Gabriela de la Garza – Cantinflas (DVD)

December 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the biopic “Cantinflas,” Mexican actress Gabriela de la Garza plays Russian ballerina Olga Ivanova, the sister-in-law of Mario Moreno (AKA Cantinflas), a Mexican comedic actor who broke into the entertainment industry in the 1930s and rose to fame over the next four decades. Cantinflas is portrayed in the film by Spanish actor Óscar Jaenada (“The Losers”). The film, which was México’s official submission for the upcoming Academy Awards, follows Cantinflas from his humbling beginnings performing in traveling tent shows to the biggest role of his career in the 1956 adventure comedy “Around the World in 80 Days,” which won five Academy Awards including Best Picture.

During our interview, de la Garza and I talked about how she was able to land the role of Olga and explained who she turned to when she realized information on Olga was extremely limited during her research.

“Cantinflas” was released on DVD and Blu-ray Dec. 2.

How did you get involved with this project?

Well, this is my second time working with [director] Sebastian del Amo. I worked with him on his first movie, “El fantastic mundo de Juan Orol.” He actually called me and told me about this project a long time ago. When I found out it was going to finally happen, I recorded myself and sent it to the producers. That’s how I got the part.

What was your experience getting to portray someone like Olga Ivanova?

It was a joyful experience. I had a chance to work with a Russian dialect coach for the accent. Even though she doesn’t have a thick accent, I had to practice it. I also had to practice dancing. Sharing the set with Óscar [Jaenada] and the rest of the actors was great.

Not only was Olga a dancer, she was a comedian, too, right?

Yes, I would consider her one of the most important comedians in Mexican history. I knew this film was going to be an important one in the Mexican industry, so I definitely wanted to be part of it.

How much of Cantinflas’ history did you already know? I’m assuming you grew up watching him.

Yes, of course. Everyone in México knows about Cantinflas. I grew up with his movies and his TV series that you could see on Sunday mornings. My grandfather (Manuel Tames) was an actor in the Golden Film Era in México. He was a very well known comedian. Something that was challenging was that we didn’t have a lot of information on Olga. If you Google her or look for information in magazines or books, you won’t find anything on her.

You’re right. I tried doing some online research on Olga prior to this interview and didn’t find much. Were you finally able to find any information on her to help with your role?

Well, we found a photograph of Mario and Valentina and that’s how we knew what she looked like. Even though my grandfather died a long time ago, my grandmother, who is still alive, had a good memory and told me stories and anecdotes about Olga.

Wait, your grandmother actually knew Olga?

Yes, she knew her. She had been to parties at Cantinflas’ house in Acapulco. My grandmother told me she was a very kind and dedicated woman. She even told me about her accent. That was a very cool experience for me to have all that information from my grandmother.

How old is your grandmother now?

She is 97.

I’m guessing she must’ve been pretty excited when you told her you were going to be in a film about Cantinflas, right?

You can’t even imagine. She has all these photographs and all these old letters from Cantinflas to my grandfather. She showed me everything. It was a good experience for her, too, because she had a chance to remember all these stories.

What was it like watching Óscar transform into Cantinflas during the making of the movie?

Everything was inspiring with Óscar. He is a professional. Playing Cantinflas was a very big challenge. Cantinflas has this very specific accent. Not anyone can do it. Watching him on the set and realizing that he was becoming Cantinflas was really amazing. He gained everybody’s respect. I really admire and learned a lot from him.

Oscar Jaenada – Cantinflas

August 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

As was probably the case with actors Robert Downey, Jr. for his lead role the 1992 biopic “Chaplin” and Jim Carrey for his portrayal of comedian Andy Kaufman in 1999’s “Man on the Moon,” Spanish actor Óscar Jaenada was faced with two distinct roles in his new film “Cantinflas.”

“It was a huge double challenge because there are two characters in this one role,” Jaenada, 39, told me during an interview earlier this month. “On one side was Cantinflas. On the other side was Mario Moreno. It was tough because I had to look at the characters differently.”

In the film, Jaenada portrays Mexican comedian Mario Moreno, who had an extremely successful career in the film industry for nearly 40 years playing his alter ego known as Cantinflas. During this time, Moreno starred in 25 films as Cantinflas, including “El circo,” “Sube y baja” and “Puerta, joven.” In the films where his character had another name (for example, he played the character Passepartout in the Oscar-winning 1956 film “Around the World in 80 Days”), Moreno was billed as Cantinflas.

During our interview, Jaenada, who has starred in such recent American movies as “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” and “The Losers,” talked about what he did to prepare for such an iconic role and revealed what question he would like to ask Cantinflas if he were alive today.

What type of research did you do for this role?

For Cantinflas, I had a lot of photos. I saw a lot of his movies. I also hired a dance teacher and a Cantinflas impersonator. But the bigger challenge was portraying Mario Moreno. He was a really secretive man. I had to meet people who were in his circle. I had to ask a lot of questions. I wanted to show the way Mario was alive and the way he conveyed the uniqueness of Cantinflas.

Since you are of Spanish descent and Mario was Mexican, have you gotten any backlash for that, especially since Mario was so popular in Mexico?

Yeah, it was tough. In Mexico, some people were like, “Who is this Spaniard asking so many questions about Mario Moreno?” But I am an actor. There are many examples of this, like when Demián Bichir played Fidel Castro [in “Che”] and Gael García Bernal played Che Guevara [in “The Motorcycle Diaries”]. It doesn’t matter. It’s a production. You don’t have to be from Mexico to play a Mexican. I didn’t let it bother me. I just concentrated on my two characters.

I agree with you completely. We’re actually going to see Gael García Bernal play an Iranian/Canadian journalist in a movie later this year, so it happens all the time. I don’t think people should make such a big deal about it.

Yeah, I mean, Daniel Day-Lewis is English and he won the Oscar for playing [Abraham] Lincoln [in “Lincoln”]. It’s a challenge, but we are all actors. That’s our job.

Does playing someone who was as beloved as Cantinflas put added pressure on you to get it right? I’m sure there will be people watching your every move.

Yeah, but we all put the work in for this movie. I was in Mexico for six months and we all worked 14-hour days sometimes to get it just right. It feels like a responsibility for me to let people know who Cantinflas and Mario Moreno were.

Talk about the decision to work with an impersonator for the role of Cantinflas and why you felt doing this wouldn’t turn your performance into an impersonation.

Well, Cantinflas is so present in the minds of people in Mexico and Latin America, so the challenge of the character was the imitation. Everybody knows who Cantinflas was. Everybody knows how Cantinflas moved. I worked with a lot of people to get that right.

Mario Moreno, of course, passed away in 1993. If you had the opportunity to ask him a question, what would you have liked to know?

I would’ve asked him if it was an artistic decision or a business decision to play Cantinflas for such a long time. As an actor, I know what can happen when you are typecast. I’d really like to know if playing Cantinflas was his decision as an artist.

Would you be able to do what Mario did and play the same character for your entire career? I mean, even today, you really can’t look at someone like actor Paul Reubens in anything he does and not see Pee Wee Herman, right?

You know, I have done more than 30 movies and every time I remove myself from my body and let the character take over. But when I finish with the movie, I am finished with that character. I think it would be difficult to do what Mario did all those years.

With the recent passing of Robin Williams, something a lot of people are realizing is that many comedians have a dark side to them that we rarely see. Did you find that true with Cantinflas?

Yes, of course. It’s the sadness of the comedian. Robin Williams dedicated his life to make others laugh, but he didn’t laugh at home. He was a really sad guy. I think that sadness comes with being a comedian. I think a lot of comedians are very serious people. Mario Moreno was, absolutely, a serious person.

Cantinflas on DVD

May 9, 2010 by  
Filed under CineBlog

On May 11, Sony Home Entertainment will proudly release 11 Classic titles from the classic comedy legend Cantinflas.

The DVD box set/collection will include seven films for the first time on DVD “A Volar Joven,” “El Circo,” “El Gendarme Desconocido,” “El Mago,” “El Señor Fotografo,” “Los Tres Mosqueteros,” “Si Yo Fuera Diputado” and four of his greatest hits “El Bolero De Raquel,” “El Analfabeto,” “El Padrecito” and “Su Excelencia.”

Mario Moreno (AKA “Cantinflas”), who Charlie Chaplin once named “The Funniest Man in the World,” created a simple yet universal character which has made young and old laugh throughout the years. A small man with big ears, a distinctive mustache, pants that never stayed up, and a jaunty little cap cocked upon his eternally mussed hair, comic actor “Cantinflas” is beloved throughout the Spanish-speaking world and considered the Mexican “Charlie Chaplin.”

Like Chaplin, Cantinflas’ frenetic brand of slapstick was as balletic as it was athletic, leading others to compare him to “Buster Keaton” His ability to combine humor with pathos was also decidedly Chaplin-esque, while his portrayal of the cocky, optimistic, but naïve little guy evoked “Harold Lloyd.”

But despite such comparisons, Cantinflas’ overall style was unique. Unlike the great silent funnymen to which he is compared, Cantinflas worked during the sound era. He usually played a smart-alecky peasant or average fellow and was famous for weaseling out of trouble with the authorities by overwhelming them with intimidating and pompous machine-gun speed monologues that, while sounding gloriously informed, signified absolutely nothing.