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The film ‘Casa de mi Padre’, which recently opened in Mexico and will be in cinemas in the UK on June 8, is the story of Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell) who has lived and worked on his father’s ranch in Mexico his entire life. As the ranch encounters financial difficulties, Armando’s younger brother Raul (Diego Luna), shows up with his new fiancée, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez).
It seems that Raul’s success as an international businessman means the ranch’s troubles are over as he pledges to settle all debts his father has incurred. But when Armando falls for Sonia, and Raul’s business dealings turn out to be less than legit, all hell breaks loose as they find themselves in a war with Mexico’s most feared drug lord, the mighty Onza (Gael García Bernal).
NALA Films is a financing and production company that focuses on commercial stories that empower and uplift audiences. ‘Casa de mi Padre’ dovetailed with NALA’s corporate and artistic mission and struck a personal chord for NALA President & COO Darlene Caamaño Loquet.
“What appealed to me the most about it was; finally here was an opportunity to make a mainstream comedy with a major comedic movie star that just happened to be in Spanish. I am a mainstream human being who just happens to speak Spanish because of my Cuban descent and I think that there are millions of movie goers just like me,” she says.
“We at NALA love to make people laugh and we love to do it in a thoughtful and responsible way. This movie is finally an opportunity to acknowledge that the Hispanic cultures are a part of the American mainstream, without patronizing and boxing us as a demographic.”
The film attracted incredibly talented and highly regarded actors- in particular, two of Mexico’s finest actors, Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal, who are also old friends and business partners. Luna plays Raul Alvarez, Armando’s successful, charismatic brother and Bernal, the feared drug lord Onza.
“We have an outstanding cast, it was an incredible coup to get them – we are still in disbelief that they agreed to do it,” says Ferrell.
In particular, Luna and Bernal committed entirely and enthusiastically to their roles. While the pair have a teasing and joking rapport and engage in a constant banter off camera, they are not primarily known as comedic actors. In ‘Casa de mi Padre’, they absolutely reveal their funny side.
“It was an amazing stroke that Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna signed on as they bring so much gravitas to the picture and are amongst the best actors in the world. I remember talking to Gael on the phone about it while he was shooting some movie in Georgia — I’m talking in Eurasia not the US. He had like an hour of cell phone reception a day and we were able to talk about it and how it might go. Diego got it right away and it was exciting thinking he may come onboard, and they did and we were thrilled.
They are super hilarious in the movie, as we approached the whole thing as if we were making and epic drama like ‘The Godfather’ or ‘Scarface’. Diego comes off like a young Pacino and all of his ideas on how to play his character were right on and really funny. Gael played it so perfectly too and comes across so funny, playing it like a villain from a James Bond film. His instincts comedically were right on — always play it as straight as possible,” says Piedmont.
“When my agent pitched me the movie, it sounded so crazy that I thought he was making fun of me,” Luna recalls. “A film with Will Ferrell, set in Mexico but will be shot in California.
It’s all in Spanish, you will play his brother and you are both supposed to be Mexicans. It’s a comedy but it talks about what is happening today and has a very interesting social comment. I was like, what the fuck? Then I read it and I loved it. I talked to Matt Piedmont and I REALLY liked him. He had these creative ideas as to how to shoot it and the kind of visual language he was going to use that sounded very interesting and crazy and like nothing else I had seen before. So it was quite easy to want to be part of this.”
Both Luna and Bernal have experience acting in telenovelas. Luna and Bernal, whose respective parents worked in Mexican film and theater, appeared in telenovelas as children. But as Luna points out, as the filmmakers intended, ‘Casa de mi Padre’ went much further than a simple spoof of telenovelas – and in so doing, provided some fascinating, borderline harrowing acting challenges.
“It is really a parody of movie making. We intentionally made mistakes and pointed at them. We allowed ourselves to be terrible actors, which was very tough. You spend your whole career saying, I’ll never do this or that and in this film, we were asked to do that kind of stuff. It’s the first time I’ve done a film like this where I was allowed to laugh so much about what we were doing, where I was able to do everything that crossed my mind.
There was a lot of improvising. In this film, we were supposed to make the wrong choice and by making very many wrong choices, it happens to be funny. Like there’s these uncomfortable moments where we held the reactions longer than we would have and we were encouraged to keep going. We may have started with the telenovelas but then we made fun of people making movies and how fiction works, of the characters and the props … Everything was a chance to make a joke about art,” Luna says.
Image Courtesy of Casa de mi Padre