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INT: Gael Garcia Bernal

09.23.2004

It is very rare in this day and age to see a young attractive actor revolving their career around quality roles, and not running directly for the big paychecks. Gael Garcia Bernal is interested in being a respectable actor; not a mega-star sell out. He is filled with passion and fervor he successfully portrays in all of his performances.

My first encounter with Gael came from AMORES PERROS, where he played an emotionally tortured man, desperately in love with his brother's wife and trying to make ends meet financially. Many dead dogs ensued. He has played the juvenile, sexually charged (and possibly confused) character of Julio in Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN. Now he had the wonderful opportunity to portray controversial revolutionary Che Guevara, in one of the best films of 2004 so far, THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES (read JoBlo's review here). If you are not familiar with Gael yet, this film will most definitely bring him to your attention.

When he walked into the room for the interview, he was very polite, immediately shaking my hand and smiling. He had no reservations about signing autographs or making small talk. I have a lot of respect for his career and it was a pleasure to interview him (once I regained composure after ogling over his stunningly magnetic green eyes for a moment). Below are his thoughts on the man, the film, and the world today:

GAEL GARCIA BERNAL

Many people wear the Che Guevara t-shirts without knowing his message. Do you think his message has completely evaporated? Have his ideals been won over by the first world countries?

I think the fact that it’s still there, is due in part to his struggle. The awakening of consciousness came in a very violent way, perhaps, but that marks us and makes us the people we are. Right now, I know that there are certain things that I don’t compromise. There are things about my culture that are perhaps the only things that I have. I know I’ll never put that on the line and let that be destroyed. I think his ideals and the struggle is still completely resonant. Not only that, but I think they’re going to become even more popular.

There’s a reason why this film happens. There’s a reason why this journey of the search for identity exists in such a way where it offers a fourth way out. I don’t think the way it comes, is from choosing the right political party. They’re so far from the people, so incredibly detached. They don’t obey all the rules of the land, people, or environment. Therefore, what this film throws on the table is a basic question-- which side of the river do you want to live on? Do you want to live on the side that’s better, or live on the side where you should live, where your duty is to make a change? By doing that, the moral of the story is that the real politics are what you eat, spit, and breathe in every day. That’s the real change that can happen. We see in such a short period of time how perceptions change. We want other ways. We don’t want solutions, we want promises. The formula that arrives to the same point can be put in a different way. Right now, we’ve seen that the solutions they’ve given us are completely wrong. We want some promises.

How did the Motorcycle Diaries books help you? 

They were the platform for everything. One (Ernesto’s) is a much more spiritual journey or account, which is much more lyrical. The other is a better chronicle in the form of a journal. It has a very good sense of humor, just like Alberto.

You’ve played Che Guevara before in the Fidel TV series. How did that affect coming into a younger version of the character?

It excited me more than it was effective. That film was full of good intentions. The only thing it did was pay the rent and make me want to play the character again. That chance came when Walter contacted me about wanting to make this movie. As soon as I heard about the project, I knew I wanted to do it. I thought, this time I better do it good, better learn more.

You and Rodrigo play off each other so well. The relationship that you have in the film really sells the story. Did you know him beforehand, or was this the first time you had met?

We met for this film, and spent a lot of time together, but I spent four months in Argentina working and preparing for the part. I did exhaustive preparation for the journey, which gives us the experience and the truth to be able to tell the story.

Can you describe the exteriors? The shots in the film are so beautiful. Were there a lot of extras and equipment or was it very small?

It was very small. That’s why it was very free, to be able to move from one place to the other, location to location. I’ve never worked in a big film before, so I wouldn’t know otherwise. It was just what we needed. In terms of extras, it was people we needed. The social problems of Latin America are pretty much the same as they were fifty years ago. Most of the people relate directly to that experience.

What particularly were your preparations to get into Che’s frame of mind at the time?

First, the preparation for the character was four months in practical terms. I read all of the biographies, specifically three of them-- the three main biographies of Ernesto Guevara. He documented much of his life and his ideas are very well placed in this beautiful, lyrical, baroque way of writing. We went to Cuba and visited the family. We met many people that knew him from the Congo, Bolivia, people who fought him. We went to Argentina. We met members of his family and friends. Alberto Granado spoke endless hours with him. We read what they were reading at the time, Faulkner, listened to the music they were listening to, rode on the motorcycle three times a week, worked out every day to get bigger, etc. We did a lot of preparation.

Were you a part of the developmental process? Also, what was your experience, personally, fifty years later to go through Latin America. What were the changes?

It’s always been like that for me, I wouldn’t know otherwise. After all of this preparation, we arrived for filming. We did seminars on the political, economical, social, and cultural situation of Latin America at those times-- specifically Argentina, Chile, and Peru, seminars about leprosy, and about Incas. After this journey, when we arrived to the film, we realized were like, thirty percent ready (especially talking about myself.)

 In this case, it’s definitely a story that needed our experience to be able to give life to the characters. The characters needed that and at the same time, we needed it as humans, to drive vehicles of expression, to give us that experience. That was the only way it could work out, and the rest was unconscious. There is a lot of preparation you can do, but it never ends. We got to a point of sharing that experience with the characters.

Then, we discovered that the social problems of Latin America are pretty much the same. Surprisingly, things haven’t changed for good, but things haven’t changed for bad. People still speak their native languages. At the same time, people who don’t speak Spanish are considered undeveloped. I don’t know. Germans don’t speak Spanish and they’re not considered underdeveloped. In America, there’s still the process of realizing and getting to know the people of America, recognizing their language and culture and not allowing the stupefied globalization of mercantilism, culture, languages, people, and the environment.

Did it affect you as a person? 

It’s inevitable.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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