The Movie Revue had the opportunity to sit down with Latin actor Eugenio Derbez during his recent press tour to Phoenix for “Dora and the Lost City of Gold”. In addition to a large body of work in Mexican television, Mr. Derbez recently starred in “Overboard” and has done Spanish dubbing work for the character of Donkey in the “Shrek” movies as well as voicing Glen in the “Angry Birds” movie and its upcoming sequel.
TMR: One of the things about this film that I appreciated was the physical comedy. Did you have experience in the past with broad, physical comedy?
Eugenio Derbez: I have a lot of experience. For some reason in Latin America, we like to do comedy in a broader way; everything is big, big, big. It’s really hard for me to make everything grounded. For me this was easy.
Did you do your own stunts?
I love doing my own stunts. I was always fighting for, “I wanna do that!” and they would be like “No, it could be dangerous, let your stunt double do this.” “Okay, let me do this once and if you see that I’m not so good, then we can let the double do it.” And I always did my own stunt, so everything you see and also with the kids, we all did our own stunts. It was a lot of fun. Physically, it was the most demanding movie I’ve ever done during my career.
There’s an underwater scene, they trained us to hold our breath for two minutes. I was like “I can’t do more than 45 seconds.” They trained us and it was very interesting because it is more mental than physical. At the end, we did it, we were able to under water for 2 minutes, 5 seconds actually. That’s my record. Also, the quicksand, it was a nightmare. It took us one week to shoot that scene. It was winter, the water was getting cold constantly, I ate a lot of sand. Well, actually it was cork. It was a nightmare, but a lot of fun too.
Live action films are a huge trend in Hollywood right now. For audiences who might be feeling a bit fatigued by the trend, what would you say about this film right now?
I love the cartoon. The storyline in the cartoon is quite simple, honestly. It’s very simple. I think this movie is really different; they did a great job with the script, they made a more three-dimensional character, it has humor for everyone. The fact that the director is an amazing comedy director, James Bobin. He was constantly bringing in jokes and jokes. There’s jokes for everyone, so if you go with your kids, your bolitas, toddlers, teenagers, whoever, they’re going to enjoy the movie because it has humor for everyone. It makes fun of the cartoon. During the first three minutes, you understand that we’re mocking Dora.
One of the lessons that Dora has is to stay true to yourself. Do you have any examples in your career of where you stayed true to yourself?
Yes. I was born and raised in Mexico, I built my entire career there, my shows were always very successful. One day, I did a movie called “Instructions Not Included”, my life changed and all of a sudden, the doors to Hollywood opened and it’s like “now or never”. I came here and I thought, “I’m not going to be better than Adam Sandler, or Will Farrell, or Will Smith; it’s not my language.” So, at first, I was trying to be like them. And one day, I said, “No, I have to be what I am, be myself.”
Not only are you an actor in the film, but you’re also one of the producers. Were you attached as an actor first or did you come on as a producer and then demand to be an actor in it?
No, no. It came at almost the same time. When I heard about Dora, I told my agents that I want to be a part of this because I was always complaining that in Hollywood, they were portraying Latinos in a negative way. When I was aware that this movie was in development, I told my agents I want to be a part of this because it’s a good way to portray Latinos on the screen. I was in charge of supervising anything related to the Latino culture. I also did the adaptation of the script into Spanish with one of my writers as well as the Spanish dubbing.
What do you think it will mean to kids growing up now who may be experiencing their first adventures about someone who learns from other cultures instead of stealing them?
I think it’s one of the great lessons in this movie, to teach kids to not destroy things. I’m talking on any single level. I have a five year old baby girl, and every time she sees small flowers, she wants to grab it. One day I told her, “You can’t do this. She’s going to die. She has a family. Look, this is her mother, her father, her cousins. She has a family. Just leave her there, you can come visit, admire her, watch her, talk to her, but you have to leave her here because if not, you’re going to lose everything in the future and there will be no more flowers here.” So she understood that so well. And that’s what we need to teach kids, the same thing that Dora’s parents are trying to teach her. “We are explorers, not treasure hunters. We’re here to document and tell the world about this amazing adventure, not to destroy it.” I think this is important for the next generation especially with global warming and the environment that needs so much help from us.
Your performance reminded me of Peter Sellers. You also spend a good deal of time with four teenagers on the screen, who come across as very mature for their characters and their ages. Did you have to adjust your performance to be on an even level with the teenagers or did you find it easy enough to adapt to their performances?
Interesting question. Well, first of all I am a huge Peter Sellers. One of my favorite comedians ever. When I was with the kids, I was a new face for them. Isabela knew me, but for the rest of them, they were like “who is this guy?” We decided to play this character sort of like an idiot, but you never know if he is doing that on purpose or not or if he’s trying to trick the kids, giving them confidence. I was trying to play this character to be one more kid, because I’m silly. I was trying to play that bridge.
Referencing your filmography, your films to this point have been more geared towards adults. Dora is geared towards younger audiences. How special is it that you’re getting to share this movie with your daughter?
It was really special. She was not aware of my career. The last one was “Overboard.” This is the first time she’s going to see me on the big screen and I was very excited.
The Movie Revue would like to thank Eugenio Derbez and Paramount Pictures for their generous time in speaking with us. “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is now playing in theaters.