Cine Latino: ‘Girl in Progress’ Eva Mendes on Stereotypes, and Her Co-Star Eugenio Derbez Spills the Beans on Their Deleted Love Scene

Cine Latino: ‘Girl in Progress’ Eva Mendes on Stereotypes, and Her Co-Star Eugenio Derbez Spills the Beans on Their Deleted Love Scene

May 11, 2012

Cine Latino covers, well, all things relating to Latino culture and the movies, every Friday. 

From the director of Under the Same Moon, comes a coming of age story about a mother and daughter struggling to find their way in the world. Eva Mendes stars with Cierra Ramirez and Eugenio Derbez in Girl in Progress, in theaters today.

I had the opportunity to talk exclusively with Eva Mendes and Eugenio Derbez last week and the two couldn’t be prouder of their collaboration. Derbez, who stars on the TV show Rob with Rob Schneider and recently appeared in Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill, told us about his plans to carry out his American dream.  The exuberant Mexican comedian wasn’t bashful in confessing his admiration for Mendes and spilled the beans on a deleted love scene between him and Mendes . Mendes, accompanied by her Belgian Malinois dog, discussed her upcoming film projects Holy Motors and The Place Beyond the Pines. While it might be hard to image the Hollywood Latin landscape without Mendes, she admits there was a time when she was told her look wasn’t bankable. Boy, were they wrong. You’ve played many vulnerable characters throughout your career. What was this journey like for you?

Eva Mendes: The journey was great for me. I fell in love with the role when I read the script. I thought, how cool, I get to play a messed up person and a really flawed mother. She’s a disaster. That’s the goal for me, to play real people or as close to it as you can. What really got me excited was working with Cierra [Ramirez]. She’s a talent, it was her first movie and I thought there was something so special about being a part of her first movie and seeing it through her eyes. Plus, I was a sucker for Patricia’s last movie. Eugenio, was it your previous collaboration with director Patricia Riggen or having Eva Mendes as your love interest that got you excited about this project?

Eugenio Derbez: You can’t imagine! [Laughs] When Patricia told me Eva would be my love interest, I thought, “How much are you going to pay me? I’ll do it for free.” I worked previously with Patricia on Under the Same Moon and I love that she thinks that I can explore deeper characters. I’m used to working as a comedian not in dramatic roles. It was hard, it was actually difficult. I’ve been a fan of Eva since I was a kid. Well, no, not a kid, but since a long time ago. So to be suddenly working with her on a film, having a love scene… You had a love scene?

Derbez: Well Patricia cut it. She told me, “I want your character to be heroic. I want him to keep a platonic love and so you’re not going to take advantage of her when she’s drunk. So keep it that way, you’re going to be more loveable if you don’t touch her.” And I said, “Are you sure?” [Laughs]

Mendes: Eugenio was super fun. I didn’t know what a big deal he was until my mom said, “He’s huge!” My mom loves Eugenio. What I really liked about him was that he brought depth to his character that otherwise could have been ignored or over looked if someone else had done it. He brought something so beautiful to it. Eugenio, you have a hardcore quebradita dance scene in the film. Did you practice or was that inherent talent?

Derbez: I took quebradita lessons. It’s a really hard dance. The type of quebradita they taught me you have to raise your partner and do a lot of tricks, it’s like a circus. When I talked to Eva, I told her about the choreography and she said, “No, I don’t want to fall or have an accident. No.” So, we decided on my solo but I took lessons for two weeks. You know, I started as a dancer growing up. I did a lot of musicals in Mexico so I love jazz, tap…I’m a tap dancer. Speaking of Mexico, is your plan to stay in Los Angeles?

Derbez: I would like to continue to work here in the United States. The American dream is my dream but I’m not obsessed with this idea of having to conquer Hollywood, if it happens, great. I’m back and forth, half and half between Mexico and LA. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It depends on Rob, if the second season gets picked up then I’ll be living here. Meanwhile, I’m in Mexico. I’m about to start shooting my first film as a director, it’s a co-production between Lionsgate and Televisa. I always wanted to direct. I went to school to become a film director but I never directed because in Mexico the films were terrible, years ago.

It’s a beautiful story so I’m happy, excited and scared. Production hasn’t started. We’ve been in pre-production for the last 10 weeks. We start shooting in two weeks. I still have to close a couple of deals in terms of actors. I hope it all works out. You’ve been in the industry for a while now. Have you noticed a change in Hollywood when it comes to depicting Latinos? Did you have to deal with stereotypes?

Mendes: I’ve been in the industry now 13 years and I’m so excited about the progress that I’ve seen. When I first started I was told that I wasn’t marketable because of my look and that I looked too ethnic. I was told I would probably do ok in film or TV but I wasn’t bankable for more commercial things like endorsements or international deals. This wasn’t told to me by mean people, this was just how it was in the business. It was people being frank with me, stating how the business was at the time, and I appreciated that. Did it become a challenge for you to break through those ideologies?

Mendes: Well, you tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to die trying.  I’m glad to be a part of the breaking down of stereotypes. I remember reading scripts where a Latin person would have one line and being told in certain auditions that I needed to talk with a Latin accent or with more attitude. I didn’t feel a victim to it but I did see that there was a close mindedness of what a Latin person was and we were all considered one thing. It’s been amazing to see the growth. Eugenio, do you have any interesting audition stories? Who are you dying to work with next?

Derbez: I want to work with Ben Stiller. Actually, I auditioned for A Better Life. At the end there were three of us. I had a call back with Demián Bichir and someone else. I was this close to being in A Better Life. Next time. I love Demian, he’s a great friend of mine. Where are you in your career now? You have a few films coming up.

Mendes: I’m just having fun. I’ve got a movie in Cannes right now, Holy Motors where I play this crazy woman with a flaming red wig and nails that were four-inches long. It was actually really difficult to eat with them on. She doesn’t speak a word in the movie, not a lick of dialogue, but I had the best time. When photos surfaced of your character it seemed like you were channeling Amy Winehouse?

Mendes: I know! My mom told me this. I swear, I’m not just saying this, I don’t go on the Internet. I kid you not. My mom sends me an email saying you look like Amy Winehouse. The funny thing is that was nowhere near our stratosphere. So when my mom sent me the picture, I was like you’re right. She said it was all over the Internet. I am a huge fan of her music so maybe I was secretly or subconsciously paying homage to her. What can you tell us about The Place Beyond the Pines?

Mendes: I had the opportunity to work with Derek Cianfrance in The Place Beyond the Pines. I’m such a huge fan of his. I’ve never worked like how he works. He’s incredible intense and I was so creatively excited to work with him. I’m just trying to have fun because I can. Before I had to take work because I had to, I was taking the best of what was being presented to me and now I’m excited that I have the choice to just have fun and go back to why I wanted to do this in the first place.

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Categories: Interviews, Cine Latino, Indie
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