In the comedy “We’re the Millers,” actor Luis Guzmán joins in the fun with a cameo role as a Mexican police officer who meets the Miller family (Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts and Will Poulter) at a check point as they’re trying to smuggle drugs into the U.S. During our interview, Guzmán, 56, talked about being a “scene stealer” and what life is like living in small town Vermont.
How do you like doing these cameo roles in movies? Is it as rewarding as being more of an integral part of the storyline?
I think I get good exposure. I get to have a cool, funny moment in the movie that people remember. That’s better than having a cameo that people don’t talk about.
That’s true. I thought you were the funniest thing in “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey. And you’re only on screen for a few minutes. (In the film, Guzman sings Third Eye Blind’s song “Jumper” as he stands on a ledge threatening to jump off it).
Yeah, I’ll never be a judge on “American Idol,” that’s for sure.
Do you like the term “scene-stealer” to describe a few of your roles in your career?
You know, a lot of people have given me that label. I appreciate it. I think it’s a tribute to the work that I put out. But I never approached anything thinking I’m going to steal the scene. I’m just there to do my job and have a good time and keep it moving and keep it fun and keep it loose, you know?
How would you describe the cop you play in “We’re the Millers?”
Basically, he’s out there looking for the bribe of the day.
Have you ever met a Mexican police officer before and, if so, in what capacity?
Yeah, they were either part of my security or part of the security on a movie set in Mexico.
You always hear how crooked Mexican cops are. Do you think most of them take a bribe or two?
I think so. I think in every department there are a couple of bad apples. People are looking to subsidize their salary.
Would you bribe a Mexican cop with $20 to get out of a ticket?
I’d offer him $10. Take it or leave it or let’s go to the precinct. I’m a good negotiator. If somebody says give me $100 bucks, I’ll say, “I’ll give you $10. Take it or leave it or I’m outta here.”
I know your scene in “We’re the Millers” is small and probably didn’t take you long to shoot, but were you able to get back on set to see Jennifer Aniston do her striptease?
Man, they sent me to a chocolate chip cookie convention for the day. That was their bribe to me.
And you chose chocolate chip cookies over Jennifer Aniston dancing?
I didn’t know that was going down. Otherwise I would’ve been there.
You do some really great voice work in “Turbo” alongside Michael Peña.
I had a lot of fun doing that. For me it was very enjoyable.
I loved the scene where you share your tacos with Tito outside and just look so relaxed like, “It’s been a really shitty day, but these tacos are making everything OK.”
That’s right. Making a living. That’s what I call that.
Of the 1,029 people that live in your hometown of Sutton, Vermont, according to the last Census taken, who besides your family is your favorite person in town?
My favorite person in town of the auto mechanic. He takes care of all my cars for me without an appointment.
Hispanics makes up .4 percent of the population, which means, if my math is correct, there are only 4 Hispanic people in Sutton. But isn’t your family bigger than that?
Yeah, there are seven of us and we make up all the minorities in town. But I gotta tell you, Vermont is a very progressive state. Everybody gets along really well with each other. All the neighbors look out for each other.
So, really, you’re the only Hispanic family living there?
Yes, sir. You should see me when I’m driving down the road-playing my Willie Colón music.
Why did you choose Vermont as your home?
Well, first of all, it doesn’t get up to 105 degrees out here. There’s beautiful mountains and beautiful green. They have incredible school systems up here. They have great healthcare up here. This is a good, clean environment. It’s an hour drive to the airport. I’m in New York City in 45 minutes. You’ve got to be prepared for winter though. Winter is no joke.
How old is your oldest and how young is your youngest?
My oldest is 21 and my youngest is 17.
Do they get to watch all your movies? Are you cool with that?
Pretty much. They’re my biggest critics. They’ll let me know if they don’t like my acting. Sometimes if I decide to take a certain role, they’ll read the script and give me their approval. They’ve grown up in the business, you know? The cool part is they’ve become like advisers to me.
They’ve been doing a good job. You’ve been keeping very busy these days.
Yeah, well, it’s just a matter of picking and choosing your roles. I’ve been lucky enough to pick a lot of good material. If I picked bad material I wouldn’t be working.
Well, just to let you know, I’m a member of the Church of Paul Thomas Anderson, so the films you’ve done with him are my favorite of yours.
He’s an incredibly gifted writer and director. He has an incredible vision. He is somebody I’m truly proud of. He’s putting out really, really phenomenal stuff.
I was disappointed “The Master” didn’t get as many accolades at the end of last year as I thought it deserved.
Yeah, well, it’s different. I thought Joaquin Phoenix was phenomenal in the movie. But, really, Paul Thomas Anderson is a master filmmaker.