Eduardo Noriega (Open Your Eyes) has the unenviable task of squaring off against Arnold Schwarzenegger in Lionsgate’s The Last Stand (watch the new trailer here). Directed by Kim Jee-woon, the stylized Western centeres on a retired LAPD officer turned sheriff, Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger), who settles in the peaceful border town of Sommerton Junction. When cartel leader Gabriel Cortez (Noriega) escapes from the FBI and makes a run for the border, Owens and his small-town sheriffs department are the only things standing in his way.
During our set visit to The Last Stand, Noriega took some time out of his stunt work with Schwarzenegger to participate in a round-table interview and talked about The Last Stand, the background of his antagonistic character, how the film’s action and physicality compare to demands in his previous works, working with director Kim Jee-woon, being cooped up in the car with co-star Genesis Rodriguez, as well as driving the 1,000 horsepower ZR1 Chevy Corvette. Noriega also confessed to being a fan of Schwarzenegger’s since he was a little kid and what this experience means to him. Hit the jump to read up on our interview with Noriega from our set visit to The Last Stand.
Eduardo Noriega: I play the villain. I guess he’s a guy who — sorry, this is the first time I’m talking about my character in English. I think he’s a guy who has gotten everything in his life. He was raised with protection. Family protection. Lots of money, lots of power. He was a spoiled boy who then grew up. At the beginning of the movie, he ran away from prison and the FBI. Everything is so well planned, everything is going good so far, until I arrive at this little town. Then I meet this sheriff, and I don’t know why, I can’t understand why he’s willing to die for no reason. He’s like, “I’m just one Mexican that wants to go back to my country. You shouldn’t mind if I go back.” But I really like playing these characters. I think villains have something that is very attractive for the audience. Villains represent what I can’t be and what I’m not. It’s a contradiction. There’s an attraction because he represents what I can’t do. So there’s an attraction that comes from the audience with these characters. Then there’s the possibility to fight against the Governor. The ex-Governor. The Governator. I grew up watching his films since I was a little boy. It is unbelievable that I am here. I will try to beat him, but it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be difficult. We don’t know yet who’s going to win. I will do my best.
It looks like you’ve been doing a lot of your own stunts.
Noriega: Well, not exactly. I was training here and practicing, but I’m not so good with the action. I’m trying to do my best and I can do several things, but it’s really tough. I’d like to say that I can do every stunt, but that’s not true. That’s not even possible. If I just turn an ankle, that would mean no shooting tomorrow.
How does the action and the physical demand compare to other work that you’ve done?
Noriega: This is just a fight, but it’s a huge fight. We’re going to be here at least today and tomorrow. It has different movements and different statements. You’ve got to be standing up and then on the ground. I’ve never done a fight like this before. I’ve done action things before in several movies, but this is my first time doing it with someone so good as it like Arnold.
You’ve worked with a lot of great directors, how does Jee-woon compare?
Noriega: Besides the first difficulty, which is language, we’re doing really well and he doesn’t make you feel like you have to wait or play to something. It flows, fortunately. I’m really happy with him because he asks for a specific thing. He really pays attention to the details. He wants the hand here and not here. The hair here and not here. I feel pretty secure with him. I know that, if he doesn’t like it, he’s not going to accept it. He’s going to do another one, so I feel pretty good with him.
We hear he likes to act out certain scenes.
Noriega: He did it! This morning, he just rolled around the ground. But he’s good. I guess it’s because of the language, too. Sometimes it’s quicker because of the language, too. You can just do it and not wait for the translator. But I think he likes acting and he likes actors. When he is trying to explain something, he starts doing it. Sometimes it helps a lot because you can see what he wants.
What kind of stunts do you get to do?
Noriega: I spend most of the movie in the car with Genesis Rodriguez. So I’m lucky. When they told me that I was going to be locked in a car for a month with these beautiful ladies… That is completely new for me. I’ve been doing lots of things with cars, but not with racecars. This car is crazy. Fortunately I could practice a little bit. I didn’t know that these kind of cars were legal. You just push the pedal and the whole car goes in a direction. I was so scared the first time I drove that car. That car is a gun loaded type of thing.
So I’ve been doing everything. I was driving the car during the shooting, then I was not in the car, it was the stunt. Then I was pretending I was driving and someone else was. I was so happy because it was going to be really fast. You’ll see my face like I’m driving. I tell him “Just do it fast.” He says, “I’ll do it.” Then, once in the car, you’re going against the wall and he tried to do this and there were no words. I hope he’s seeing what I’m seeing. The first time was like, “Don’t do that again!” After that, you get used to it. I had never seen that before, where someone else was controlling the car. He’s got the wheel, he’s got the pedals. You can’t do anything. You can’t even scream to him, “Stop it!” The first time was really cool because I was going against the bus. Then, at the last second, he passes it. You have to pretend you are doing it, but it’s like do it, do it, do it! It was fun.
How hard is it to not act scared during the performance as this badass villain?
Noriega: I’m supposed to be a professional but the first shot, maybe, is not so good [laughs] because you can see my face. But it’s pretty cool. Then I saw the scene edited and I’m like, “Oh my god! I’m driving the car! I’m driving the car against Terminator!” I mean, c’mon! I’m really excited being here with Arnold.
You said you were a fan of Arnold. What were some of your favorite roles of his?
Noriega: The thing about fighting Arnold is that he’s going to beat you. [laughs] That’s the only thing. But I still think I can beat him because that’s my idea and that’s my goal. I’m really a fan of his since I was a child. He shot a movie in Spain when he was 20. IT was a Spanish actor playing his character as a little boy. In Spain we really follow his movies since then. Once I knew I was going to be here, I got so many calls, “Please, ask him for an autograph!” Give him my CD! Have him sign my book.” I thought about it! But I realized it’s impossible, I couldn’t bring 100 DVDs. I don’t have a signature, but I have a movie!
Here’s more coverage from our visit to the set of The Last Stand:
- 20 Things to Know from Our Set Visit to The Last Stand Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Arnold Schwarzenegger Talks The Last Stand, Returning to Acting, His Personal Favorite Characters from His Career and More
- Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura Talks The Last Stand, Director Kim Jee-Woon’s Unique Style and Working with Arnold Schwarzenegger in His Return
- Director Kim Jee-Woon Talks The Last Stand, Differences Between Korean and American Filmmaking, His Unique Directing Style, and More