Maui Taylor gets a chance to walk the red carpet in Seoul for the premiere of her Korean film “The Taste of Money” on Tuesday, May 15. The highly anticipated film by Korean director Im Sang-son will screen in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, which will begin the next day.
“The Taste of Money”, Im’s follow-up to the highly lauded 2010 Cannes entry “The Housemaid”, is Maui’s first taste of the international film scene. The petite actress was last seen in the 2008 film “Torotot”.
“It was the people of Viva Films who presented me to these Korean film producers,” she says. “They were looking for a Pinay actress to play the role of Eva, a nanny from Cebu.”
Maui plays the pivotal role of the Filipina housemaid whose sexual relations with the old patriarch of her employing family in Seoul puts everyone’s lives into a tailspin.
She landed the part after the producers saw her performance in the 2004 film “Huling Birhen sa Lupa”.
“Pinanood nila ‘yung movie, and they all agreed that I was the one. Wala nang auditions na nangyari. Kaya sobra akong natuwa,” she says. “It’s my first time to make a film this big, and kilala sa mga international film festivals ang director namin na si Im Sang-son.”
Maui started filming for “The Taste Of Money” in Seoul in November 2011 during winter.
“Grabe ang lamig sa Korea,” she recalls. “May swimming scene pa ako, at sobrang lamig ng tubig.”
Fortunately, some scenes were also shot in Cebu. The principal photography for the film lasted four months.
Maui witnessed how the Korean film industry is very strict with the hours of filming.
“We only shot for 10 hours a day, and no overtime. Sometimes we would only shoot like three or four scenes a day lang.
“Masyado silang mabusisi sa mga eksena. Kapag naisipan ng director namin na ibahin ang scene, lahat maiiba. Kaya inabot kami ng four months,” she says.
During those four months, Maui had opportunities to fly back home during breaks in her schedule.
“Pabalik-balik ako dito sa Pilipinas. May weeks kasi na hindi ako makukunan ng eksena. Kaya uuwi muna ako. I would only fly back to Seoul kapag ready na ang mga scenes ko na i-shoot,” she explains.
The entire experience thrilled Maui to no end: “Feeling ko Hollywood star ako. I was given a VIP treatment sa set.”
The 29-year-old actress had a well-appointed three-bedroom apartment all to herself. She had a living allowance on top of her talent fee, which financed her shopping sprees in the cosmopolitan city.
On set she had an English-speaking personal assistant, a necessity given the fact that most of the actors and the crew were not conversant in English. In fact, it was Maui who reached out by learning Korean.
“May dialect coach ako because in most of my scenes I had to speak Korean. Kaya I learned so many words and somehow nakakapag-communicate ako sa kanila on the set. Pero I still needed my P.A. to interpret some of the words spoken to me by my co-stars,” she shares.
Maui had a great time working with her Korean co-actors, especially the two senior stars of the film: Baek Yoon-sik (known as the “Al Pacino of Korea”) and Yoon Yeo-jeong (the lead actress in “The Housemaid”).
“Mababait sila. At first na-intimidate ako sa kanila kasi they are big stars in Korea. But once I got to know them, normal din pala sila. Mahiyain din pala sila,” she says.
She confesses she had a crush on Kim Kang-woo, reportedly the highest-paid actor in Korea: “Grabe, ang guwapo niya!”
Unfortunately for her, her love scenes were with the much older Baek Yoon-sik, not with Kim Kang-woo. She says: “Palabiro si Kim Kang-woo. Kaso he’s married na kaya hindi na ako puwedeng umeksena sa kanya!”
The project came as a breath of fresh air for Maui, who was coming off a bad breakup when “The Taste of Money” was offered to her.
“Tama lang na dumating ang trabahong ito para hindi ko maisip ang malungkot na lovelife ko,” says the actress, who remains loveless at the moment.
“Right now, I am just dating. Nothing serious yet,” she notes. “I just want to meet other people muna. Ayoko munang maging serious sa love.”