Homecoming’ movie » Manila Bulletin Entertainment

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FILIPINO-AMERICAN Jacob Batalon (left) appears as Ned Leeds, a classmate and friend of Peter Parker/Spider-Man portrayed by Tom Holland in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’

Los Angeles – When 19-year-old Jacob Batalon from Hawaii sent in a self-taped audition for this “unnamed Marvel project,” he was not aware he was auditioning for one of the biggest comic hero franchises, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

“Two weeks later, I got a call back for a screen test in Burbank in Los Angeles,” the Fil-Am actor narrated. “After waiting for about two months, they signed me on as Ned Leeds, Peter Parker’s best friend. It is still absolutely hard to believe. I’ve been extremely lucky and fortunate to find myself in this position, and it is truly a blessing.”

Jacob, whose family are from San Manuel, Pangasinan, was actually raised in Hawaii his whole life. “As for my education, I went to private Catholic school from grade school until I graduated high school,” he disclosed.

JACOB BATALON at the recent Comic-Con where he talked about ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’

JACOB BATALON at the recent Comic-Con where he talked about ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’

A 2014 graduate of Damien Memorial School and New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts where he studied acting in a two-year program, Jacob admitted that he has not been back to the Philippines recently. “I have not been back to the Philippines since I was four years old,” he confessed. “My only memory was riding horses in Baguio City.”

For someone who has seen the first Spider-Man movie that starred Tobey Maguire when he was around seven years old, Jacob felt it has come full circle.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which is helmed by Jon Watts, features 20-year-old Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man.

Asked how it was working with Tom, Michael Keaton (Adrian Toomes/Vulture) and Robert Downey (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Jr., Jacob replied, “Since the beginning, Tom and I have had this natural chemistry that sort of emulates the whole effect of friends becoming brothers and to me he really is my brother. So every day on the set, we would just be having fun and playing around 24/7.

“I got to spend some time with Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr on set and watch them work, which was astounding. Honestly, I was star struck meeting both of them, and they are both great people. Michael is a sweet man and a consummate professional. Robert is the coolest person I’ve ever met. He’s really funny and makes everyone feel comfortable around him.”

So how much of a Marvel fan is he, we asked. “I read Marvel comics but was never a hardcore collector,” he pointed out. “However, I have loved the MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe] movies.

“I did get to meet Stan Lee. Tony Revolori, who plays Flash [Thompson] in the film, and I met him the day after we did our Hall H panel at Comic-Con and he was a really nice man. He told us how excited he was to see Tony and me play characters he created. I’d say my favorite hero is Black Widow and my dream role is to play a spy in an espionage film.”

Jacob, who did the comedy-horror film “North Woods” as Cooper last year, believes that superhero films are still popular now because “while superheroes will always appeal to children, most of the fan base for these films are adults who were once kids, reading about these characters and stories in the comics. With these films, we’re able to see them come to life out of the comics and into reality. Also, audiences always enjoy seeing the good guys triumph over evil.”

Portraying Sancho Panza in his next film, the comedy, “The True Don Quixote,” Jacob disclosed, “I just wrapped a great independent film. Of course my family gave me all of their support but it was about me believing in myself and my abilities. No one really pushed me into acting.”

Asked what he would tell aspiring young Filipino actors who would want to follow his footsteps, Jacob said, “I would tell them not to be afraid of dreaming big. Fear and strength come from the same place, and while taking that leap of faith can be scary, there is a solace in knowing that you’re able to do what you love.

“But I’d also say it’s not enough to dream big. Just because you want to become successful doesn’t mean the world is going to give it to you. You have to be ready and willing for the work and obstacles ahead. Not just in this profession, but in any job you want there will be trials and tribulations that you have to overcome.

“And lastly, I’d say that success is measured differently by everyone. Being ‘famous’ and ‘rich’ doesn’t mean anything if you’re not happy. Don’t just look for your version of success, look for happiness.”

His life motto?

“My life motto has changed a lot in the past couple of years. Right now my motto is actually the question, ‘What now?’ By asking that question, I am able to stay proactive with my career while at the same time aligning myself with amazing people who empower me to have faith in myself.”

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