

"When I saw Jane, I said, she's special."
IMAGE INSTAGRAM/imjanedeleon

It was in July 2019 when a fresh face shook the Internet by booking one of the most iconic roles in Philippine cinematic history: Jane de Leon, who was 20 years old then, was cast to play Darna in its latest movie adaptation.

It was a monumentous feat for the up-and-coming actress to follow the footsteps of Angel Locsin, Marian Rivera, Vilma Santos, and even Liza Soberano, who had withdrawn from the project due to a major injury, as well as other stars who played the titular character. But what many may not know is that there was a high chance Jane wouldn't have bagged the role because she *almost* missed her audition.

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A post shared by J A N E (@imjanedeleon)

It was Johnny Manahan, commonly known in the industry as Mr. M, who convinced Jane to try out for the role in the first place. Mr. M is a director and one of the founders of Star Magic. He's also known for helping build the careers of some of the country's biggest stars and love teams, like Piolo Pascual, Claudine Barretto, Maja Salvador, Kathryn Bernardo, Daniel Padilla, Liza Soberano, and Enrique Gil.

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At the virtual #SummitSandwichSessions held on January 19, Mr. M shared his honest thoughts regarding young actress Jane. He also elaborated more on how Jane ended up auditioning for Darna. "When I saw Jane, I said, 'she's special,'" he says. "And when they were looking around for who'd play the Darna part, I told the handler, 'Sama mo 'yan sa audition ha.' And you know what, she almost didn't make it because the handler forgot.

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"It was the last day for auditions and she just came to the office and I said, 'Oh, nag-audition ka? How was it?' and sabi niya, 'Anong audition? Nobody told me.' 'My god, go right now, go up there,' and sure enough, you know, she had that it factor."

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A post shared by J A N E (@imjanedeleon)

As we know, Jane ended up scoring the big role and impressing the big execs behind the movie project for ticking all the boxes. "'Yung Darna story natin ngayon is a genesis story, a coming of age. Ang requirement talaga is somebody na young and with an air of innocence but at the same time a strength of character," ABS-CBN Films managing director Olivia Lamasan said of the movie as soon as the casting was officially announced. And when it came to choosing Jane for the part, Lamasan also admitted that it was a "unanimous decision."

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A post shared by J A N E (@imjanedeleon)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Jane's Darna movie was halted and transformed into a TV series instead, slated for release in 2021. Still, Mr. M says he sees a promising future for Jane, marking her as the next big thing. "I just can tell it. When that thing hits you, she's gonna be big," he says. "Sayang naudlot lang [ang Darna movie] ng COVID. Because they were going to make the movie and she was in training already for a year. Training her body, the techniques for the flying.

"But COVID came, so they decided to just make a TV thing because there are no more theaters now. But she will be big... So I think they're already taping and it should be coming out in three or four months' time. But Jane is going to be one of those stellar people."

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At the same #SummitSandwichSessions, Mr. M also gave his reasons for leaving ABS-CBN, his home network of 50 years. Watch this Summit Video below:

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Mylene Mendoza
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