Dialogue: ‘Casa de Mi Padre’ Star Diego Luna on the Power of Will Ferrell, Latinos in Hollywood, Fatherhood and…Retiring?

Dialogue: ‘Casa de Mi Padre’ Star Diego Luna on the Power of Will Ferrell, Latinos in Hollywood, Fatherhood and…Retiring?

Mar 14, 2012

When word of this all-Spanish-language comedy starring Will Ferrell came out, nobody knew what to make of it: “Que?” Well, Casa de Mi Padre hits theaters this Friday, so you’ll have a chance to see this tongue-in-cheek spoof of Spanish soap operas for yourself (we’ve seen it: it’s sort of like a cheesy, bloody spaghetti Western Robert Rodriguez might've directed). In it, Ferrell channels Armando Alvarez, the not so bright son of a Mexican rancher who must help save his father’s ranch from financial ruin. To the rescue (maybe) is his younger brother Raul, played by Diego Luna. We had a chance to sit down with Luna to talk about his character, who ends up in a turf with local drug lord Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal) and an awkward love triangle with his own brother, and find out what Casa de Mi Padre is all about.

Luna candidly spoke to us about working with Will Ferrell, his appreciation for documentaries, Latinos in Hollywood, and his true love—directing. Oh, and he’s only 32, so what is he talking about retiring for? Have no fear—he’s got a few more years and projects to go before he walks away from the limelight.

Movies.com: How would you describe Casa de Mi Padre?
Diego Luna:
It’s a very weird and unique film. It’s a comedy. It’s risky, very intelligent but very stupid. It’s a film that cannot be compared to any other.

Movies.com: Was Will Ferrell as funny as you thought he would be?
Well, I have to say he is very funny. Now, in fact he doesn’t even have to be funny to make people laugh. It’s unbelievable, the power of this man. We were in Miami and we were introducing the film and the director made a few jokes and people laughed and then he passed the microphone to Genesis [Rodriguez] and she made a joke and people laughed. She passed the mic to Will and when he grabbed the mic you could hear people laughing and I thought, but he hasn’t opened his mouth. He hasn’t done anything! I was looking at him and all he did was grab the microphone. So obviously he has some sort of power.

Movies.com: Do you think you’ll get to that point?
Oh, no. I don’t even dream about that. What I have to say about the whole experience is that in this film he shows how committed, passionate and good of an actor he is. What he did is not an easy thing to do. I’m an actor and have worked in two languages and I can tell you he jumped into this film project without speaking the language at all and trying to do comedy is so tough and he achieved it.

Movies.com: Do you remember your first English language film?
I do. I remember making jokes but nobody got it. Will Ferrell decides to make a film in a different language and everyone says, “Oh my god, what a risky thing to do.” So many of us have done the exact thing and no one says, “Oh my god, you spoke in English. Are you crazy?” [Laughs].

Movies.com: What are your thoughts on the opportunities that are available to Latinos in Hollywood? Are things changing?
I think they are changing but not just for Latinos. Hollywood is definitely changing. I think this movie is an example but if you look at the amount of success independent cinema is having it shows that it’s the cool ideas and smart films that are getting the attention. [This country has] many communities co-existing in the same place and cinema is always going to talk about that. The Spanish-speaking audience in this country is growing so I think things are changing not just for our community or for the Latino community. You can’t generalize. It’s always dangerous. I think the world is changing. Cinema shouldn’t have nationalities.

Movies.com: Speaking of Latinos, how about Demián Bichir’s Oscar nomination?
I was the happiest guy. I jumped and I celebrated a lot. [Laughs] I was so proud of him because it meant so much to him but I think it was about his work and performance [not about race or ethnicity]. This was simply recognition to the talents of a man and we should celebrate him and that’s it.

Movies.com: You’ve produced and directed a few films, the latest being the 2010 film Abel. Is directing  where your passion lies or is acting still your number one form of expression?
Directing is my real passion, and acting in comedies. I still want to make another comedy as crazy as this one if possible. I like the idea of being funny. Directing on the other hand is the most intense journey. It provided me with the most internal process I’ve ever experienced. From anything that I’ve done it’s the only thing that feels like it’s mine. After having that feeling I can’t stop from wanting to have it again. My perspective also changed. When I act, I’m now looking at stuff differently. I’m concerned and aware of things I wasn’t before.

Movies.com: With time do you find yourself being more selective of film projects?
I can’t act that much now. I want to spend more time with my family now. Acting has become something that I do whenever I really think there is something there for me. Before I used to jump from one project to another and now I have to be patient. Directing also takes a lot of time, sometimes years, and you can’t do anything else while you’re directing a project. It’s as intense or more than acting.

Movies.com: You also have an array of projects in the works including your non-profit organization with Gael Garcia Bernal and Pablo Cluz, Ambulante.
It’s growing and growing. The film festival is the most successful project we’ve ever had in the company. It has its own personality. Now, it’s not about us. It’s owned by the audience. It’s a gigantic monster that lasts in Mexico for three months and then travels the world. I think documentaries are very powerful today and necessary. They’re a great way to reflect through the stories of others and feel that connection that many times is missing. With internet and phones we’re practically all connected but those mediums don’t celebrate depth. Documentaries ask you to go deeper.

Movies.com: What actors or directors have inspired you?
I would have to say Will Ferrell. What he did in this film is pretty unique. He put himself in a place that can be very uncomfortable. The director that’s most inspiring to me is Alfonso Cuarón.  Y Tu Mama Tambien [was] important to me in so many ways. Children of Men is another film I love. I admire him but now I can say I’ve had the pleasure of working with great directors and each has taught me something, from Steven Spielberg to Harmony Korine.

The great thing about this profession is that you can always grow, change, take different risks and always learn. You can keep learning until you decide not to do it anymore.

Movies.com: Will that day come for you?
Yeah. Why not? Of course! I wouldn’t care if I had to stop today. I am very proud of the work I’ve done but the end isn’t near yet!

Movies.com: Oh, good. I think fans want you around for a few more years. What about your two kids, do you think they’ll follow in your footsteps?
I hope not. I really hope not. No way! You always hope they become everything you were not.

Categories: Indie, Cine Latino, Interviews
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