By Jack Rico
I got a call at my apartment in New York City with a Los Angeles area code. I pick up and it was Diego Luna. I was slated to chat with him regarding Elysium, his new futuristic, politically charged project where he plays Julio, the best friend of Matt Damon’s character Max. He sounds like he is walking the streets of L.A., a deduction I make due to the fact he people keep saying hello to him. A little later the distractions stop and we commence our conversation which ranges from directing Matt Damon in the future, his terrible movies which he loves to the Americas uniting together to create one big ass country. Oh, and we tackle the most consequential question, to me at least… when the hell is he and Gael García Bernal shooting another movie?
Jack Rico: The last time I saw you it was on a plane, you had just finished collaborating with Universal Theme Parks on the horror ride “La Llorona”. What’s your status with the project?
Diego Luna: I do not know if the ride is going to happen this year, but I’m definitely not doing that again. I do not know if they are going to repeat it or if they are going to redo it. La Llorona is not going to be there this year. I’m not sure.
JR: Let’s talk about “Elysium.” The opening of the film is all in Spanish and I would say that a quarter of the movie is in Spanish. I was very surprised because American audiences are not accustomed to blockbuster movies where they speak heavy Spanish. I want to know why there is so much Spanish in the film, especially coming from a South African director like Neil Blomkamp?
DL: Because the film cried for it. It is a reflection which uses Los Angeles as a place where all people, the natural migration of humanity trying to survive, they end up in this mythical place called Elysium. And well, because Neil is a director who takes risk with his work, from “District 9” you can see that he takes things to their extremes and obviously if you’re talking about California in 150 years, a great amount of people will have some connection with Latin America.
JR: I saw you on the Conan O’Brien Show where you said that you think that in 150 years we will all speak Spanish here in the United States. Do you still think that’s true or do you believe English will still prevail?
DL: A strange language will be spoken. A language influenced by Castilian, but definitely a strange language.
JR: You know what it’s called? It’s called Spanglish, y lo estamos hablando ahora.
DL: Yes, but you have to add Portuguese and even Asian tones because that demographic is growing steadily. In 150 years … the borders will be erased. It will be impossible for a border to contain the migration of people.
JR: You really believe that the border between the U.S. and Mexico will be cease to exist and we will all become one nation?
DL: And the borders in Central America, and South America. I hope it’s with a certain level of planning, but yes, it will happen of course. Today there is a whole discussion about building a wall that contains the need for Latin America to change their reality, but I don’t think that there is a wall that can hold that, it does not exist.
JR: This movie has many Marxist and Utopian tones, a very interesting Dystopia, especially on health care reform and migration. Of all the films you have been a part of, how does this one rank, is this the best movie that you have acted in?
DL: I would not say that about any movie because there are some terrible films I’ve done which I like very much and which mean so much for me. It isn’t easy to say that this is the best and that’s the worst, the only thing I can say is that this is the first time I do a film like this: that has a superb cast, has the potential to become a huge commercial success, is pure entertainment and has all the elements to become the summer blockbuster; at the same time, it gives us the opportunity to reflect on something worthwhile and hopefully start a discussion. Those two things in a movie, are hard to find.
JR: Wait… What is one of those horrendous movies you have done, which you’re in love with?
DL: There are many, there are even some that only my family saw. I have made over 30 films in my life so there are plenty, but I will not remind you of them.
JR: Be like that. Changing gears, I interviewed Matt Damon a couple of years ago for the movie “Che”. He spoke Spanish in the film and I asked him about it. He was almost giddy about wanting to do more in the language and wanting to work with a Latino director at some point. You’re a director, while shooting Elysium did you guys at some point talk about doing a movie together?
DL: Not really because to me that is very delicate. As an actor you can do three films a year, help a friend, go to the set one day and play a character and have fun. As a director, the decision to make a movie, let’s say that it defines three or four years of your life, at least that’s the way it’s been with me so far. Woody Allen would probably say I’m crazy because he makes one per year, but to date I have only done three films (J.C. Chavez, Abel, Chavez) – I’m doing the third as director – and I have a hard time reaching the point where I know exactly what I want to do and achieve . It is not something that you throw yourself in without a plan. The day I have a character for Matt I will go propose it to him and that will surely happen because for me, he is one of those actors that there are few of. He has an impressive range, has a work ethic that I celebrate immensely and a respect for filmmaking that few have. So yes, hopefully one day that project will happen, as to how and when, who knows.
JR: You’re working on a fourth film called “Mr. Pig,” which you are directing and producing. Tell me what the film is about?
DL: To date, I’m still finishing Chavez, that is really where my attention is now. I’ve been on this project a long time and I cannot start another until this one is done, I’m focused on finishing that film.
JR: When you look back at the 30 films you’ve been in, have you played the role of your dreams or are you still searching for it?
DL: No, I don’t think that exists. There is no such thing as the role of your life. Fortunately, in the world of cinema and acting the roles available to you change as you change. Today, the roles that I am offered are very different from those that I was offered 10 years ago, and luckily one grows and matures in life and as actors that is reflected in your work. So there is not one, for me there are many roles that have represented something very important in my life each time, and luckily I still have the opportunity to not feel that I got to my destination, I still have a long road to explore.
DL: Who knows, hopefully we do it sooner rather than later, but time has to pass. Rudo y Cursi is still very close and you have to let time pass, life has to change you a little bit and then we can reconnect. But that will happen, it will happen, it is unavoidable. I feel a connection and there is a chemistry that I have with Gael that I don’t have with anyone else so hopefully we can do something soon.