Gael Garcia Bernal is your new Zorro. As I found out, Gael Garcia Bernal doesn't know too much about Zorro and, frankly, doesn't even seem to like Zorro all that much. When I asked Bernal about Zorro, he quickly changed the subject to "Top Cat," for reasons that I don't understand, no matter how many times I re-listen to the audio. His "Top Cat" explanation is so long and so out of place -- a filibuster, almost -- I had to completely cut it from this Q&A (if you really want know Bernal's feelings on "Top Cat," please, feel free to contact me). You know, I get the feeling that Bernal doesn't want to talk about Zorro (and that he really likes "Top Cat").
The Mexican born Bernal did talk about his new Spanish-language film, "Case de Mi Padre." In the comedy, Bernal plays Onza, a Mexican drug lord who terrorizes the family of Armando Alverez, played by Will Ferrell. Yes, that Will Ferrell, in a Spanish Language film. "Padre" finds comedy within the very real problem of a city's drug trafficking, an issue that Bernal thinks the format of this film can address better than a straight forward drama.
Here, Bernal discusses his love for comedy (and the fact he can't help but laugh at his serious films), his stance on the drug problems facing Mexico and the United States and, briefly, his new role as Zorro. (Sorry, "Top Cat" fans.)
Where you ever on set thinking, How is this a comedy?
The thing is: the situation is funny. Not the issues or the context.
It's a dark story.
Yeah, but the situation is funny. To hear Will's character all of a sudden get completely worked up because of something about honor -- and to hear him say it vehemently in Spanish -- it just cracks you up, completely. Because it just takes the piss out of the seriousness of those issues.
Which are very serious.
They are very serious. But I think comedy has a great chance of liberating and shedding some light into these issues that are full of ignorance and prejudice. I think this is the first comedy that shows the responsibility between Mexico and the United States on this issue.
As an example: El Paso is one of the safest cities in the United States, right across the river from Juarez, which is one of the most dangerous cites in the world right now. In this movie, Nick Offerman's DEA agent doesn't seem to care too much about this issue as long as it doesn't cross the border. Do you think there's some truth in that?
I think the argument is true. You've heard things like that being said. But, again, the film is not a thesis on that issue. This just puts it there -- and it's a funny way to put it across. The semantics of when they're dealt with in a serious way, they're very politicized. You have a lot of ignorance behind them. A lot of lack of wanting to resolve things. It's just kind of a political stance, therefore it stays on a shallow level and the conversation can never get sophisticated and deep enough to really tackle this issue that is a worldwide issue. It's not only here. With comedy, it draws in the issue that's being talked about right now and should be talked about more about decriminalization of drugs. And the core responsibility between Mexico and the United States.
Do you feel that some of these issues are almost more shocking coming from a comedy?
There's a lot of political correctness. Dramas want to tackle and sometimes appease all sides of the equation. And a comedy, as long as it's funny, it's going to be OK to do whatever.
Do you like doing comedy?
Yeah. I like it. I think it's the one where I get the most immediate satisfaction.
Why is that?
Because it's fun.
Dramas aren't fun?
They're fun in another way. In a comedy, after the day is done, you can figure out ways of how to make it even funnier for the next day. In dramas, it's very different -- the mindset that you're in. Mind you, at the same time, I always laugh a lot when I see the dramas that I end up doing. I see myself behaving very seriously and I'm like, "What is this?"
I think the purposely poorly edited scene in which you're talking on the phone, hang up, then it cuts back and you're still talking on the phone perfectly sums up the presentation of this film.
Actually, that scene, I don't think it's in the final cut like this, but the camera starts to move and the actor says, "Are we shooting?" Then he goes, "I'm going to make a phone call." Which is kind of what you're doing and is the worst thing that you should ever do in a film as an actor or a director. "I'm drinking coffee." It's really bad. You see that on "Sesame Street."
When I was a little kid, one of my favorite movies on HBO was "Zorro: The Gay Blade." Did you grow up liking Zorro?
OK, that's surprising, all things considered.
I didn't even see Zorro. The first time I saw Zorro was... when was it? I think it was with Antonio Banderas. I mean, I knew the "Z" of Zorro and stuff. But, no, for some reason I never watched it.
I will say, the fact that it's set in the future has piqued my interest.
Yeah, I know as much as you know.
Do you like that it's set in the future?
But I think it can work. I mean, yeah. Because Zorro cannot be modern day, it can only be in the past. And, therefore, when they said it was in the future, it was like, "Wow, how are they going to do this?"
I guess you'll find out. You'll know before anyone.
I don't think so, man. How it's going right now? You will know before I do.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter