As a Hollywood stuntman for nearly 30 years (he prefers the term “action actor”), veteran stunt performer Eddie J. Fernandez has managed not only to make himself readily available for stunt work whenever he’s called upon, but also for speaking roles in films where his skill set as an action-actor is also helpful. Although not recognizable when doing stunts in such recent films as “Machete Kills” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fernandez has been camera ready for his roles in movies like “The Last Stand,” “Captain America: Winter Solider” and “Sabotage.”
In “22 Jump Street,” his newest film as an actor-actor/stunt driver, Fernandez plays Scarface, a criminal who crosses paths with police officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) as they go undercover to try and track down a drug dealer at a local college. In the trailer for the film, Hill is seen making fun of Fernandez when he refers to him as the “Mexican Wolverine.”
During my interview with Fernandez, who took our call while working on a film in Mexico, we talked about his latest injury on his current set, working opposite an Oscar-nominated actor and how the name “Mexican Wolverine” came to pass.
What are you doing in Mexico right now?
We’re shooting a movie with [kickboxer/actor] Gary Daniels. It’s one of those drug cartel movies where someone owes someone else money and they’re trying to get it back. I play the right-hand man of one of the drug cartel leaders. We’re doing martial-arts fight scenes and shoot outs, so it’s been pretty cool.
Any injuries during this specific shoot?
Yeah, unfortunately, during the third or fourth day, we had some squibs going off at a big shoot out at a house and I had to dive over a couch. There was a camera in the way, so I had to tuck in and try to avoid it. When I did that I had a gun hit me in the head and split it open. I had to get seven stitches. (Laughs) So, yeah, we didn’t need to use makeup. I actually had scars. But it worked out at the end.
Speaking of scars, you have a pretty noticeable one for your role as Scarface in the sequel “22 Jump Street.” How did you get that gig?
I had just finished up with another film and someone called me to see if I had a big rig license. I said yes and they told me they had a part they’d like to submit me for. So, in the film, it’s me doing all the action and the acting. The directors Chris [Miller] and Philip [Lord] were very pleased with my reel and offered me the job.
What was it like working with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in your scenes?
It was funny, funny stuff. Jonah Hill doesn’t go by the script. He just says things. The first day of shooting I was like “Whoa! OK, this is not out of the script.” I had to think about how I was going to respond. I didn’t want him to catch me with my guard down. I wanted to go all out. It winded up pretty funny and cool.
Were you at all worried about sharing your scenes with a two-time Oscar nominee?
I wasn’t worried about it, but yeah I quickly saw why he was nominated. The guy is very talented. He came up with some great dialogue.
In one of his scenes with you, Jonah is playing this cholo-type gangster. What did you think about his depiction and his Latino accent?
Oh, when he came out with his first line, we all had to hold back our laughter. We could hear people laughing in the background. I just tried to ignore everything. But Jonah did a great job with that. The stuff he came up with was unbelievable. When the directors yelled cut, we would just burst out laughing.
You mentioned that Jonah does a lot of ad-libbing, but I’m assuming the line where he calls you the “Mexican Wolverine” was in the script and your hair was specifically styled for that joke, right?
Actually, no. My character’s name is Scarface. They just wanted me to have a scar on my face. I came up with the idea for my hair. I was like “You know, let’s spike my hair up a little bit” not knowing I was actually looking like Wolverine. Once I got on the set, everyone liked my look, so we left it alone. Sure enough, when Jonah Hill saw it he threw that dialogue in and it stuck. So, now nobody knows me as Scarface. They know me as the Mexican Wolverine!
I’d like to see a Mexican version of “X-Men.”
Yeah, I’ve been getting a lot of feedback. People have been telling me it’s going to be a household name. Hopefully, I’ll be back if they decide to make “23.”
I’m wondering if Hugh Jackman started shaking in his boots when that trailer hit and he saw he had some competition.
(Laughs) That I don’t know. (Laughs) That I don’t know.