Liza Soberano was once asked to audition for the role of MJ on the latest Spider-Man film series adaptation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Tom Holland in the titular role, according to her boss, Careless chief executive officer Jeffrey Oh.
At the 2nd Philippine Creative Industries Summit livestreamed on March 7, Jeffrey was asked what's next with his group and if there's anything he can share with the audience.
"I'll just end with a story... Who here loves the movie Spider-Man: Homecoming? Who loves the character of Zendaya? MJ from Spider-Man with Tom Holland. Liza was offered to audition for that role," the Careless executive began.
"They reached out for her to audition to be Mary Jane, one of the most iconic characters. And she was not allowed, because she had to do the same thing she's always been doing...I really shouldn't have said that," Jeffrey said before bursting into laughter.
"But it's the truth. It's the truth. Now imagine this wasn't like as if she was being marketed. They reached out. That's what I mean by like it's self-evident in a lot of different ways when you go out. People are looking for Filipino talent, people are looking for that. Imagine a Filipina actress was a star of one of the biggest Marvel movies in history. Imagine she was Mary Jane, what that would do for Philippine entertainment," he continued.
He then alluded negatively to ABS-CBN, Liza's former management: "But then she was in a 10-year contract, which is also unheard of anywhere else in the world."
The Careless leader even said that the "big reason" why a lot of celebrities and creatives aren't able to have their international breakthrough is because "they legally can't most of the time."
"I've sat down with executives. They're like, 'Holy crap. Did Liza just come from a 10-year contract that she signed at 12? Isn't that illegal? With the option to renew at exclusively the manager's discretion?'...That's why," Jeffrey said.
He also explained that they were able to sign a big artist like Liza under them because their contracts are "normal."
"My partner, James Reid, he started Careless because he was like, 'This is ridiculous.' This is ridiculous. We need to represent the country, but we can't," Jeffree recalled.
In June 2016, however, Liza explicitly denied in an ABS-CBN News interview that Marvel invited her to play the role of MJ. “It’s not really an invitation. I think it was what the fans wanted lang, fans of Marvel. I think one of them is Pinay and parang she tweeted that, parang kung merong magiging Mary Jane Watson, she would want it to be me. All my fans started retweeting it and everything but wala naman po talagang invitation," Liza was quoted as saying.
“[Kung meron], I would love that. That would be a nice opportunity," she added in the same interview.
Her then-manager Ogie Diaz, according to a local entertainment website's report, similarly denied that Liza received an invitation from Marvel to play the role.
While Jeffrey also described Zendaya's MJ role in Tom Holland's Spider-Man movies to be the same as Mary Jane Watson in the comics, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige confirmed that they are two different characters.
"She's not Mary Jane Watson. She never was Mary Jane Watson. She was always this new high school character, Michelle, who we know there's an 'M' in Michelle and an 'M' in Mary," Feige said in a 2017 interview with IGN.
Zendaya's Michelle Jones is instead a character that pays homage to the Mary Jane previously played by Kirsten Dunst and Shailene Woodeley in earlier Spider-Man movies.
Ogie, on the same day as Jeffrey's livestreamed statement defended his controversial former talent in a vlog.
He explained that while Liza recently admitted feeling "boxed" being in a love team for a long time, the actress knew that she and her reel-to-real partner Enrique Gil must "strike while the iron was hot" during the early years of their love team.