I still remember the first time I saw Y Tu Mamá También and I became just slightly obsessed with the lead actors of the 2001 Mexican film. Since then, actors Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal have become global stars, and both have gone on to work with a variety of talented directors including Jim Jarmusch and Gus Van Sant.
Now the two are reuniting onscreen in Rudo y Cursi (opening today) as brothers from the countryside who are recruited to play professional soccer in the big city. I was lucky enough to sit down with them here in San Francisco to talk about acting together, why we don't actually see either of them play any soccer in a soccer movie, and Gael's singing voice. Here are some highlights:
On reuniting as actors for this movie:
Diego: Reuniting? It's just that it's . . . I mean, we're not reuniting.
Gael: It's not like Menudo . . .
Diego: It's not like Menudo reunited. Like we tried to go single and then we go "Oh man, no one's heard our music. Let's do another hit together." We've been working all those years, we have a company together, we have a film festival. I'm a producer of his films, he's a producer of mine. We've been collaborating a lot. But what's cool was, yeah, to be actors — just actors — again.
Lots more coming up, so
On Y Tu Mamá También helping to start this decade's Mexican movie renaissance:
Gael: There were other films also.
Diego: There were, I think — and [Gael's] not going to say it — I think it was Amores Perros. I remember I was in Cannes the year of Amores Perros and just watching what was happening and just saying, "F*ck this is new. This is different. This has not happened with a Mexican film." And that happened a year before Y Tu Mamá También. I think Amores Perros was really the one that opened the doors for this kind of new talent that was coming out from Mexico.
In the movie, the camera often cuts away from the soccer field and as a result we don't see either Gael or Diego really play. I asked them if they wanted to play soccer onscreen in this movie:
Diego: Look at us? Come on. That is a very smart decision [the director] Carlos [Cuarón] made. We were thinking there is not a single film that is good that shows [soccer] and Carlos has a theory that is because it's not very dramatic you know? It lasts for 90 minutes, there's no pauses, there's no moments like in American football, baseball, where you have the pitcher thinking and changing and making a choice every five seconds, you know? In [soccer] it just happens and it's beautiful as it is so you cannot break it. It would be stupid.
Gael: When you see a film you want to see the emotional journey of the characters. You don't want to see the play strategy that they did.
I asked if they decided which one of them would play Rudo and which would play Cursi based on singing because Gael's character does a lot of singing and even performs in a video:
Diego: Obviously not!
Gael: (Laughs) Carlos decided . . .
Diego: Carlos was very smart. He wanted to change the dynamics of our relation[ship] and the relation[ship] we had in Y Tu Mamá También, so he decided to give me the older brother — I'm younger than Gael — and that did kind of affect the way we approached these characters and their relation[ship] and it made it a very different film.
On making career choices:
Diego: I do see many people in the States making their careers like that, saying, "OK I'll do a film with dogs — with real dogs! — and with kids! That'll get me an agent. That'll get me a publicist and they'll get me closer to the films I want to make." And sometimes that works. The cinema we shoot in Mexico is because the director really wants to tell one story and he's willing to give up everything and he gets his team. And the size of the movie depends a lot in how excited people get by reading the script.
Gael: If you don't have Julie Roberts and you do it in Spanish then it does not take. That's why the stories in Latin America, the good ones, are the ones that don't obey any of these rules. It's an interesting moment when a film like Sin Nombre [a movie on which Gael and Diego were executive producers] with no well-known stars at all can be incredibly successful. There's no formula to Sin Nombre but it's proven to be a commercial success also, so that's fantastic. If we try to do a formula it for sure will fail.
On working together again in the future:
Diego: We talked about it and probably it's not going to happen soon. And if it happens soon might be more in theater.
Gael: Yeah, something that's more easy for us to make with our hands because with films it requires a lot of people, a lot of money —
Diego: — a lot of confidence!