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Exclusive: The Inside Story of “Manny”

posted by Ariel Neidermeier

Manny PacquiaoBy Ariel Neidermeier

Manny follows the untold story of Manny Pacquiao, one of the most famous boxers to enter the ring since Muhammad Ali. The documentary chronicles Pacquiao’s origins growing up in the slums of the Philippines to his present-day career as a boxer, congressman and public figure. Asam News received an exclusive interview with Filipino American filmmaker Ryan Moore, who co-directed the documentary with Academy Award winner Leon Gast. The film is narrated by Liam Neeson and features interviews with Pacquiao’s inner circle and notable fans including Mark Wahlberg and Jeremy PivenManny will be released in theaters and On Demand on January 23, 2015.

Describe the first time you met Manny Pacquiao. How did you get to know each other?

 

I first met Manny at a charity event in Los Angeles… After we met, he invited us to go sing karaoke and play billiards with him in Koreatown. The funny thing is prior to meeting him I had already began developing an idea for this film so I don’t really look at [it] as a chance encounter.

How did you come up with the idea for Manny?

It was December of 2008 and I had just seen Manny completely destroy “the Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya. At that moment, I realized I had to do a film about his life. Here was a guy, who by all measures was a major underdog, and he completely defeated the odds. I wanted to understand where that originated.

 

Manny’s boxing accolades aside, I was more intrigued by the sign of faith he displayed before the bell rang and his lighthearted presence. I wanted to know what made him tick, where his faith stemmed from that caused him to kneel down and pray before a fight, and why he seemed so fearless before heading into battle. If people were as intrigued as I was by these unknowns, I knew there was something there to be told. My goal became to capture his story through his own voice.

When you pitched the idea of the film, what about it do you think really resonated with Pacquiao to agree to do it with you?

There were several filmmakers that wanted to tell his story and that I was competing against for the chance. In fact, when I interviewed Jeremy Piven for this film he admitted that he had been wanting to do a film on Manny for many years and was baffled at how I was able [to get] the rights. At the end of the day, I don’t know why. After all these years I haven’t even asked Manny. I have an idea of what he’ll say though – it’s God’s will. He believes everything happens for a reason. After all these years of working with him, after all the hardships I’ve endured to make this film happen I definitely agree with him. It was all God’s plan.

 

What are the chances that a first time director is able to make a feature film about one of the greatest boxers of all time? What are the chances that Liam Neeson would read my letter then agree to work with me and narrate it? To top it all off, Universal Pictures coming on board at the end to release it internationally… I still don’t comprehend it. I’m grateful Manny said ‘yes’ though.

You’ve described how filming was difficult with Pacquiao’s hectic schedule, how did you overcome this challenge to make the movie ?

Thanks to making this movie, I can add professional Manny Pacquiao-tracker to my resume. During production – and even at this very moment I’m sure – he has a hundred things going on at once. It was very challenging to keep up. Plus, when I began filming I wasn’t considered an insider so I had to text numerous people in Manny’s entourage to get the lowdown on what was going on in his life. Literally day-by-day, on average I’d be sending a hundred texts trying to find out what he was doing, where he was going, etc. I always seemed to be two steps behind. I would be told “go to General Santos, Manny will be there.” I’d fly all the way over there and no Manny. This happened frequently.

 

I learned to really check who the source was and get confirmation of his schedule everyday. Then one day, after much practice of memorizing his routines, I was actually able to be ahead of Manny. He took notice. In fact, I think I saw a look of surprise on Manny’s face. I think he understood how much energy it required to keep up with him. As a way of acknowledging my persistence, one day Manny gave me his direct phone number (all 5 of them) so I could find out from him directly. That made life a lot easier, until he changed his numbers of course.

What’s the most unexpected thing you learned about Pacquiao in the process of shooting?

I learned that Manny is a creature of habit – especially before a fight. He likes to do everything the same and he gravitates towards routines. To get himself into fight mode, Manny likes to do the same things he’s been doing for over 10 years to get him in a business-as-usual mind state. So it becomes almost like clockwork and he’s relaxed.

 

For instance:

  • He leaves [for every fight] in the same SUV he bought in 2001. This was the same vehicle he bought after he beat [Lehlohonolo] Ledwaba in his first US championship title fight.
  • After departing, he goes to the same gas station and gasses up a convoy of 30+ vehicles filled with his close entourage of friends and family. They make him smile. A happy Manny is a dangerous Manny in the ring.
  • When Manny arrives at the hotel, he checks into the exact same room and feeds everyone Filipino food from the same restaurant every single year upon arrival.
  • The night before a fight, people from all over the world pour into his room and Manny distributes between 1,000 to 1,500 tickets for his friends and family (average ticket price: $750)
  • The morning of the fight, Manny hosts a sermon in the hotel banquet room open to the general public that his friends and family attend
  • At the end of the sermon, Manny and team pray over his belts, fight trunks, and boxing gloves.
  • Before his fight, Manny likes to eats a variety of Filipino dishes he’s been eating since he was a child which consists of plates like a chicken broth (Tinolong Manok) which he pours over a mountain of rice.
  • Before his entrance into the arena, filled with thousands of roaring fans, Manny faces the corner of his room backstage and prays for the safety and health of his opponent and himself. And, he prays that he makes his fans happy and they enjoy the fight.

What do you want the viewer to leave the theater with after watching your film?

I want the viewer to feel inspired and I want them to connect with his character in a way that allows them to see the fighter in their own lives.

Do you have plans for any future projects ?

Yes, I am currently writing a few screenplays. One is a coming-of-age story set in the Philippines.

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