Edward James Olmos – Filly Brown

April 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the independent film “Filly Brown,” actress Gina Rodriguez plays Majo Tonorio, a budding L.A. hip-hop artist who is trying to break into the music industry to raise money to hire a lawyer to get her mother (Jenni Rivera) out of prison. Oscar-nominated actor Edward James Olmos (“Stand and Deliver”) plays the criminal lawyer who is working with Majo, much to the chagrin of her emotionally exhausted father (Lou Diamond Phillips). “Filly Brown” was co-directed and co-written by Michael Olmos, one of Edward’s four sons.

What was it like reuniting with Lou Diamond Phillips for the first time since “Stand in Deliver” 25 years ago?

(Laughs) It was a dream come true. It was a great way to move forward and see him and rejoice in our lives. He gives a tremendous performance in this film. It might be his best performance since “Stand and Deliver” or “La Bamba,” I’m not sure.

Does it feel like 25 years?

Nah, it went by pretty quick. (Laughs) It doesn’t feel like it. Time just goes by so fast.

This is your son Michael’s third film as a director and the second time you’ve worked with him on one of those films. Over the years, how have you seen him evolve as a filmmaker?

He’s grown an awful lot. His writing has grown. He helped write “Filly Brown.” He’s grown a lot as an artist.

As a father, was there a specific time in his life where you sensed that the film industry might be something he wanted to be a part of?

I think all my kids looked at this lifestyle and kind of liked it. [Michael] came to me right out of high school and said, “Listen, I want to go to college.” I said, “OK.” He did all his prerequisite work for two years and then came back to me and said, “I’d like to graduate from Columbia and be a director.” I said, “OK. Learn how to write. Take the writing program.”  He said, “But I want to direct.” I said, “That’s great, but learn how to write first. Directing is easy. Writing is hard.” So, he did and he came out of Columbia a wonderful writer. Now, his directing is catching up to his writing, so I think he is going to be right on schedule.

Would he ever go with you on movie sets when he was younger?

Oh, yeah. He went on almost all the sets. All my sons did. Bodie’s in the business. He’s an actor and producer. He worked with me on “Battlestar Galactica.” Then Mico, he wrote and performed the music and produced “Filly Brown.” My other son [Brandon] is a documentary filmmaker and musician. So, they’re all inside of it.

Were you at all worried that all four of your sons wanted to get into what I’m sure you know is a cutthroat industry?

No, because I brought them up knowing that there is no security in this business. It’s consistently fluctuating. Sometimes you’re working and sometimes you’re not. They grew up knowing what that world was like and what those sacrifices were. They could go their whole life and never make a penny.  They know that, but it’s the life they chose.

Is the music in “Filly Brown” something you could get used to listening to while driving? Is that a genre we’d find you playing on your radio?

Oh, yeah. (Laughs) I really like it. A lot of the actors that are in the movie are really strong rappers. Chingo Bling is fantastic in the movie. He’s a great rapper, songwriter and entrepreneur.

Part of the film deals with how women in the entertainment industry have to sometimes use their sexuality to get people to take notice. We saw the same thing in “Selena.” Do you think much has changed in 16 years when it comes to that issue?

No, it’s gotten worse. Not just for the [Hispanic] culture, but for women in general. The sexuality in our communities is just growing and growing and growing. Of course, we have the moral majority telling us that it’s not right. What happens is that we don’t have any balance. We don’t have what Europe has. Europe has a very strong and wonderful way of looking at its sexuality. It’s much more understanding of itself. It’s more normal. Here, it’s like, “Whoa!” It’s the same way with men, too. They have to be sexier or they’re not going to make it. You have to be good-looking, suave, cool, all of that.

My favorite line in the film is said by actor Daniel Mora. He says, “You’re a real asshole, but we’re family.” Do you think family tolerance like that is exclusive to the Latino culture?

Not exclusive, but it does prevail in our culture sometimes more than in the Caucasian or African American cultures. But I think our culture definitely does have that more consistently. It’s unconditional love.

I know you don’t have any scenes with Jenni Rivera in “Filly Brown,” but can you talk to me about what she brought to this film and what you felt when you found out about her passing last year?

It’s still one of the hardest situations that has ever hit me because of the sheer shock of it. I mean, Selena was bad enough, but I didn’t make a movie with her. Here we are at our first press junket for “Filly Brown” and the movie is coming out and everyone is happy and Jenni isn’t here. There’s a huge hole. We’ve finished this little movie and it has become a very strong film and now it’s about to go out into the world and she’s not with us to rejoice. When you’re working on a real intimate film like this, you really do become family. The very last scene of the movie, when [Jenni] stands up to leave, has become a very iconic moment. She puts her hand on the window and walks away and her handprint stays there and you know it’s going to dry up and fade away. It riveted everyone in the audience so much when we saw it. No one could’ve imagined that when she turns around and walks away, it would be the last time you see her. It’s still very emotional. It brings a tear to my eye right now just talking about it.

Well, let me lighten things up a bit before I let you go. I’m wondering, has anyone has shown you the episode of “Portlandia” yet where Fred Armisen plays Jaime Escalante in “Reverse Stand and Deliver?”

(Laughs) Yes, I saw it. (Laughs) “Portlandia” did “Battlestar,” too. Of course they’re going to jump on “Stand and Deliver.” A bunch of people have done skits on “Stand and Deliver,” even Jim Carrey. It’s one of the classic teacher-student films that has ever been made.

What can we expect from your character Papi Greco in your new film “2 Guns” with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg?

Oh, boy. Well, Denzel and Wahlberg and those guys called me up and asked me if I would help them out. If it wasn’t a direct call, I wouldn’t have been a part of that movie. It’s a very strong movie. It’s an action-packed movie, but it also has a lot of truth in it. The CIA is at the helm of narcotic drug trafficking. (Laughs) It’s very true! It’s fun and you’ll laugh and there are a lot of car chases and things blowing up, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty it’s about the inner workings of the highest covert military people we have in this country. This isn’t a fantasy. This is right on the money.

What about your new film with director John Salles, “Go For Sisters?”

Man, what a movie. Wow. Now, there’s a film that has no car chases.  It has a lot of drama and great character work. John is a genius when it comes to character work. It’s about as good as “Lone Star.” The nuances are superb. Thinkers are going to love the movie.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

October 5, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Drew Barrymore, Andy Garcia, Piper Perabo
Directed by: Raja Gosnell (“Never Been Kissed”)
Written by: Analisa LaBianco (debut ) and Jeffrey Bushell (debut)

It might be easy to dismiss the idea of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” if you associate the movie with heiress Paris Hilton carrying a pooch in her purse down Rodeo Drive or think of nothing but a bunch of talking mutts, but make no, er, bones about it, “Chihuahua” is surprisingly one of the best family films of the year not starring a trash-collecting robot.

In “Chihuahua,” Rachel (Piper Perabo) is left to dog-sit her Aunt Viv’s (Jaime Lee Curtis) most prized possession: her spoiled Chihuahua Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore). Treated like the furry queen of the castle, Chloe enjoys the finer things in life like designer doggie clothes, choice cuts of meat for dinner, and her time at the day spa. But when Chloe is dog-napped during Rachael’s spontaneous trip to Puerto Vallarta with her friends, she must fend for herself or become a four-legged casualty on the stray-filled streets of Mexico.

“Beverly Hills Chihuahua” is entertaining first and foremost because of the great voice work by some talented actors. As Delgado, a former police dog who saves Chloe from participating in an underground dog fight, Andy Garcia is fantastic. Who knew you could get so much enthusiasm to come out of mouth of a German shepherd? Edward James Olmos is also noteworthy as Diablo, a fiendish Doberman on a mission from his owner to hunt down Chloe and get his paws on the diamond collar she is wearing.

As a smitten Chihuahua named Papi, George Lopez brings a humorous “Lady and the Tramp”-like perspective to the film. Between serenading Chole with Spanish love songs and calling her “mi corazon,” Lopez’s Papi might be too flashy at times, but every story needs a little romance even when the suitor comes with a wagging tail. Cheech Marin is great as one of the very few non-canine characters, Manuel, a cunning mouse who works the streets as a con artist with his iguana friend Chico (voiced by Paul Rodriguez).

Not only does “Chihuahua” showcase some well-cast actors, there is a surprisingly sweet message that wins through without becoming intolerably stereotypical or corny. Sure, we could do without insubstantial one-liners like “Hold your tacos” and the always overused “We’re Mexican not Mexican’t,” but there’s plenty of value for kids and adults alike when “tiny but mighty” pups are teaching us about inner-strength.

As far as live-action talking animal movies go, “Chihuahua” isn’t speaking the language of “Babe” or “Charlotte’s Web,” but it’s charming. Don’t let the unpromising trailers fool you. This dog definitely has some bite behind its yappy bark.

Edward James Olmos – Beverly Hills Chihuahua

June 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Best known for his current television role on “Battlestar Galactica” and movies including “Zoot Suit,” “American Me,” “Selena,” and his Academy Award-nominated role in “Stand and Deliver,” actor Edward James Olmos is one of Latino Hollywood’s elite.

In his most recent feature film “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” which was just released on DVD, Olmos voices the character Diablo, a vicious Rottweiler on the trail of a high-maintenance Chihuahua who is lost from her owner. The film also stars Latino actors Andy Garcia, George López, Cheech Marin, Paul Rodriguez, Luis Guzmán, and Spanish opera singer Plácido Domingo.

During an interview on his 62nd birthday (Feb. 24), Olmos talked about how dogs and other animals have always been a part of his life and what his 84-year-old mother thought of his new role.

Are you a dog lover yourself?

Yes, I am. I have a white Labrador retriever. I’ve had him since he was eight weeks old. He’s a great dog. His name is Moe. What can I say about labs? They’re just phenomenal dogs.

Have you had dogs all your life?

I’ve had a lot of dogs. I’ve also had cats, horses, monkeys, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, fish (laughs). I’ve lived a long time, dude.

Having a pet monkey is pretty unique.

Yeah, he was a little spider-monkey. My mother brought it home. It was sick in the hospital. They were going to euthanize it and she said, “No you’re not.” So she brought him back home with her. We took care of him until he passed away.

Your character in “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” looks vicious. Did you get to meet the dog?

(Laughs) No, I never got out of the recording studio. I didn’t get to see any of the principle photography. I never saw anyone. Well, I saw Paul Rodriguez for one second. I was walking out and he was walking in. I said, “Hey Paul!” He said, “Hey, Eddie!” and that was about it.

You’ve done voice work for animated films in the past. How was lending your voice to a live-action character different than a cartoon?

Live-action is a little different. They really try to get the behaviors and the attitudes a certain way. When you’re doing animation it’s a lot more free-flowing.

Do you think they captured your attitude inside Diablo?

(Laughs) I think we did a great job. I think they were very courageous to except the improvisational standards that we did. We had a great time. The director (Raja Gosnell) just loved it.

Who was most impressed with your role in this film? Do you have any kids or grandkids…

All the kids, but my mother was actually most impressed. She’s 84 years old. That’s what’s great. My nine year old daughter and my 84-year-old mom both just adored the picture. I think that’s why this picture is so powerful. It really does entertain everyone and makes you laugh.

There have been quite a few dog movies that have come out in the past year. What do you think it is about these films that people like so much?

I think it because dogs are special. They really are man’s best friend. They are love machines. All they do is love you. They are totally dedicated and committed to the human being. If you treat them with a lot of love, that’s all they need to love you back.

Along with your work in TV and film, you’ve continued to use your celebrity as a platform to get out into the community and talk about Latino issues. Tell me about that and why you’ve continued this for so long.

More than anything, I think we have seen cultures growing in the U.S. It used to be a dominant Caucasian culture in the early 20th century. Today, they say we are 30 percent minorities and 70 percent European-based cultures, but I don’t think that is correct. I would say its more like 42 percent to [58 percent]. I would say we are growing at a much faster rate than people of non-ethnic cultures. I think in the next 25-30 years we are going to surpass them. It will be completely diverse country. My entire adult life – from 20 or 21 when I started speaking up on these issues – is when I started to realize the importance of teaching more culture at schools. [Students] were only getting two to three days of Native American studies maybe in the 4th or 5th grade when we would do stuff for Thanksgiving. We would study the contributions of indigenous people. But in social studies there was very little about indigenous people and no talk about Latinos at all. Nada. Nothing. There was a little bit of talk about Aztecs in world geography back when I was in 10th grade, but that was very, very minimal. We were totally unprepared in these subjects. When we finally get a understanding of how to teach all cultures equally, that’s when we can look at each other and say that everybody respects each other. I’ll tell you right now, very few Latinos and indigenous people understand their Asian roots. They just don’t get it. They don’t understand that they come from Mongolians from 40,000 years ago. Every Mayan, every Aztec, every Arapaho, every Cheyenne, every Mohawk, every Apache, every Eskimo has to say thank you to the Asian culture because they were Asian before they became indigenous to this hemisphere. The same thing has to be said to the Asians. They have to be thankful for the Africa-ness inside of them. They have no idea they’re African. When they hear about it, they deny it. They go back to the Bible. They even forget that Adam and Eve were from the Garden of Eden and that the Garden of Eden was in northern Africa. So, everyone is African if they want to go that route. Culture is beautiful. It’s what makes us who we are. Everyone has the right to love and cherish who they are. Unless you know who you are, you’re in a lot of trouble.

You’re comments about students not getting enough Latino-based education reminded me of what actor Morgan Freeman said back in 2005. He said Black History Month was “ridiculous.” He said he didn’t want his history “regulated” to a single month. I’m guessing you feel the same about Latino Heritage Month?

No, why can’t everyday be African-American Day or Latino Day. Why do we celebrate it just one month a year? Why not celebrate it every day. If that’s the case then we should study Latinos once a month, then Caucasians once a month, then once a month we study the indigenous. Then everything would be equal.