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NUNN ON ONE: TELEVISION Eugenio Derbez speeds into Chicago
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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Eugenio Derbez has risen to be one of the most influential forces in Latin America as an actor, writer, producer and director. Now he is ready to take the rest of the world by storm.

In the Latin market, his Spanish TV shows were incredibly popular and, in 1992, he hosted a variety show called Al Derecho y al Derbez.

He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year and has a string of movies in the works. His latest film is called How to Be a Latin Lover, and is being released nationwide the last weekend in April.

Windy City Times: I read you started doing extra work on a TV show when you were young. What would you say to your 12-year-old self today?

Eugenio Derbez: I would never have believed what I am going through— ever. Usually you fulfill your dreams when you are young. When I was a kid I was dreaming about Hollywood. When I was that age I used to watch the Oscars in Mexico with my mom. I told her I wanted to do that when I grow up. I wanted to tell stories and go to Hollywood. I started preparing myself.

My career started going well in Mexico and I had kids. I forgot about my dream. I realized I missed it at about 40 years old.

My mom died and something happened. She moved something upstairs in heaven. Somebody called me two months after my mom died. I started exploring my dreams and went back to them. I have achieved my goals at this age and I am happy. I am here!

WCT: Did you learn English when you were young?

ED: Not really—just the basics. I learned English in the last two years.

WCT: Are you starstruck by all these celebrities in your life now?

ED: Absolutely. I have been watching them on the screen since I was kid. All of a sudden, I am working with them. When I was working with Michael Cera, I was on set and it was like watching a movie instead of acting.

WCT: Did you know Raquel Welch before How to Be a Latin Lover?

ED: No, but I had a crush on her when I was a kid. I wish my dad was alive to see me with Raquel Welch. He was also in love with her.

WCT: Did you study gigolos for this movie?

ED: Yes; I googled them. I am not going to say names, but there were a lot of them, especially in California. They all had Italian names like Giorgio or Fabio. They dressed the same and were older. They had the leather jackets, long hair and tried to be buff even though they are not. It was a stereotype, but true.

WCT: I recently slept on an inflatable mattress like you did in Latin Lover—and mine deflated, also.

ED: They don't work at all, right? I have one in my house and nobody wants to sleep there.

WCT: Did you have to pull back a bit and not go over the top with the humor, as opposed to some of your work in Mexico?

ED: Absolutely. We have a totally different take on humor in Mexico and Latin America. Even here in the U.S., if you watch Univision, the Spanish language channel, everything is broad, big and loud. When we were trying to make this work for both audiences—Anglos and Latinos—it was really hard. I had to be grounded, and not over the top.

It was interesting. I think we found the balance between the two areas, in Latin America and [the] U.S.

WCT: Was that Salma Hayek singing at the end credits?

ED: Yes. She told me once that she could sing sad songs and we put that into the script. The song "El Triste" is a sad song, so she decided to sing it.

WCT: There is a lot of eye candy in [this movie], with men in speedos and Rob Lowe in his underwear.

ED: I know! He's handsome, and it's amazing how he's in great shape. I had to gain a lot of weight for this role. I am skinny usually but I gained weight to have a big belly, since I am playing an aging Latin lover. My son is playing me when I am 25. He's gorgeous, but he was killing himself to be in shape, and tan.

WCT: Have you played gay roles in the past?

ED: Yes; in my TV shows I had a couple of gay characters. They are one of my favorites to play and people love them. It is hard to play in a real way, and I like that.

WCT: You are going to be in the movie version of Speedy Gonzalez?

ED: Warner Bros. was worried about doing an a movie about it, because they were worried it was not respectful and politically incorrect for Mexicans. I told them that we love Speedy Gonzalez in Mexico and don't feel it is offensive. He outsmarts the gringo cat, and brings food to all the people behind the wall. He's an amazing character.

WCT: You are also in an upcoming film with Helen Mirren?

ED: It is with her, Keira Knightly and Morgan Freeman. It is called The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, with Disney. It will be out in 2018.

WCT: This is the dancing version?

ED: Yes. The cast is amazing. We have Misty Copeland, who is the number-one ballet dancer in the world.

WCT: Did you take dance classes?

ED: No. I play the king of one of the realms, the Land of Flowers. Keira, Helen, Richard E. Grant and myself are all royalty.

WCT: And you are about to film an Overboard remake?

ED: I start filming next month with Anna Faris. We are flipping the roles. I am the one with amnesia and the rich one—I play the bitchy guy!

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