Kuno Becker – From Mexico with Love

October 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

After four years of running up and down soccer fields for the “Goal!” trilogy, actor Kuno Becker, 31, exchanges his cleats for a pair of gloves in “From Mexico with Love.” In the film, Becker plays Hector Villa, a young Mexican immigrant who gets into the boxing ring to support his family and prove to everyone that he has what it takes to win.

Were you much of a boxing fan before taking on this role in “From Mexico with Love?”

Well, I like Mixed Martial Arts. I followed a little bit of boxing, but it wasn’t like I’ve been following it since I was a kid. I check out as much boxing as I can. But, you know, this isn’t a movie just for boxing fans. At the end of the day, a lot of people are going to be able to relate to it in different ways.

Compare the physicality of boxing to other sports you’ve played like soccer in the “Goal!” trilogy.

It’s a lot tougher to play soccer and make it look believable. But in boxing, it was easier for me. I got injured a lot more in the soccer world. In soccer, I pulled muscles. I thought boxing was going to be tougher. During the fighting sequences everyone would get a little bit hurt, but it wasn’t a big thing. It was a lot of fun.

What kind of training regiment did you have to go through for this movie?

I had to train for two and a half months. It was pretty tough. I had to gain weight and look a little bit more physical. I had to learn how to punch and make it believable.

Your director Jimmy Nickerson has a background in stunt work. Were you able to go a couple of rounds with him?

Yeah, 100 percent. He actually invented a device for the camera that you can actually hit. The way he shot the fighting sequences and with his background coordinating fights was really important for us.

What did you learn about boxing that you didn’t know before you started shooting?

When you punch somebody in the ring, you have to use your whole body. I learned that it’s more about technique than physical strength.

What was it about a character like Hector Villa that made you want to take it on?

I wanted to take it because I thought the script was a lot of fun. It has a lot of great moments. I thought it was funny and entertaining and emotional and inspiring. That’s what I loved about the project. Also, what I loved about the script was that it was a simple story about a simple guy that was fighting for honor and his love.

In the poster for the movie you’re pictured with one boxing glove with the American flag and one with the Mexican flag. Why is this important to show?

I think it’s important because there is a issue about immigration that is happening now. It’s part of society. The movie isn’t about that but it is used as a dramatic vehicle for the story. The cultural relationship between hard-working immigrants and society is important. 

So, does fighting in this movie signify more than just boxing to you?

Yeah, he’s fighting for his people, his love, his father, for himself.

What have you fought for in your own life?

I’ve fought for getting better characters and working in this business, which is crazy. I’ve been fortunate to work in this business, but at the end of the day you’re always fighting for something.

How do you think you’d do as an amateur boxer now that you have some experience?

Oh, I’d get knocked out in a second. (Laughs) You never know. If acting doesn’t work out for me, I’m going to have to do something else.

From Mexico with Love

October 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kuno Becker, Steven Bauer, Danay Garcia
Directed by: Jimmy Nickerson (“Forbidden Warrior”)
Written by: Glen Hartford (“Forbidden Warrior”) and Nicholas Siapkaris (“AlphaOmega: First Contact”)

It wouldn’t be a surprise if we were to find out “From Mexico with Love” rolled off a factory conveyer belt and into a theater near you. It’s the type of generic sports movie that would probably be cheaper if it were bought in bulk.

In the film, actor Kuno Becker (“Goal!”) stars as Hector Villa, a Mexican immigrant who has come to the U.S. in search of a better life for him and his family. With the help of immigrant smuggler Tito (Steven Bauer), Hector and his mother (Angélica Aragón) secure a place to work as cucumber pickers on a ranch in Texas.

But when his mother becomes ill, Hector sees no other choice but to step in the boxing ring and punch his way to a payday. Besides making enough money to support his family, there’s a secondary reason Hector wants to lace up his gloves and pick a fight. His honor has been tested by the ranch owner’s son Robert (Alex Nesic), a local hotshot boxer who drives a convertible and flirts with Hector’s childhood friend Maria (Danay Garcia) who has also arrived to work in the fields.

In textbook form, Hector reaches out to Billy (Bruce McGill), a washed-up trainer who used to coach his father in the ring. Billy wonders if Hector has enough heart to be a successful boxer or if he’ll end up like his father and never take the sport seriously enough.

What’s definitely not taken seriously enough is the film’s screenplay. It’s hard to imagine anyone else getting smacked across the head as much as Hector does when he finally starts training for his big bout against Robert, but getting a concussion is the only believable excuse screenwriters Glen Hartford (“Forbidden Warrior”) and Nicholas Siapkaris (“AlphaOmega: First Contact”) should give if asked about their pathetically unoriginal script.

As if a dying mother telling her son that he “can’t solve every problem with [his] fists” isn’t melodramatic enough, Hartford and Siapkaris drag the sports clichés (and even chess metaphors) into the ring hoping most of the audience will overlook the fact that everything they’ve written is so blatantly imitative. “Keep your eye on the prize,” Billy tells Hector at one point in the movie. By then, anyone who has ever seen an underdog sports movie should know what predictable route “Mexico” will take.

Directed by stuntman Jimmy Nickerson, who has been tossed around in such films as “Blade” and “True Lies,” “Mexico” never comes close to digging itself out of a one-sided fight that’s filled with amateur acting, production value, and action sequences. Even before the second dull boxing montage, you’ll be begging someone to throw in the towel.

Kuno Becker – Goal! 2: Living the Dream

June 7, 2007 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

The dream began in 2006 when Mexico-born actor Kuno Becker took a film role as Santiago Muñez, a soccer player aspiring to play on a professional team in “Goal!” This year, Becker returns as Santiago in “Goal II: Living the Dream.” In the film, Santiago is transferred to play soccer for a new team in Spain. Here, he must learn how to deal with becoming a celebrity before his newfound popularity ruins other aspects of his life.

During an phone interview with me, Becker, 30, discussed similarities between him and his character and what his goals are as an actor.

Did David Beckham’s move from Europe to play soccer in the U.S. last year have anything to do with the storyline in “Goal II?”

“Goal II” was written a little bit before that. We knew that it was going to happen. There was no secret there. He’s a superstar, so it was good for the movie and most importantly it was good for the story. Our goal from the very beginning was to make people believe the story and be a part of it.

Of course, we all know how great David Beckham is on the field, but how good of an actor is he?

(Laughing) Well, I’m no one to judge. What I told him was to have fun and enjoy what he was doing. He’s used to the cameras and he was playing himself. He did a great job. He’s a very nice guy; very down to Earth.

I’m sure your soccer skills have gotten better from the first film until now, but did you get nervous having to play in front of all these professionals?

Well, in a way yes. These are real soccer players and I wanted to prepare myself and train months before we shot the movie so my character could be believable. I wanted to make the audience believe that I was one of the Real Madrid players.

Have you ever found yourself in a position like the one Santiago is in – having to make a life-changing decision about your career that could ruin a relationship?

I kind of relate to the character because I’ve been making so many sacrifices in my life starting from doing TV and independent films in Mexico to doing films here. When I was in Mexico, there was a bit of fame and popularity so I understand.

So, how do you keep yourself grounded as an actor?

My career was very different. I didn’t become suddenly famous. For me, it’s been difficult because I’ve been working a lot of years to get here. Life puts you on the right path and makes you never lose perspective of who you are. If you really love your craft, you are going to do it for the right reason.

Would you say that you are living the dream as an actor right now?

I don’t think so. I’m in a position where I am really grateful for everything that happens to me. I’ve been blessed with so much work that I like. Movies like this are nice things. My goal is to be able to play better characters all the time and find better stories.

I know the Mexican team didn’t qualify for the Olympics, but have you been watching any of the soccer matches?

(Laughing) I haven’t, but I have been watching the Olympics. You have to realize how much work is behind the lives of these athletes. It’s really admirable. It’s inspiring to watch people work so hard for a dream.

You will play Santiago again in “Goal III” next year. Do you ever worry that playing the same character is going to get tedious?

In a way that was one of the challenges. I didn’t want to play the same thing over and over. My take on the second one was that we needed to change the character to make it more interesting. Yes, it was the same character but he was under different circumstances, so that made if fun for me.