What does it take to become a Latino-icon in Hollywood? We all know that Hollywood is a city/industry that favors Caucasian leads with the occasional Latino thrown in for good measure. For every Evans/Pratt/Hemsworth/Reynolds, you’ll occasionally get a Banderas/Hayek/Del Toro that crosses over into the mainstream American Hollywood spotlight. Thankfully, as of 2013, we can add “Derbez” to that list.
In 2013, Eugenio Derbez seemingly did something pretty impossible. He took a Mexican-produced, Spanish-language comedy drama called Instructions Not Included, and turned it into a very rare crossover mainstream hit to the tune of $44M — the highest-grossing Spanish-language film and the fourth highest-grossing foreign film all time in United States. Already a big star in Mexico, Derbez ascended into the limelight in the States by taking the lead in movies like Overboard and How to Be a Latin Lover.
And in that vein, apart from staring in and executive producing Dora and the Lost City Of Gold, Derbez and his film have something very important in common: they are helping to reshape the way Hollywood looks at its franchises and stars! They are effectively paving the way for Latino representation and coverage within our industry. With Dora hitting theaters this Friday, we were lucky enough to sit with the man Variety once named “the most influential Hispanic male in the world.” Here’s what Derbez had to say about the film and Hollywood’s diversifying landscape.
NOC: Hi Eugenio! It’s an honor to meet you. And thank you for helping to put Dora on the screen!
Eugenio: Thank you! For me it’s an honor to be a part of this movie that embraces the Latino culture. It’s rare to see a cast that is, maybe not 100%, but at least 90% Latino. I’m really proud of it. Especially because it tries to change the stereotype Hollywood has on Latinos. They’re always portraying Latinos in a negative way. And this movie is so positive. And Dora is definitely going to be a role model for any kid around the world.
I definitely couldn’t agree more. It’s especially empowering that you have a dynamic female lead in Isabella. And bringing her to the forefront in this movie makes her the perfect role model for kids; especially younger females.
Definitely! She’s perfect for this role. She’s half Peruvian. So the dialect that you hear her speaking in the movie is real… that’s really the dialect they speak in Peru. So we were always taking care of those details. That everything you see on screen relating to Latino culture is true, real, and correct!
Since we are on the topic, I wanted to ask — considering that you were voted as one of the most influential Hispanic males in entertainment today, how do you feel about where the industry is now going in terms of creating content that puts people of color really at the forefront of these starring roles and franchises? How does it make you feel seeing these studio movies coming to life with multicultural leads?
I love it! I was expecting for this moment to come. I thought it was never going to happen while I was alive. But it’s happening. And you know, it’s not about just checking the box. Nowadays they want to put someone in a movie to make sure there’s a Latino, or an Asian, or an African American. But diversity is about more than that. It’s not about just checking a box. You need to tell stories of different cultures. to see different people on screen. Everytime I was pitching a project in Hollywood, I would hear, “Nah. That’s too ‘Latino’ for us.” And I was like, “I don’t get it!” Because in Latin America, we’ve been watching Hollywood movies about White people and White culture, and it’s interesting to us. And I’m sure that if you learn how to embrace other cultures, you’ll have a lot of fun watching movies from other countries, with other actors, with other cultures. And that’s why I think with Alfonso Cuaron, or Guillermo Del Toro, or Alejandro Inarritu are very successful. Because their voices are unique and different. And that’s what diversity is about. It’s not about just checking the box. It’s about telling stories from other countries and other cultures.
Absolutely. Well said! And the way that Hollywood should be looking at story is to recognize that a good story is a good story, regardless of what culture it’s from.
Exactly!… It should be something normal. Right now it’s like “Oh my God! It’s a Latino cast. We’ve never seen that in Hollywood.” But it should be something normal. It’s like in America, when you go into a department store, and you see people working there, you see two [White] Americans, and three Latinos, and two Asians, and one African American, and a guy from India. And that’s America. And that’s the entire world. So it should be normal. Hopefully this is going to be normal in the future for Hollywood to see a cast that is diverse, like [Dora] which is Latino!
I agree with you! And I think movies like Dora are paving the way for that. If I can ask as well, you were also an Executive Producer in this film, which means you had a hand at the creative. So I wanted to ask, how did this project come into your lap, and when did you decide you wanted to be part of Dora?
Well, as I said at the beginning — when I realized I was an influence on other Latinos, and that I can be someone who can change how Hollywood portrays Latinos on screen, I decided to try and choose my projects. To reject the kinds of roles that were negative [depictions of Latinos]. And when I saw Dora was coming out, I talked to my agent, and said I wanted to be part of this, because she’s probably our first Latina superhero. She’s smart, she’s brave, she’s going to be a role model for kids around the world. I wanted to be part of this. And when I talked to the producers, they invited me to co-produce with them and to be in charge of checking everything related to the Latino culture. I was also in charge of the Spanish translation that will be playing all around Latin America… the Spanish adaptation was made by me and my team. So I was basically in charge of the assessment of the Latino culture.
You have four kids. Did you grow up watching Dora with them? And how did they feel about their dad being part of Dora the Explorer?
Well I have three grown up kids, that grew up watching Dora, so they were very excited. But I have a 4-year old. And she’s been a huge fan for the past three years. So it was great! She was so so excited when she learned I was going to be with Dora in person. So she just watched the movie two weeks ago at the premiere. And she was very very excited. The problem was at the end she got really worried, because a lot of things happen to me in the film. So she was worried about her daddy. But she was very excited that her daddy was part of the Dora movie.
As she should be! You did a great job and you’re part of the mythology now. So it’d be great to see you in a Dora sequel!
Hopefully! Depends on the box office. I hope all the Latinos will show up, because it’s important for us. Now that we have a movie that is portraying Latinos in a positive way, our community should show up and make Hollywood turn their heads at the box office. So hopefully we make history together!
Overall it was a great honor to speak with and get to know a man who is doing a significant part to reshape diversity within Hollywood! Thank you Eugenio!
Dora and the Lost City of Gold hits theaters August 9.