Gael Garcia Bernal talks Pablo Larra

In 1988 Chile held a referendum as to whether Pinochet could extend his rule for a further eight years. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Rene, a young advertising executive who is drafted in to help the No campaign. No was shown to great acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival last year and has been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film award at this year’s Academy Awards. Brogen Hayes caught up with Gael Garcia Bernal and found out how the actor balances comedy and drama as well as US and international films.

No was shown at the Cannes Film Festival, how did that feel?
Gael Garcia Bernal: I am very happy, very happy. Not only because I like the film, but also because it was a very nice reception.

How did you choose to work on the film?
GGB: If the opportunity comes, it is not that you look for it. There are very few good films on the planet, so it is not like I have a choice between lots of amazing movies. Sometimes, the amazing movie comes and yes, I want to participate in it. When I saw [Larraín’s 2008 film] Tony Manero I was even more convinced that I wanted to do it. Then I read the script. Right now the way I decide whether to work on a project or not is the director. It’s only the director. I have to be seduced and inspired. With Pablo [Larraín] it’s a very collaborative process; he involves you in every single decision. That is quite exciting.

What are your feelings towards the events depicted in the film?
GGB: It’s very personal, definitely. First of all because we can all draw parallels to what’s happened in many different countries, or different times or periods but definitely there is a strong parallel with what has happened in Mexico and what happened in Chile. In 1988 there was a big civil coup d’etat and we all remember that. That was our first political awakening and we all knew that the other guy had won. That was at the same time that this happened. There is also the fact that… I think my conclusion from this film – and it is very personal – is that it is a constructive investigation on democracy and how a person gets the disappointments and the ambiguities that democracy carries. It is not black and white… Never and I can draw parallels with my relationship with democracy and what I see happening to young people; the first time they vote they get really disappointed with democracy.

What do you feel the future holds for Latin America?
GGB: I live between Buenos Aires and Mexico; they are the two places I spend time in. I think the whole world is going through the same dilemmas. In Latin America right now there is a whole rebirth in terms of a sense of identity and economic means. Latin America cannot be manipulated because it is stronger economically. I don’t know where we are heading but I think it’s in the same situation as Europe, in a way. In Europe, all the elections that have happened after the social and economic crisis, have all overthrown the government that was in power and it doesn’t matter if it is Right or Left, it is just ‘the other one’. There is a constant all over the world, but I want to work in Latin America of course. I feel much more at ease in Spanish and I can make more characters.

Will you still work in US and international movies?
GGB: They are the ones that pay money, and they are the ones that give you a living instead of doing a telenovella. That is what I would have had to do in Latin America if I wanted to keep on doing films. I would have had to do a telenovella or a big play or something different because films so not pay as they used to.

You have a lot of big projects coming up…
GGB: I hope so, I hope so.

What was it like working on a comedic film like last year’s Casa De Mi Padre?
GGB: It’s quite ridiculous. It is really not a film, it is kind of like a big sketch. They invited me and Diego [Luna] to do it. It was Will Ferrell’s idea. It’s a bit like a Saturday Night Live sense of humour and I love that; it’s special. It’s very different to… let’s say what British humour is. Unfortunately in Latin America, we used to have a history of humour, but now not so much. There used to be a tradition of comedians and they were great. The sense of humour of Y Tu Mama Tambien, which I find very funny in a way, I think there is a combination there that works. I can’t take Diego seriously… Never.

Is there any truth to the rumours that you will be working with Martin Scorsese on Silence?
GGB: I hope it happens, but it’s difficult to say. I read the book and it’s wonderful. It would be amazing to do but talking about a film that has not even started is a bad omen. [laughs]

Words: Brogen Hayes

No is released at the IFI and at selected cinemas from 8th February 2013