Fast-talking and feisty-looking John Leguizamo has continued to impress movie audiences with his versatility: he can play sensitive and naïve young men, such as Johnny in Hangin’ with the Homeboys; cold-blooded killers like Benny Blanco in Carlito’s Way; a heroic Army Green Beret, stopping aerial terrorists in Executive Decision; and drag queen Chi-Chi Rodriguez in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.
Arguably, not since ill-fated actor and comedian Freddie Prinze starred in the smash TV series Chico and the Man had a youthful Latino personality had such a powerful impact on critics and fans alike. John Alberto Leguizamo Peláez was born July 22, 1960, in Bogotá, Colombia, to Luz Marina Peláez and Alberto Rudolfo Leguizamo.
He was a child when his family emigrated to the United States. He was raised in Queens, New York, attended New York University and studied under legendary acting coach Lee Strasberg for only one day before Strasberg passed away.
The extroverted Leguizamo started working the comedy club circuit in New York and first appeared in front of the cameras in an episode of Miami Vice. His first film appearance was a small part in Mixed Blood, and he had minor roles in Casualties of War and Die Hard 2 before playing a liquor store thief who shoots Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry.
His career really started to soar after his first-rate performance in the independent film Hangin’ with the Homeboys as a nervous young teenager from the Bronx out for a night in brightly lit Manhattan with his buddies, facing the career choice of staying in a supermarket or heading off to college and finding out that the girl he loves from afar isn’t quite what he thought she was.
The year 1991 was also memorable for other reasons, as he hit the stage with his show John Leguizamo: Mambo Mouth, in which he portrayed seven different Latino characters. The witty and incisive show was a smash hit and won the Obie and Outer Circle Critics Award, and later was filmed for HBO, where it picked up a CableACE Award.
He returned to the stage two years later with another satirical production poking fun at Latino stereotypes titled John Leguizamo: Spic-O-Rama. It played in Chicago and New York, and won the Drama Desk Award and four CableACE Awards. In 1995 he created and starred in the short-lived TV series House of Buggin’, an all-Latino-cast comedy variety show featuring hilarious sketches and comedic routines.
The show scored two Emmy nominations and received positive reviews from critics, but it was canceled after only one season. The gifted Leguizamo was still keeping busy in films, with key appearances in Super Mario Bros., Romeo + Juliet and Spawn. In 1998 he made his Broadway debut in John Leguizamo: Freak, a “demi-semi-quasi-pseudo-autobiographical” one-man show, which was filmed for HBO by Spike Lee.
Utilizing his distinctive vocal talents, he next voiced a pesky rat in Doctor Dolittle before appearing in the dynamic Spike Lee-directed Summer of Sam as a guilt-ridden womanizer, as the Genie of The Lamp in the exciting Arabian Nights and as Henri DE Toulouse Lautrec in the visually spectacular Moulin Rouge!.
He also voiced Sid in the animated Ice Age, co-starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Collateral Damage and directed and starred in the boxing film Undefeated. Subsequently, Leguizamo starred in the remake of the John Carpenter hit Assault on Precinct 13 and George A. Romero’s long-awaited fourth “Dead” film, Land of the Dead.
There can be no doubt that the remarkably talented Leguizamo has been a breakthrough performer for the Latino community in mainstream Hollywood, in much the same way that Sidney Poitier crashed through celluloid barriers for African-Americans in the early 1960s.
Among his many strengths lies his ability to not take his ethnic background too seriously but also to take pride in his Latino heritage.
Please enjoy my conversation with John Leguizamo.
Listen to more great episodes at Next Level Soul Podcast
Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 126
John Leguizamo 0:00
But if you give me the space to to fail and let me try and experiment before you start giving me your input and before you start shaping me.
Alex Ferrari 0:20
I've been able to partner with Mindvalley to present you guys FREE Masterclass is between 60 and 90 minutes, covering Mind Body Soul Relationships and Conscious Entrepreneurship, taught by spiritual masters, yogi's spiritual thought leaders and best selling authors. Just head over to nextlevelsoul.com/free. I'd like to welcome to the show John Leguizamo. How you doing, John?
John Leguizamo 0:53
Good, good. Thanks for having me on.
Alex Ferrari 0:55
Thank you so much for coming on the show, brother. I appreciate it. Man, as a fellow Latino filmmaker, you have been an inspiration for many years for me, my friend. So thank you for all the work you've done over the years and all the doors you've opened for all of us, man.
John Leguizamo 1:07
I you know, it has been easy, but it's been. It's been interesting. That's for sure.
Alex Ferrari 1:14
The Hustle is hard. The Hustle is real man.
John Leguizamo 1:18
The Hustle is no joke. I mean, you gotta hustle. It's so crazy that we're like the largest ethnic group in America, the oldest ethnic group after Native Americans and you know, we're all part Native American, at least I am. And, and just our lack of inclusion is so not so naughty.
Alex Ferrari 1:36
It is pretty, it's pretty insane. But I think things are changing. And I think people like yourself are opening some doors for so many people over the years. Now first question, man, how and why in God's green earth did you want to get into this insanity called the film industry?
John Leguizamo 1:50
Well, you know, I don't I don't think it's a thing that you wish upon anybody, you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:57
Only your enemies, only your enemies, not your friend.
John Leguizamo 1:59
Yeah. I mean, you know, it's I never knew, you know, I was naive young man from the hood and, and I knew there was no opportunities. So I didn't do it for fame, money, or, or profit. I just did it because it was my, it was the thing that made me feel alive. That thing that made me feel whole that brought me sanity. You know, I mean, and I had 17 I found acting classes, you know, and it was like, oh my god, this is incredible. And I started reading plays. And I was a playwriting maniac addict. I read so many plays. And I just found it so beautiful that you could capture human behavior in the human condition in dialogue and, and have an experience about life and revealed life to other people.
Alex Ferrari 2:48
Now, was there a film a specific film that kind of your fuse?
John Leguizamo 2:53
Yeah, I mean, I loved Streetcar Named Desire. You know, that was really powerful to me. That performance was electric. All anything Pacino and De Niro? Did you know
Alex Ferrari 3:04
Anything Marty did pretty much
John Leguizamo 3:06
Yeah, yeah, pretty much anything Marty did was was you know, like, Oh my god. This is like Latin people. You know, like how we behave. And you know, as Latin person being so invisible, you always try to find links to other cultures to feel seen. You know? Like, for me, Richard Pryor was everything and Scorsese.
Alex Ferrari 3:25
I mean, yeah, you look at I mean, for the longest time, I'm Cuban. So the longest time the only guy I had was Al Pacino in Scarface, I mean, that was it. And Ricky Ricardo, obviously, those are you know, that the arnaz was, those are the people I had, of course,
John Leguizamo 3:37
Desi Arnaz is a beast. I mean, didn't even show that in that movie that that that sword, isn't he and Lucy movie was like, what? He's he is the bomb. He invented three camera comedies, like having a live audience and a sitcom of residual. I mean, he created all that. And he created Star Trek, you know, he was the one that was a pioneer and having he was like the first studio independent studio owner and the first land guy to own a studio.
Alex Ferrari 4:08
It was no it was it was insane. It was insane. But there wasn't a lot of there wasn't a lot of Latinos coming up. That's why when I always say it on the show is the first time I ever saw I could even direct was watching Robert Rodriguez. When I saw mariachi come out, I was like, oh, oh, so we can't do this.
John Leguizamo 4:24
I know. I know. It's crazy. Like, you know, why? Why are we allowed? Why weren't we allowed to do this? I mean, it's so crazy. It's like, I saw so many talented actors growing up that, you know, unfortunately, couldn't this industry just didn't sustain them, you know, and they had to give up and it was sad to see all this wasted talent and all these dreams evaporate, you know.
Alex Ferrari 4:49
Now, early in your career, you had the pleasure of working with Mr. Brian De Palma on a film called casualties of war. Yes, man. What was that like? I've heard nothing but epic stories of the insanity on that set and the brilliance of what they were trying to do and, and Shawn and Michael and what was it like being
John Leguizamo 5:09
It was crazy. It was crazy. I mean, I know we're here to talk about Greenvale.
Alex Ferrari 5:12
Well, yeah, we will. We will, we'll get to it. We will get to talk a little bit about we're gonna go going down the road.
John Leguizamo 5:19
Know, I love casualties of war. To me, it was it was a such an important film because I didn't know, Brian and I and Brian De Palma. And I sort of started to get to know each other and trust each other. I think there has to be a trust between a director and an actor. And therefore when I got to Carlitos way, he had this confidence in me. And he brought this incredible performance out of me by allowing me to fail on a Carlitos way, like I did like 30 tapes, he wasn't letting anybody do that. He'd let me do 30 takes on film of just my entrance as Benny Blanco. And he would laugh and I would do crazy. I would knock the waiters tray off in one takeout. I would push people out of the way. I flicked, but he loved it, loved it, he was and that love gave me my freedom. That was my freedom. But that was probably his way. Couches war, it was just crazy. It was crazy. Like you were he's a rehearsing kind of direct, you know, they're not too many of those. And he storyboards everything, but he draws it himself. I don't even know how he reads it because I saw those hieroglyphics. I don't know how, but he maps it all out. That's the genius you're dealing with. And a lot of people got fired, you know, the rehearsals. Really, I don't know if I should say who but whatever. A lot of a lot of names got fired and other people took their parts and became bigger actors for it. You know, it was difficult, really difficult. And then the content was, you know, he was our God at that moment, the best actor of the generation. And he was, he was married to Madonna. He Oh, no, he was at. Yeah, he left the set. We closed for three days while he went to America to see the Sphinx. Tyson fight was lasted 91 seconds. You know, like the shortest fight. That'd be the longest flight or the shortest fight, you know, imagine getting on a plane in Thailand. That was like 2425 20 hour flight back. Then another 28 hours back.
Alex Ferrari 7:24
Was was there a filmmaker or actor that you kind of looked up to as you were coming up? Like, you just like, really inspired you to do what you do?
John Leguizamo 7:32
I looked at it, but everybody everybody was above me. I was down here and everybody was up here and I looked to everybody, man. I mean, I gotta say Richard Pryor to me was was a big inspiration. Lenny Bruce, when I discovered him Flip Wilson.
Alex Ferrari 7:50
John Leguizamo 7:50
Yeah, yeah, yeah, that dude was I was gonna say, money. But I think I can't curse right? Yeah. Okay. I'm gonna fucking was a big inspiration to me, you know? And then, you know, of course there was, you know, I say with Lee Strasberg. I started at HP studios. So these these teachers, I work with some of the great teachers in American acting, you know, the greatest teachers. And then when Hamlin you know, who taught Denzel Washington, Alec Baldwin, you know. And then they took me under their wing and I was a big, I was a big student, I love learning. It was a place that could act because they there wasn't a lot of opportunity for Latin man. So my opportunities were an acting class. You know, that's where I can do all the big plays and all the big scenes from everything you know.
Alex Ferrari 8:43
Now, there's one part man that I just wanna you wanna you're my favorite party you've ever done was clown. Spawn dude, that was so hypnotic. I remember sitting in the theater watching that performance, and you couldn't recognize you because you know, that insane suit everyone's afterward like who was called like, John Leguizamo was that holy crap, that was amazing. What did you do to get in the mind of such a psychotic character?
John Leguizamo 9:14
Do it it was, it was It wasn't easy. I'm not gonna lie. And you know, the it's funny. You say I was unrecognizable? Because the whole director was like, no, no, we're, we're doing it so we can recognize
Alex Ferrari 9:27
We're paying for you.
John Leguizamo 9:30
But yeah, I'm unrecognizable. I mean, I had teeth prosthetics. I had ginormous contacts. My whole face was glued with this press. My whole you know, after the after, like a couple of weeks, I had blisters all over my face. Pause. My face is rah rah. And I didn't know what I was gonna do. And I was kind of Flim Flam and the director was a sweetheart. And he was like, Hey, can we just like get a taste? What are you gonna do? I go do it, do it. It It'll come when we get on that set and we say action, but I had no idea what was going to come out of me. And I was panicked, right, bro. And I took cloud lessons. I was doing everything that to help me try to figure trying
Alex Ferrari 10:15
So you were trying to you didn't know you didn't know when you accepted the role. You didn't know how you were going to do it. You were just trying to I knew,
John Leguizamo 10:20
I knew I was gonna say some crazy shit that I knew. I knew I was gonna say some crazy stuff. And they knew I was going to ad lib. And we had, you know, I had prepared them that was gonna outlive a lot of stuff. So I was they were cool with that. This was the voice and how you gonna? I had no idea and then the day and they kept saying, please give us a taste of gold. Dude. You're interfering with my process, but it was like bullshit, because I had no action. This voice came out this weird, you know, whatever. But you know, I started and that was that was it just came out.
Alex Ferrari 10:56
You didn't? You didn't practice that prior.
John Leguizamo 10:59
No, no, what I was gonna do. I had no idea. I was like, I don't know.
Alex Ferrari 11:03
So you mean to tell me that you had all the makeup on? You never practice the word and you're like, okay, something's gonna just come through me the same second they say action.
John Leguizamo 11:11
Well, I was praying. I wasn't really sure. It was. Right, but yeah, wow. But sometimes it's moments where you gotta pray.
Alex Ferrari 11:21
No, exactly. You just got to like something has to come through me because
John Leguizamo 11:24
Something better come through because a lot of money and what disappointed a lot of people.
Alex Ferrari 11:29
I'm all dressed up. Like I got gotta get oh my god. Yeah.
John Leguizamo 11:35
Go to your wedding. Do you know that haven't made up the mind your mind in your head that you're gonna say? Yes.
Alex Ferrari 11:42
Did you take her? I'm like, Oh, I thought about it. I knew what I was gonna say. Maybe when I got up here.
John Leguizamo 11:51
But now that I'm up here. I don't know. I'm having my doubts.
Alex Ferrari 11:53
I mean, so when you approach rolls, do you? I mean, do you often do that? Or was that? No, no, no, never. Never. Never. That was just that. It was such an insane scene roll. It's a character.
John Leguizamo 12:04
Yeah, just never like I'm mad rehearsed. I, I thought so. Is ever hers. The more I rehearse, the better I am. That. I mean, the roll had lived in me for a couple of months, you know, I did. I wasn't doing any other job at the time. And I was really just living with it subconsciously. And, you know, a lot of actors talk about that. And, and my teachers say that, you know, sometimes, like Meryl Streep will fall asleep with a script and just let her some. Let it take her subconscious. So I was, you know, I do a lot of that too. And I've always done that. It's a strange thing. But you do you, you fall asleep. And somehow you're in this meditative state, and then the character starts taking over you. And so but I was just stating with this character, not wanting to test did not want to try for some weird reason. And then it popped out like that.
Alex Ferrari 12:52
That's awesome, man. That's awesome. I always love as
John Leguizamo 12:55
I've never shared this information with anybody.
Alex Ferrari 12:57
So I appreciate I appreciate this exclusive. I appreciate that.
John Leguizamo 13:00
No, I just that was I always felt embarrassed by that.
Alex Ferrari 13:04
You're good. You've done okay, so for yourself, sir. It's okay. You can admit these things now? No, because I was wondering, because I've saw that performance. I was like, Man, that's he I always thought you didn't get enough credit because that was such a rockstar frickin performance, man. And the more you know, it's not blowing smoke up your ass. It was just such like, I remember it so vividly. Dude, I haven't seen spawn since it probably came out. And I still remember the damn performance. And I've seen 1000s of movies since. So it stuck with me. So it was just one of those things was like, Wow, man, I just always wondered how we got in there. Because, you know, I would I would ask Joaquin how you help me to get into the Joker. Like, when you get into psychology comics, bro.
John Leguizamo 13:45
Oh, oh my god. That was one of the most beautiful performing. I just got chills talking about that performance. I watched that movie three times because I loved the movie. I loved the script. I love the soundtrack. Oh, he is the motherfucking Mac Daddy Daddy Mac of all time.
Alex Ferrari 14:01
I mean, he's he's the goat. There's no question. No question whatsoever. And I always like asking actors this, what do you look for in a director? Because there's a lot of filmmakers who listen to the show. And I want them to understand what actors are really looking for in a collaborator.
John Leguizamo 14:16
Well, you know, as you get older, I mean, you understand what what helps you be your best, and helps you. You know, I like a director who lets me feel safe, that I can fail, who allows me to fail allows me to play and then I'll give you you know, some horrible shit and some amazing shit. But if you give me the space to to fail, and let me try and experiment before you start giving me your input, and before you start shaping me, Nick Multiset it's so beautifully. And then it stuck with me for life. He was with his director and his director started getting in line readings and telling him how to do it. And he said, my talent. My talent is like this feather he had a feather in his hand in a way he carried it for him but he said it was character I was getting like this feather. And when they give me a line reading, this is what happens to my ability. God. And I was like, Yeah, that's what happens when, if a director steps in too early and you're experimenting, all you can hear is their choices, you can no longer hear your own impulses or your own intuition. You can't hear it anymore. So yeah, I mean, I love when directors come when I'm dried up, or I'm blind, please come with something. Somebody saved my ass. I'm more than welcome. But let me allow me allow me to do my thing first, and then come and shape it, you know?
Alex Ferrari 15:34
Yeah, you gotta you gotta run around the room a little bit, you're gonna bump into some walls, but I saw it and have the freedom to do so as opposed to like, no, no, don't run into that wall. Like let me run into the wall so I could dry run out. And
John Leguizamo 15:46
You know, Spike Lee gave me that Brian De Palma and casualties in Carlitos way gave me that brand feminine to take gave me all that space like that. And and Spike Leon in summer, Sam, you know, he has had so much fun together.
Alex Ferrari 16:05
Is there anything you worked with some so many legendary directors over your over your career, my friend? What is there anything you brought in into your own filmmaking into your own producing into your own writing, that you've been able to bring in from some of these masters that you've worked with?
John Leguizamo 16:20
Absolutely, man, I had no idea, you know, that, that their influence would live with me for the rest of my life. Because I didn't know I was going to be a filmmaker. And I thought I was just going to be an actor or writer. And then I started directing. It was like, Oh, wow, I have this Rolodex as How old am I use the word Rolodex, I have a Rolodex of all this information from Baz Lurman, to Spike Lee to Tony Scott, you know, all their techniques, and their problem solving is all in here, my computer, and I can have access to it. And when I did critical thinking, I was like, I had all these problems at a tiny budget, had these great actors, but we had all these problems were shooting shooting in the real hood. And they tried to, you know, put guns at us to get us out, you know, in people were being shot around. It was like madness was happening. You know, I happens in every film, it's like, and but I had the solutions, and I had all these techniques. And it was great to have all that information in my head from these masters.
Alex Ferrari 17:21
Is there ever a day I have to believe there is as either a filmmaker as an actor that it was like kind of the whole world was coming crashing down around you. You thought at least and you know, whatever that might be, whatever it was that day was happened to you? How did you overcome those obstacles of that moment of that day, whether acting or filmmaking.
John Leguizamo 17:42
I mean, critical thinking had that, but I gotta say the take with Brad Furman, that was his first film. And we became buds for life. You know, We're bros for the rest of our lives. I'm doing a movie with him right now called Tin Soldier with Bobby De Niro and Jamie Foxx and Clint Scott Eastwood. And my daughter actually, nice, but but the take man, everything that could go wrong in an independent film went wrong on this movie. But it made us a force. You know, I stopped by my director and then Rosie jumped in the three of us. We muscled and will this movie into happening, and you're not protecting the director because because everything was going wrong. The first day we started shooting the chef there because we were in the hood in Boyle Heights. And these these gang members came up and they wanted to eat our craft service. And it's like, you know, when their hood let them eat the food? Who gives a fuck? It's like, well, how much does that chicken cost you? Let me let me buy that for you and give it to them. But anyway, they wanted the food. And he said no. And the kid grabbed it and he choked the dish chef tried to choke the kid kid pulls out a gun. So now we got gunplay, police come immediately. Shoot us shut down our set. There are helicopters flying around the director. Brad was brilliant. He's like Filming Filming. That's our opening credits.
Alex Ferrari 19:11
Because you got all that extra, all the extra production value,
John Leguizamo 19:13
Amazing production value up the ass. That was day one, day two hair makeup quit because they can't work in this dangerous set. And Rosie like I got Caribbean hair. I need somebody to do my hair. So you know our hair for the rest of the movies like here and there. Because he's doing it herself. Right right. Now is day two.
Alex Ferrari 19:36
I love I love the idea that you said that I protected my director because on a film like that. That was his first it was his first feature, right? Yeah. So he was his first feature. And I'm sure there was money people and producers and everything. Oh, yeah. They're looking for a reason to get rid of the director. Especially if they're falling behind or what's happening.
John Leguizamo 19:53
Yeah, they turn the director easily. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 19:56
John Leguizamo 19:58
You know, I'm I'm old school man. And you know, I don't know, I don't know where that comes from, from being grown up in the hood and you're always taught to loyalty is the most important thing. Or being a Latin person, your your loyalty is everything, you know that we do that, that's all we care about. So anyway, all that, you know, I, I'm gonna take care of this kid, this kid has hard, he's got talent, and I'm not gonna let nobody take him down. You know, so I just stopped by him and I go, shoot, we're gonna go, I'm going to the hood every day. I don't care. And we're gonna gorilla you know, I still shots and buses. Really? We're still shots everywhere, you know? Yeah, because the third day, I gotta tell you the third day, the sack comes in and takes away the kid who was my play my son, he shot three days, within the third day. They said he had forged his a, it was an F, and he had made it look like an A, and they had to take them out. So we had to reshoot with a new kid. That was it? Was it do it every day? 28 days of madness like that.
Alex Ferrari 21:00
And you gotta you gotta
John Leguizamo 21:02
You just kept going, yeah, just kept going.
Alex Ferrari 21:04
It's amazing. And that's something that so many filmmakers coming up don't understand the insanity of what it is to make an independent film and, and having,
John Leguizamo 21:13
You gotta love it, do. You creative and you're more creative, because you're being pushed against the wall. And you have to solve these problems. And you have to get through your film and you have to get you want to get creative work. You don't want to just shoot something that's average.
Alex Ferrari 21:30
So what I love about your career is that you've worked on indie films, obviously at like a really low budget world. And you've also worked on some of the biggest budget films and with the biggest directors and the biggest diehard every die hard to make with every resource that you're described, right? How does, let's say a Baz Luhrmann on Moulin Rouge, which obviously was not an NFL indie film. That was such a big
John Leguizamo 21:56
There was not there's nothing like that or nothing ever will be.
Alex Ferrari 22:00
It's one of my favorite films.
John Leguizamo 22:02
Oh my god. It was a game changer. Love, I mean, 27 angles on certain scenes, bro, we would do takes on certain stuff. How many cameras was shooting? How many cameras was shooting? No, no, yeah, like three or four. So you'd move them all around. So it was like, you know, hours and days.
Alex Ferrari 22:22
Once it so they
John Leguizamo 22:25
Out of the core here. Then they move into the other section, then they incrementally not like all the way to the other side. Just incrementally moving it around, up here down. I mean, he got every angle. You know, for you know, the Moulin Rouge I think was very disconcerting for a lot of old school filmmakers and people because it moves so fast. And it was cutting to the cutting was so quick. And so it made people dizzy, but it was for the rest of us who were young, we loved it. It was groundbreaking groundbreaking,
Alex Ferrari 22:55
And the music the way he was able to incorporate old music and new music and, and was
John Leguizamo 22:59
He was the first to do that to us. Oh, music and then they became like, such an annoying trick that everybody's using now in too much, you know?
Alex Ferrari 23:08
But so so when you're working with someone like like bass, or like Romeo Juliet Jesus, like what was it like reciting Shakespeare, and that in beautiful insanity that he had built for you?
John Leguizamo 23:19
Well, you know, I love Shakespeare, but I don't love doing it. I didn't think I'd love it. I love it. Now, as I'm older, you know, I'm not you know, like, like, musicians are either classic classical or jazz. That was more of a jazz instrument. You know, that's what I fancy myself and what I liked. So I was moving towards that. But when I got into the Shakespeare, I was like, Oh, I can I can groove with this. And we did a two week workshop. And, you know, I was Tibbles. And I was tickled too much. I was getting into fights in the street, had my tongue broken by getting into fights. I mean, it was the character sometimes overtakes you, and it makes you stupid. But it was amazing. I mean, he was so specific about his vision, you know, he had a vision. And, and, you know, he told me, he wanted me to be a flamenco dancer and a bullfighter. So I studied that and I started taking I took flamenco classes and all that, to give them that, that way of moving, because they are much more much more street and he wanted me to be you know, very elegant thing. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 24:32
But like, so working with someone like that, who had such a specific vision. I mean, I remember watching Romeo and Juliet when I went to the theaters to see it. And my first thought was like, how did this get financed? How did this get approved? How did this sneak through?
John Leguizamo 24:46
Not easy? I mean, Moulin Rouge was not easy. I saw what that brother had to struggle to get that money out of the studios. You know, it's not just Latin people in black people who struggled to get tones of a white folk struggled to a different way. I mean, But you know, he had to prove he had to prove that, that Romeo and Juliet was viable. They don't want to do period stuff. They don't want to do Shakespeare, they don't want to do arty stuff. They don't think it has commercial value. So he did a whole audition with Leo DiCaprio and, and locations and he had lookbooks. And he had the music. He had the had the whole vision. And he had to convince the studio to cough up the cash so that he could shoot this film, and then he has his massive hit. Shoot, then he's got to convince them again, that he can do a musical because musicals the last successful musical was Greece in 1972. And we're shooting now in 1999 2000. Yet, so we had to do a do it against you had to do you know, visual visuals with Ewan McGregor and, and Nicole Kidman, auditioning and you know, it was wild wild
Alex Ferrari 25:54
So that I didn't think about that. You're right. It wasn't a musical since Greece before Milan was and then after
John Leguizamo 26:01
They all failed. They all fail. So it was like the musical was dead on film.
Alex Ferrari 26:06
Right. But then after Moulin Rouge, then Chicago ended Oh, he opened it up.
John Leguizamo 26:09
He proved that it can be successful. Right, right. That's remarkable, man. No, no, he's brilliant. Man. You can't you can't underestimate his genius. He's, he's one of the one of the one of a kind.
Alex Ferrari 26:18
Yeah, yeah. And that's why I'm excited to see Elvis, I can't wait to see
John Leguizamo 26:21
Oh, yeah, no, I know, everything he touches.
Alex Ferrari 26:24
It's, it's, it's absolutely remarkable. Is there something man that you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career? Go back and be like, Man, you know, watch out for this.
John Leguizamo 26:36
Definitely. In terms of, I mean, I feel like I struggled with not the acting part. I mean, I, I didn't realize that. The racism, that talent in Trump race, racism, I really thought that I really believed that I was naive, or I don't know a dreamer, whatever you just believe you can, you can change the world. But I didn't realize that there was a glass ceiling. I didn't, I didn't understand that. I didn't really believe it, I didn't want to believe it, I think it would have disillusion me, but there was a glass and you just would never gonna get you thought I did this role I work with these great directors. Now I'm going to get those leads, I want to get those important leads that lead you to asters that lead you to, to the same equal status as as your white peers, you know, but they weren't, they weren't coming and, and you vie for them. And they don't consider you because you're Latin dude. Or yeah, there was there was a lot of stuff going on that, you know, they kept the knowledge and the writing was the same way to like I was had all these great scripts and I would go around from Studio and they were like all we love it. And then they had no reason why they didn't want to do it. They just were never gonna do a Latin project. Written wide scripts boom, they would have been famous screenwriter, but it was so difficult to get. It's still difficult to get Latin content out there. I mean, I hear the conversations that that they're having, you know, they okay with two Latin people, maybe three. But if it's like, two they want the lead. The two leads to be Latin not so not not so much the money folk that the money's conversation is still like that.
Alex Ferrari 28:17
Really? I would, because I think nowadays it's I mean, considering from the 80s and 90s. Were just miles different than we were then. Yeah, as far as that kind of just inclusion in general. And other they tried.
John Leguizamo 28:29
They tried. They definitely they definitely tried. But there's still like roadblocks and and yeah, yeah. And silent. You know, unspoken quotas? Definitely. I'm not gonna lie. I'm being straight up with you.
Alex Ferrari 28:42
I appreciate that. No, I appreciate that. And it's so fascinating, because I was like asking, you know, actors of yours, like someone of your statute has done so many things, has a name people know who you are. You still have problems getting projects made. And I want people to understand. It's not like, Oh, you're John Leguizamo, you could just, you know, just make a phone call and you can have 5 million and make your own movie.
John Leguizamo 29:01
I could, I could, but but I don't want to water down. I'm an artist. I see myself as an artist and as a pioneer. Right? And I don't want to watered down my things. I don't want to have to whitewash everything I do.
Alex Ferrari 29:16
I understand what you're saying. Right? So to maintain the integrity of your product, right?
John Leguizamo 29:20
I mean, I could easily you know, everything could be you know, one Latin dude and one white dude, you know, like, you know, do the due to the thing that they always want they want it was one it's a nepotistic build business in terms of wanting white actors to be in your projects, because that's what the there's still old school mentality. And they think that that's going to sell but you know, I mean, there was a time that Will Smith couldn't get an action film done and then he proved to the world that yeah, black people are box office gold internationally. You know, there was that cold conversation that that era. Yep.
Alex Ferrari 29:52
Yeah, I remember. Yeah. Like I remember you're like, oh, it's African American. You can't can't put them in
John Leguizamo 29:57
Oscar Isaac's look at Oscar Isaac. If things were fair and non racist, he'd be Oscar Isaac Hernandez, but he can't. He is still in this modern day, he has to go by Oscar Isaac, because if he had the Hernandez still on his on his resume, he might not get those rolls those leads, because that's what is going on. That's, that's, that's a sign of the times. That's really fast. And I'm being straight up with you. I mean, most people won't talk about these things, because it's ugly, and they don't want to talk about it.
Alex Ferrari 30:26
But, but I want some things to change. Yeah, agreed. And that's why, you know, that's one of the reasons why I do the show is I want to educate people about what's what the realities of this business are, and you can't look at, you can't look at life, you know, especially walking into this business with starry eyed I'm like, I have a dream. Just because I watch movies. It's all beautiful and watch the Oscars. It's like nice, but I always I always tell people, you want a great analogy for Hollywood. Look at Oscar night. Oscar night. Looks gorgeous. That night after the Oscars. I wouldn't go down to where the Oscars were at night. Because right Hollywood, Hollywood Boulevard eat pretty plays brother. No, no, it's not. It's not you know, except for that one week is great. But that's true. It's true. They sell the sizzle, but they don't sell the steak. They're not good at selling that steak. Sell that sizzle. Great, though. Don't think
John Leguizamo 31:13
That's true. It's true. I mean, they I mean, the people don't like to talk about what what is really going on. I mean, and you know, you if you blow up, what's going on, people aren't happy about it either. And they don't usually like that. And you become a little bit of a, you know, a lightning rod. Careful.
Alex Ferrari 31:32
Exactly. But you know, what things are changing. And I think people aren't. They are moving forward. There's things look, like I said before it like in 91 Robert Rodriguez, the first Latin director I'd ever seen in my life, right, though there were others, but he was the first one I saw. And I was like, oh, and he's 23. And oh, I could go on.
John Leguizamo 31:51
Well, you know, you thought that was gonna blow the damn open. You thought oh my god. Now every Latin director has a chance. And it didn't happen. Which is crazy. And then now you but you got your GIMP or the Toros. And you
Alex Ferrari 32:04
Oh, yeah, of course.
John Leguizamo 32:07
They have to like work, you know, white. But you know,
Alex Ferrari 32:11
To a certain extent, yeah. But like, I remember coming up as a commercial director. I couldn't do I was in Miami, and I couldn't do Latino spots and put them on my reel for the Spanish, right? Absolutely. Because Because if I did that, then I would be pigeonholed as a write Spanish director, I couldn't do general market.
John Leguizamo 32:30
I was told when I begin, don't change your name, you can almost pass free Italian. If they don't know, then you'll be okay. Stay out of the sun. You know, all these things. You know, work on your accent and stuff like that. And you know,
Alex Ferrari 32:42
It's insane. But look, things are changing. And hopefully they'll continue to go down that path without question. Now let's talk about your new project. The Greenvale man, I absolutely love what you're doing with it. That the idea about it? Can you tell everybody what it's about? Yeah.
John Leguizamo 32:56
Well, this is another pioneering young director that I'm backing that I believe in. I think he's a great, great new talent. And he's trying this new thing. It's never been done before. It's usually when you're doing independent films, you're doing negative pickup. And this is kind of like that old school system of, you know, you shoot your film, because you believe in it, you want it to have artistic integrity, then you sell it, you know, at a film festival. So we did this with a TV series, six episodes. And so we shot that first, raise the money shot it. And now we got into the Tribeca Film Festival, which is incredible, that they gave us this space, because they love the project. And it's about in the 1950s. And before that the government and the FBI and come in oil companies wanted Native American land. And they started in the, I think, late 1800s, or the 1900s was taking their kids away from them. So if they took away their culture and their identity, they wouldn't go back to the reservation. And they could take the land from it because they wouldn't inherit it. So and then in this 50s 60s and 70s, they started taking the children from them with excuses and giving them up for adoption. So they could end the reservation, take the land and get the oil. So this takes place in 1950. And I play an FBI guy, a self hating, you know, Latin guy who's taking these native kids from their homes and putting them up for adoption. This true story based on true events.
Alex Ferrari 34:32
When I was watching it, I was like I've heard the story. So the 60 Minutes story about it. They did a whole bit Oh yes. Yeah, they did a 60 minute story about how awful it was so insane that they literally just kidnapped kids and kind of put them in like these brainwashing scenarios like, like just trying to strip the culture out of them. And then the abuse that happened and all the data that they were killed, they were dying and they were being treated inhumanely,
John Leguizamo 34:58
But it wasn't against the land it was too Get the Latin know about the Lampard. That's pretty Yeah, he that. Yeah. That the reason was Yeah, it wasn't, Oh, it wasn't like, oh, we want to help them. No, it was to take their land. Because if they if they weren't tied to the land, he would move to cities, they would move away. And they were moving them away into white families that would adopt them that were born nearby.
Alex Ferrari 35:20
Now, Has this gotten bought yet? Or are you now hoping
John Leguizamo 35:24
No, no. The first day is, the first day is coming up June I think it's June 15. So first? Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 35:30
Oh, night and then hopefully, you're you're looking for someone to come in?
John Leguizamo 35:35
Yeah, do an HBO or Showtime Netflix or somewhere like that? Yeah. Yeah. That's never been done before. So this is, hopefully this, this is a new thing that can be done, you know, like, you know, because sort of the new the new independent film would be like a four part or six part series.
Alex Ferrari 35:52
I mean, I think in generally on the business side of things, there's more value in a series than there isn't a film nowadays. Now nowadays and correct. Not artistically talking business wise. Because I, you know, in distribution world, like you got more content, it's bigger. It's a bigger
John Leguizamo 36:08
One, one at one to four Finch night experience. Yes, six nights. They want to make quick. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 36:14
They want the Queen's gambit. It's like a mini series or a series that can continue. But no, when I saw what it was about, I was like, man, God bless, John for, for getting this out there, man, because it's a story that it's just in the mainstream would have come out. It just wouldn't. It wouldn't be. It wouldn't be.
John Leguizamo 36:32
Yeah. And you know, and we have videos, the approval of a Native American nation. And we have a few Native American actors in it as well, you know, to keep representing themselves. Sure. And lead roles. Yep.
Alex Ferrari 36:48
That's awesome, man. That's awesome. Brother, man, you obviously have so much passion for what you do. You can just it's falls off the screen as I'm talking to you. And after all the years you've been doing this man, you still are so passionate about your project, you're still so passionate about what you're doing and about helping people about opening doors about creating opportunities for people man, I gotta thank you man for doing that and continuing to do it and being a champion for not only Latino filmmakers but for artists man and getting things out there that
John Leguizamo 37:18
I love my artists man. Yeah, I love I love
Alex Ferrari 37:21
I love and I love that you just like you are a risk taker. You have been since the beginning of when you were first on Miami. Weissman back. Yeah. Yay.
John Leguizamo 37:30
Okay, looks like such a punk.
Alex Ferrari 37:32
Yeah, you know what, but everybody went through Miami Vice brother, everybody.
John Leguizamo 37:35
Everybody did everybody. I was I was like, every Latin person that they gave us work. It was the time that it online people were all every actor you ever met that was Latin was working?
Alex Ferrari 37:48
Absolutely. Because it was all going to Miami Vice. I had it almost on a while ago. And he would tell me stories dude. Oh my god, the stories of him and Don Johnson battling it out and his his method and he like owned his character. So like, he just told everybody what to do about his character. And like everybody was pissed off about it. But anytime they had a problem they call Michael man up. And Michael man is like, it's Eddie. Let him do whatever he wants to do. Oh, wow.
John Leguizamo 38:12
How beautiful is that?
Alex Ferrari 38:14
Dude, it was like I was I was like, how did you get that? And he's like, I just asked for it at the beginning of my career, and I never let go of it. And I'm like,
John Leguizamo 38:21
Amazing, amazing spirit too
Alex Ferrari 38:26
So listen, brother. Thank you again, man for everything you do. Congrats on your new project. And I hope it sells man. I hope it is the beginning of a new thing.
John Leguizamo 38:32
I know. We'll we'll know soon because coming up.
Alex Ferrari 38:36
I appreciate you brother. Thanks again, man.
John Leguizamo 38:37
Thank you for having me, man.
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