Carlos Cuáron is probably best known as the creative sidekick of his brother, director Alfonso Cuáron. After working on several project as a co-writer with his sibling, he shifted into focus as the writer of the Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning, Y Tu Mama Tambien in 2002. Last year, Cuáron decided to jump into the big chair to direct his first feature film, Rudo y Cursi, a story of sibling rivalry and the past time that binds them, soccer.
Keeping it in the family, this is the first film produced by Cha Cha Cha, a company formed by his brother Alfonso (Children Of Men) along with directors, Guillermo del Toro (Pans Labyrinth) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel). Rudo y Cursi opens in limited release Friday, May 15. Don't forget to read Curt Holman's take on the film.
Rudo y Cursi is a far departure from your previous film, Y Tu Mama Tambien.
Well the thing about Y Tu Mama Tambien is that it came by accident. A long time ago in the late 80s in Mexico City, Alfonzo and Emanuel Lubezki were producing this film and out of the blue, Lubezki said Hey man why dont we make a film about two guys who go to the beach. Alfonso and I said Oh yeah, thats a good idea. Then ten years ago on the phone we said why dont we do Mama because we had the title and we knew the plot pretty much and thats why we did it.
Im a soccer freak Im a sucker of soccer. Ive had the thought of making a fake documentary about a soccer player who came from a humble background and made it big. And at the peak of his success, he mysteriously disappeared. So I told the idea to Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal and they both said they wanted to be this guy. Which was great but I had two actors and one characters. I realized I wanted to work with both of them again so I made up a brother. I told them that its going to be a sibling rivalry story in the context of professional soccer and they said great but Gael said, I have to be Rudo (Beto), I cannot be Cursi and Diego said, yeah, Im Cursi (Tato). I said, No man, I dont want to repeat myself. I dont want to make Mama 2, I want to make something completely different, completely original from start to scratch so and to do that, I need to cast you against your types. They got it immediately and they started throwing out ideas, and I started writing.
You studied English Lit, what were your intentions when you left school?
I studied English lit because I loved literature. I spent a year in Denmark after high school in the student exchange program so I didnt speak Danish. In the presence of learning Danish, my way of communicating with people was English. So that year I read a lot of English and American literature and I fell in love with it. When I came back to Mexico and I didnt know what to study, I thought I was gong to study anthropology. Since I was 14, I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I knew university was not going to teach me to how to write. But I also knew that it was going to force me to read stuff that I wouldnt read otherwise. And that it will teach me to analyze text and become a literary critic.
Youre an accomplished screenwriter, what made you decide to get behind the camera and direct?
That was a long time ago and I have to blame Guillermo del Toro. I was really depressed in the mid 90s because I was writing all these scripts and they werent getting produced. So he asked me why I was depressed and I explained to him and his answer was devastating to me he said, Why the fuck didnt you direct them? and that had never crossed my mind because I had always thought of myself as a writer - I was writing for my brother and other people. So I started writing scripts to direct shorts. And I did eight short films before directing this film.
Youve made a couple of short films in the past, how different was the experience for you to direct your first feature film?
Making shorts helped because I didnt do film school it was good to shoot shorts so I can learn something. But nothing, not event making a thousand shorts can prepare you for a long feature. The mere volume of a long feature is just crazy. Especially a film like this because for Mexican standards is big because it has too many characters too many locations to many sets, to many costumes, too many extras too many everything so logistically it was just Hell. So it s just too demanding I slept very little for two years. I went on by memory especially during shooting. I slept for like 4 years and fueled by adrenaline.
Its noted you call Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñarritu your brothers, how did your relationships with them develop?
Alfonso and I met del Toro in the late 80s when we worked on a TV show called Hora Macarda, which was like a Mexican Twilight Zone. Guillermo was a make up artist and he was given a break to direct his film, he had done some shows on Macarda but the first time he directed professionally was then as well as Alfonso. It was a school for us, it was the first time I wrote scripts and got paid, two pennies but I got paid and thats where we befriended Guillermo.
Years later we started seeing on some Mexican channels some different channel identifiers and very fresh kind of commercials. So one day this guy calls named Alejandro calls me, I didnt know who he was I went to his office and he was the guy behind those things. He had the same feelings toward the script I wrote for Alfonsos long feature so there was this connection. He was going to make a TV show and wanted me to read his script and give him notes. And when he shot his pilot he called Alfonso who was in L.A. and showed and Alfonso gave him his feedback on the editing and they connected immediately. And we became really good and close friends. Thats time and thats working a relationship, they dont just appear you have to work them.
What lessons did you learn from your family of directors while working on this project?
Most of the lessons I didnt learn from this film. I learned from being on the set with them or watching their films. What I would have is great creative feedback it was very specific. These were some things that I knew, but they have more experience than I do. So it was great. It was amazing that they gave me complete creative freedom but theyre very demanding because thats how they are with their films, and I didnt have a problem with that.
You were quoted saying You call for Mexicans to believe in Mexican Cinema
Yeah, and I still do. It happens all over the world theres a huge penetration of Hollywood and that is what is dominating in everyones market and they are very powerful in Mexico. The problem is the audience for Mexican films in Mexico is very small. And Ive heard terrible comments it happened to with Mama actually. There was this group of 20 year olds looking to choose a movie and one said, Lets go see Y Tu Mama Tambien, they say its good. And the other four guys answer was devastating - No man fuck it its Mexican lets see something else.
Its terrible. Even though we had a great box office in Mexico with both of my films, we still have that problem - theres only two ways to solve it. First you need to make good movies good movies that are entertaining, because people like to be entertained. They can be a drama, they can be a tragedy - just entertaining. Therefore with good movie you can educate the audience and say Hey, why do you see that crappy, shitty, Hollywood movie if this is a better movie? Its just because its in Spanish, no it is your mirror. And Ill still defend that.
Rudo y Cursi, Rated R. Opens May 15, at AMC Mansell Crossing, Landmark Midtown, Regal Austell, Regal Hollywood and Regal Town Center.
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