Jakarta. Indonesian actor Mario Lawalata, better known as a television star and model than a movie actor, plays a DJ and drug dealer named Martin who can't stay faithful to his girlfriend Sara (Aurelie Moeremans) in Teddy Soeriaatmadja’s new teen movie "Menunggu Pagi," or "Waiting for the Morning to Come," in cinemas starting on Thursday (11/10).
Menunggu Pagi follows a bunch of Jakarta teens on a quest to go partying at Djakarta Warehouse Project (DWP), one of the largest EDM music festivals and rave parties in Asia.
Mario said during a media visit to BeritaSatu Media Holdings on Wednesday that his anti-hero character is meant to be "a bit of a bastard" and that he "enjoyed the challenges" of playing a difficult character.
Mario said he was able to find many references for the character from other movies and real life.
"Teddy wrote all his characters very close to real life. DJs do live in the night. A character in the film says DJs can go home with any girl they want. To be honest, there are DJs out there who do have that kind of lifestyle," he said.
Martin in the movie is always short on cash. He hardly ever finds anyone to buy the drug he peddles and owes money to drug lord Beni (Yayu Unru).
One of the more violent scenes in the movie shows Beni hitting Martin's hand repeatedly with a billiard ball as an act of punishment.
Mario said the scene wasn't faked, which meant he had to withstand the pain of a swollen hand for a week.
"It hurt like crazy. Yayu only pretended to hit me at first, but it looked very obvious on camera. Teddy asked me if Yayu could hit me for real. I said I was okay with it since I was tired of retaking the scene. We were filming in an old billiard place in Jatinegara, it was sweltering hot, so I told Yayu to hit me for real so we could get the scene done," Mario said.
In the next scene, we can see Martin's bulging red hand while he is making a phone call. Mario said no make-up was required since the injuries were real.
While the rest of the cast had to audition for their roles, Mario said he was earmarked by producer Adi Sumardjono from IFI Sinema for his.
Mario had worked with Teddy in a TV commercial, but never in films.
Teddy meanwhile had worked with Mario’s brother Oscar Lawalata in "Banyu Biru" (2005) and his mother Reggy Lawalata in "Ruang" (2006).
"I'm familiar with Teddy's works. I love them. When I got the script, I became more interested in the film. Not just because of my character, but also the story. It's so riveting, so cool," Mario said.
Mario was the last actor to join the cast of Menunggu Pagi, which meant he had some catching up to do in terms of preparation.
"I got the role 10 days before filming started. Everyone else had 1.5 months of reading and practicing, I just had nine days," he said.
In those nine days, Mario managed to lose quite a lot of weight through a strict diet so he could portray the physique of a drug user accurately.
The 38-year-old actor said he had no problem playing a 20-something DJ, since the character is meant to be a bit older than the other characters, and because his lines were already written to suit someone older.
Mario said he understood why teens love to go to rave parties and concerts since he himself often travels overseas just to catch a concert.
The furthest he had to travel was to the United States to see Jennifer Lopez.
"Music is a universal language. It can unite people regardless of race, ethnicity, religion. Without music, the world would be lifeless. For my character, a DJ, music is obviously very important," Mario said.
The "Jakarta Undercover" and "Bayi Gaib: Bayi Tumbal Bayi Mati" actor said his dream role is to be cast in a colossal action film, but he said filmmakers often find his face "not Indonesian enough."
Another reason why Mario hasn't acted in more movies is because he's quite picky when it comes to choosing his film roles.
"I've only done nine films, out of around 30 offers. I don’t look for money in films. I do that in soap operas," he said.
Mario said as an actor he wants to star in films that challenge him and at the same time allow him plenty of preparation time.
"To me, film is a sacred art. I'll sign a one-year contract for something really difficult but artistically rewarding, if necessary. I'd love something like that. So far, only one filmmaker has offered me that opportunity, but the project got canned," Mario said.