Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 12 December 2019

Jane De Leon is Darna, the 'Filipina Wonder Woman'

Actress is the third to take on the role since production began in 2015

Jane De Leon has been cast as superhero, Darna. Courtesy ABS-CBN
Jane De Leon has been cast as superhero, Darna. Courtesy ABS-CBN

Heavily anticipated, but much-troubled, Filipino superhero movie Darna finally has a new star in the shape of Halik and La Luna Sangre star, and former member of girl band Girltrends, Jane De Leon.

ABS-CBN Films’ managing director Olivia Lamasan made the announcement in a statement from Manila today.

The 20-year-old De Leon is the third actress to take on the seemingly cursed role since the movie went into production, with Buy Bust director Erik Matti at the helm, in 2015.

Darna will be based on the lead character from one of the Philippines’ most popular comic books, who first appeared in Ace Publications’ Pilipino Komiks in 1950. Darna is a deceased extraterrestrial warrior who has magically manifested herself inside a human called Narda. When Narda shouts “Darna” she transforms into the alien warrior, who fights crime, defends the defenceless, opposes evil and bears more than a passing resemblance to Wonder Woman.

Matti originally cast Angel Locsin in the role. Locsin had played the character in the 2005 GMA TV series, but was forced to pull out of the film when she sustained a back injury and was unable to commit to the film’s action scenes.

In May 2017, with shooting yet to begin, rom-com regular Liza Soberano was announced as the new Darna, but once again injury had other ideas. Soberano injured her index finger while shooting the action-adventure series Bagani, and in April this year she too was forced to pull out of the film. The star posted on Instagram earlier this month that she has now had hopefully the last surgery to repair her finger, but that it may never function fully again.

In between the first two Darnas, the film also lost its director. The movie’s producers, ABS-CBN, announced in a statement on October 4, 2018 that Matti had left the project due to “creative differences.” It may not be entirely coincidental that the decision came directly after Matti had caused a storm on social media with his past outspoken criticism of Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte and his supporters, which led to the hashtags #boycottdarna and #BoycottBuyBust trending on Twitter ahead of the latter film's release.

The day after that statement, Bliss director Jerrold Tarog was unveiled as the film’s new director. Nine months later, the film finally has a star again.

Lamasan said in the statement this morning: “We have found a new Darna and she is none other than Jane De Leon!"

Stars to have previously been touted for the role including Sarah Geronimo and Nadine Lustre, and Lamasan revealed that almost 300 people, including well-known celebrities, had auditioned for the role.

Director Tarog said of the casting: “I first encountered Jane a couple of years ago through [talent agency] Star Magic. I remember her and said 'This child has a potential.' She was joining beauty pageants, and then she was in Halik on ABS-CBN. I said ‘this kid has something.’”

Lamasan added that De Leon had told her during the audition process: "I will do everything and anything for the role because I believe in her, I believe in what Darna stands for."

Updated: July 17, 2019 08:37 PM