By Jack Rico
It is now official. Spanish actor Oscar Jaenada, who will be starring in Warner Bros’ ‘The Losers’ this year, has been tapped to play Mario ‘Cantinflas’ Moreno, Mexico’s most famous comedian, in the biopic Cantinflas. My source, who is directly involved in the casting of the film, has confirmed the choice for the lead.
Jaenada’s selection in the lead role puts to rest a year long debate amongst many Latino fans on who should play the comedic icon. Many, including myself, had John Leguizamo and Diego Luna pegged as the front runners. According to my source, there was a sit down with Mexican heartthrob Diego Luna to interpret the role, but talks fell through. Gael García Bernal, another revered Mexican actor, was never approached for the part. The rest of the casting decisions will not happen until the end of May when candidates will be given the finished script to gauge their interest and desire.
The decision to hire Jaenada might turn out to be a controversial one as there could be many risks in hiring a Spaniard to play one of Mexico’s national treasures. The fanatical loyalty that Mexicans feel towards Cantinflas is overwhelming. ‘Concepción,’ one of the many people who wrote to the site early last year to discuss casting choices, said in one of the comments, “Any Mexican with a Cantinflas resemblance and a quick wit would do better… They [Hollywood] are just going for the stupid habit of getting some one with a name to play him. Another blunder like so many done in film. A good film is 90% casting. So, I guess, the movie will be unwatchable.”
She’s half right, half wrong. It is true that Hollywood producers usually use a big name to attract audiences, but Jaenada is relatively an unknown in the States. This plays in the benefit of the decision makers of the film. They didn’t sell out to Australian actor Sam Worthington who seems to be in everything now a days!
Oscar Jaenada is a good choice. He looks a lot like him, he’s a fan of the comedian’s work and they even called him Cantinflas when he was 8 years old. According to people close to the film, they were blown away by him at the audition. They feel he is a skilled actor who is the winner of a Goya award from Spain. This is not to say that the producers didn’t debate the pros and cons, but felt that – “acting is an international job, not limited to where the actors are from.” That statement rings true since it helped make Puerto Rican actress Jennifer Lopez a success when she played slained Mexican singer ‘Selena.’
My source could not disclose the full contents of the script, but did say that they fully revamped the storyline. It will now be about the origins and rise of Cantinflas to fame.
Former NBC Chairman and President, Ben Silverman, is still the executive producer of the project and Mexican born Alejandro Monteverde (Bella) is the writer/director of the film.
Cantinflas is set to shoot Fall of 2010 with a 2011 release date, just in time for the 100th celebration of his birth.
As a final note, my source said to tell any Mexican that might have a problem with Oscar Jaenada playing Cantinflas – “just like you made Luis Buñuel Mexican, when you see Jaenada as Cantinflas you’re going to want to give him a Mexican citizenship!”
What do you guys think of the casting decision? Are you for it or against it? Weigh in!