NO – Interview with actor Alfredo Castro

We chat to the Chilean actor about his role in Pablo Larra

In No, Alfredo Castro reteams with long time collaborator, Chilean director Pablo Larraín. Brogen Hayes caught up with Castro – whose CV includes actor, director and playwright – to find out what it was like to play a character on the other side of a debate that he took part in as a young man.

What drew you to the film?
Alfredo Castro: I love Pablo [Larraín – director]. It was very comfortable, it was a risk and a mission to represent a man so different from myself – I don’t think like that man – and he was the antagonist of Gael’s character.

Your character seems like an ordinary person who supported Pinochet. Who were these people?
AC: Pinochet ended his dictatorship with 43% of the vote and as I was a young man at that time, you could see at the end 1 million people on the streets, so it was not clear that he lost the referendum. I think this character supported an ideology very clearly, but the ideology of neo-Liberalism. He can sell a dictatorship or he can sell water, it doesn’t make any difference.

Were you involved in the referendum campaign as a young man?
AC: Yes, I was in the No campaign as a young actor. We all took part in this campaign.

Do you feel it was accurately represented in the film?
AC: Absolutely. I was very moved, very touched. I started crying in some scenes because politically it is a very hard, very tough film for Chilean people because we were really betrayed from the political class to the civil world. From the left and the right. We were betrayed. Something very cruel happened to me when I saw the film. When I saw the soldiers I remembered the World War 2 films. Something happened to me in terms of the aesthetic that I remembered those films and I was very shocked.

Even though you were involved with the No campaign as a young man can you identify with your character and his beliefs?
AC: I know this man. I can understand him, that’s why I tried to work from my more organic way as an actor. I tried to give him emotions and not just make him cruel. I understand both Gael’s role and my own… The choice at the end of the film is quite clear.

How did people feel at the time, when they were given a chance to vote Pinochet out of power?
AC: It was dangerous. When you see Christopher Reeve and Jane Fonda [in the film]… I remember we had to call them because many actors were threatened by the secret police so we had to call the actors to support us. Pinochet and the secret police could see that we were supported by other countries. It was dangerous, but it was a kind of epic moment that we wanted to take part in.

Do you feel that the ghost of the dictatorship still lives on in Chile?
AC: Of course. A thousand people disappeared and no one knows where they are. Democracy did very few things for [their families]. They gave money, scholarships for the kids but because the transition was in collaboration with the dictator it was not a very honourable end to the dictatorship. It is the only country in the world that made this sort of pact, this transition to democracy.

Why do you feel Pinochet made the choice to put his leadership to the vote?
AC: We had the menace of another coup. There were about five minutes where Pinochet did not recognise that the No campaign was the winner of the vote.

Did Pinochet’s supporters deny their role in the campaign once they lost?
AC: Very quickly they denied him. At the end, Pinochet has very few supporters, and you ask yourself ‘where are the 43%?’. They became democrats.

How do you feel people will react to this film in Chile?
AC: I was talking to Pablo; I think he is very naïve. I am older than him and I said ‘This will be very tough in Chile’. I think Pablo is a filmmaker, a director, and he chose to make this film and it is not a soft film for us. This one will be the toughest one I think, for left and right and politicians. This one is more realistic for all audiences, it makes a difference.

How do you hope people around the world will respond to the film?
AC: Everywhere people are not happy with the system, so this film is about that and how people do not believe any more in politicians. If you bring people together, maybe we have hope. I have hope in young people in Chile.

Your next film is called È Stato il Figlio, can you tell us about that?
AC: I played an Italian with Toni Servillo – a wonderful actor – I had a very wonderful time. Daniele Ciprì is a wonderful director, he watched my work and he said he would make the film if I would go to Italy, so they chose me and I Skyped with them. I went, it was like a blind date. I read the script and I loved it. It’s about a family whose little girl was killed by the Mafia and the government gives money to support the people.

Words: Brogen Hayes