Opening this Friday is the Columbia Pictures' action-thriller “Vantage Point.” The film is about eight strangers who all witness an assassination attempt on the President of the United States
. But unlike most movies, which tell a story by intercutting all the characters storylines as the film builds towards the big climax, “Vantage Point” tells the story in an unusual way.
Rather than follow all the storylines at once, the film follows one person’s storyline for the twenty minutes leading up to the assassination attempt. Once we see the shots hit the President, we start over from another characters perspective. As we watch each segment unfold, new details get revealed. Only after all the characters have told their stories do we finally understand what actually happened.
While some have compared the film to Kurosawa's “Rashomon”, they really are completely different movies. “Rashomon” used each person’s storyline to show how we all view an event differently, but “Vantage Point” never changes what actually happened, just the perspective of how you see the event unfolding.
Anyway, now for the reason you’re here, the interview with Edgar Ramirez.
Even though Edgar only got into acting fairly recently, he’s already been in two pretty big movies (“The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Domino") and his future looks even brighter as he’s in Steve Soderbergh’s next two movies on Che Guevara (“The Argentine” and “Che”). Add to that, there’s a strong chance he’ll be playing Pablo Escobar in Antoine Fuqua’s movie “Escobar.” So while you may not know Edgar’s name yet, I think you’ll know a lot about him pretty soon.
Since “Vantage Point” relies heavily on not knowing that much about the characters and their motivations, all I’ll say is that Edgar plays one of the main characters in the movie. Sorry for being vague, the less you know the better.
During the interview we talked about how he got into acting, all the movies he’s been involved with, and what he has coming up. Actually, it was one of the best interviews from the junket.
And if you missed the movie clips I previously posted you might want to watch them before reading the interview. You can click here to see them. Finally, here’s the MP3 of the interview in case you’d rather listen to it.
“Vantage Point” gets released this Friday.
Question: Did you develop a back-story beyond what it’s shown in the film?
Edgar Ramirez: Yeah, but it’s something that I usually do with each character just to have my…I mean I do my homework, so because it’s important to me to have some sort of reference even though sometimes the script or just the whole story doesn’t give it for me it’s important to have something real and built to rely on to solve the conflicts of the character. So I did it. I mean, my character because of his brother and all the--you know his attempts to set his brother; he had a real motivation that it was always there. However, I build my own story to try to give him some sort of, you know, humanity that is pivotal in building any character.
Question: What about the special forces aspect which is a nice surprising development, but it’s sort of all of a sudden he becomes you know the Schwarzenegger action hero of this movie—assassin anyway? Did you meet Special Forces people or do weapons training?
Edgar Ramirez: Yeah, yeah. I had the privilege to work and to train with real Special Forces agents.
Question: What was it like?
Edgar Ramirez: Luckily, yeah, it was very tough because one of them is one of my best friends so he didn’t have any mercy with me during training, so he was even more demanding to me than he would have been to any other actor because we’re child friends, but it was great. He’s a member of the Elite Anti-Terrorist troop in Venezuela so I could train with the real people. And I had also the chance to hang out with them and also focus on the psychological aspect of these guys to fully understand that they sweat, they make love, the go on dates, they have barbecues, they have sisters and brothers and for me that was important because we tend to think that all these characters, like either terrorists or special forces agents from any legitimate army in the world, they tend to be these robots, you know? These kinds of androids who don’t sweat, don’t hesitate, who fear nothing and it is not the reality. So for me it was important to put my focus on that too. So the training was both physically and psychologically.
Q: Your career seems to be, you know all of a sudden you have this huge international career; you’re in the new Soderbergh film about Che Guevara with Benicio. How did that happen? Was that your ambition to sort of launch?
Edgar Ramirez: Yeah. Well, I decided to become an actor 6 years ago. I majored in political communications so I intended to be a diplomat. I was trying to get my life somewhere else. So for me just making the decision of becoming an actor was already like big and severe enough so I hoped to make movies. Whatever they were, you know set and whatever stories and touching characters were available for me. So I always saw the world as my stage—like my place of work. I think for an actor the whole world is a place of work because if you focus on characters and on stories they are everywhere, so yeah, I feel very privileged to have had this great opportunities in the international cinema and especially in the American cinema.
Q: Was it Amores Perros that put you on this platform—this international platform?
Edgar Ramirez: Well, what it did was to help me make the choice. I met Alejandro González Iñárritu years ago during my college days and I was in charge of international promotion of this movie festival he was invited to as part of the jury, and then he saw my work on a short film that was directed by a friend of mine. But he did it out of a favor. It was like a hobby for me to perform at that time and then he liked it and he offered the possibility to be in Amores Perros but it was during my thesis. I was going to the Harvard National Model UN that year, I was involved in my other activities and I didn’t do it. I didn’t try enough to go to Mexico and do it. So 3 years later I was working already in politics in my country and then I think he came back to Venezuela but he wasn’t coming from Mexico, he was coming from Cannes so that would make me say, okay what’s the worst that can happen? I mean, let’s try and try it.
Q: Could you talk about shooting the different vantage points sequences for this movie and did you tally your performance or alter your performance—Forest Whitaker said he tried not to do that. That he pretty much did the same. What about you because your vantage is obviously more detailed than some of the other characters.
Edgar Ramirez: Yeah, I agree with Forest on that. We all tried to mostly focus on our own storyline and just you know like try to solve our comforts and go for it. But in certain moments we had to be aware that we were in someone else’s vantage point, in someone else’s you know, point of view for technical reasons. And in order not to give out the plot and in order to complete I think the intention of the movie that is to show that nothing is what it seems and that everything will depend on the point of view from where you’re seeing it, so yeah, it was a combination of both.
Q: Was that confusing at all to the continuity trying to figure out…?
Edgar Ramirez: No, not really. I mean, in my case I always break down the script to my storyline because as an actor I can’t know more about my character than my character itself, so for me I had like my own sequence like all articulated, you know to keep the continuity.
Q: What was the most physically challenging part of making this film for you?
Edgar Ramirez: Probably the car chase because I did my own stunts.
Q: Did you really?
Edgar Ramirez: Yeah I went out of the window. It was me, yeah. So I was hurt and I had to hold myself you know from the side from the holders and then shoot it back to them who was behind me.
Q: And you were shooting blanks we hope?
Edgar Ramirez: Yes, of course. And I checked!
Q: Can you talk a little bit about working for Soderbergh on the back-to-back projects?
Edgar Ramirez: Yeah, it was great. It was really great. I mean, he’s one of the…for me one of the finest American directors of you know of the most recent years. I think he’s got a…he’s so solid. He’s got such a clear idea of what he wants when he’s shooting and he conveys it in such a harmonious way, you know, because shooting Che was very difficult. The weather conditions were just extreme. We didn’t have to… I mean were really guerilla and all messed up and dehydrated and everything. We were shooting in Puerto Rico which is such a humid area and we were improvising a lot and however keeping, you know, the consistency and the coherence of the movie. It was really great for me. It was a great privilege.
Q: It is very guerilla the way he’s shooting it or is there a lot of storyboards he’s trying to keep?
Edgar Ramirez: Storyboards. I think that it’s actually like a very contemplative movie and we had the privilege to shoot it chronologically.
Q: Oh really? How different an experience has that been in terms of your character in the movie then?
Edgar Ramirez: In the The Argentine?
Edgar Ramirez: I mean, it’s great because it’s like being on stage. I mean, you go from one to two to three to four and of course it’s great because you solve each conflict and you go through each stage of your character’s arch, you know step by step and it’s fantastic. And if it can be common experience then it’s even better.
Q: For the people who don’t know, can you tell a little bit about what each film is about?
Edgar Ramirez: Yeah, “The Argentine” is the first one and it goes from Mexico to Cuba. It’s the first stage is the earlier stages of the revolution. It goes from Gremla to Havana to Santa Clara and “Guerilla” goes from Cuba all the way to Bolivia. So it’s the 2. It’s the story of the whole attentive revolution that Che Guevara was trying to carry out in the world, especially Latin America. It’s all in 2 parts because it a big…
Q: And who do you play exactly.
Edgar Ramirez: I played Ciro Redondo. He was one of Che Guevara’s lieutenants. He was one of the few who was school educated so he was very much involved in the vocational aspect of the revolution because it was about freedom of education. It was about fighting and learning so my character was very focused on that.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about working with Benicio and did you guy rehearse a lot?
Edgar Ramirez: Not really, no, no. It was an extreme happening. I mean we were there and we didn’t rehearse that much probably for technical reasons and then we went for it. He’s an amazing actor. He’s got such a density, you know, as an actor. He’s really committed and also very generous as an actor.
Q: Is there a period of time when they’re being released apart or how are they….
Edgar Ramirez: I have no idea. I don’t know what they’re going to do with the release.
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Q: And is your character that you’re playing, the lieutenant, is he still alive? Did you get to meet him or is he dead?
Edgar Ramirez: No, actually one of the interesting things about Ciro Redondo is he died before the revolution was fulfilled, so he died being a idealist, so it was very romantic. And actually there are some people that say that he died probably one month—no, he died a year before the final battle that let the revolution win. And some people say some researchers that the hat that Che Guevara is famous for belongs to Ciro Redondo that he picked it up at the battle where he was shot. He was shot in the head.
Q: Was there any footage or anything that existed that you could base any research on? Or how did you prepare for the part?
Edgar Ramirez: Nothing. I mean, I had interviews with people who met him; people that knew him from the time and then many elementary schools in Cuba are named after him because of his involvement with education during the revolution. And I just got access to some pictures because as I said before he didn’t survive so he couldn’t be filmed much or anything. I tried to base my research more on what people told me about him, about how apparently he was very loved by the troop. He was a teacher so he had a very easy understanding with the troops who were a bunch of kids who were not trained militaries. They were just peasants and people who wanted to help somehow, so we’re not talking about any structured army that will follow orders so charisma and understanding and care was important to motivate these people, to encourage these people to go through the harshest circumstances they have to go through to fulfill the revolution.
Q: Other people were talking about security measures that were taken to shoot in Mexico City, as a Latin American do you feel you have the same risks as like Dennis Quaid or Matthew Cox or do you feel it was a bit overblown?
Edgar Ramirez: No, I mean it’s totally understandable. It’s a matter of being familiar or not to the environment. For me it was a walk in the clouds. I mean, I come from Caracas, so you know, nobody’s going to fool me Mexico City, I mean, I come from one of the most violent cities in the world, so there’s no…it’s like going to Rio de Janeiro. I’m on red-alert all the time because that’s how we live. That’s exactly what defines the 3rd world. I mean, you have the 1st world and the 3rd world, you know, co-living in the same space just one street in front of the other. You have amazing financial districts and you have people who practically live analytical times. So, that’s the environment that I grew up, but I totally understand that a person who comes from a different environment would take precautions and of course I took precautions. I mean, we were staying in one of the fanciest areas in Mexico City, but I would not walk by myself when it got dark on a empty street because that’s tempting something to happen.
Q: Now that you’ve wrapped on these two films from Soderbergh, what do you have coming up?
Edgar Ramirez: Well, there are some interesting things coming together that I will comment on now. I have a huge promotion, you’ve heard from me on Vantage Point and also with Cyrano Fernandez - that is a Venezuelan movie that I star in and co-produced and it’s based on the romance of Cyrano de Bergerac. And it’s set in a Venezuelan slum. It’s a free version of the French play.
Q: Do you play the Cyrano character or the…?
Edgar Ramirez: I play Cyrano.
Q: With the big nose?
Edgar Ramirez: No, with a big scar.
Q: No nose?
Edgar Ramirez: No nose, no because it would be too…it would not be real for the reality of a favela you know? It would be too theatrical so we appealed to the deformation of his face.
Q: And where do you live now? Where is home?
Edgar Ramirez: I live in Caracas. Caracas.
Q: You commute to L.A.?
Edgar Ramirez: Yeah. 12 hours, 14 hours depending on connections.
Q: We didn’t talk to you for the Bourne movie, but what was your experience like?
Edgar Ramirez: It was great. It was great. I think that the Bourne trilogy it’s definitely redefined the genre and took it to a new level. It was really great to be part of that experience. It is a very smart movie and a very smart script, great director and great, you know, fellow actors. You could feel the sense of commitment on-set, you know, commitment to the creativity and to the integrity of the story and it was great. It was a very, very much inspiring experience for me.
Q: Can you talk about working for Paul Greengrass and the camera work?
Edgar Ramirez: Yeah, it was…
Q: …Soderbergh uses the camera right?
Edgar Ramirez: Yeah, however he was going to be most subtle with Che. I mean, with Che he was more subtle. Paul, well he’s great. He’s very organic. I mean, his style is very organic and I think that he tries to convey things visually as the human eye would see it and I think that’s very interesting. For us, for the actors, we really…I mean at certain points we just forgot about the camera. You were just doing your thing and the camera was going there. I think that with Paul the camera is at the service of the action and not the action at the service of the camera, which of course an actor would always appreciate it. If you have just a voyeur like watching you and you can do your thing and not being so technically aware of what is going on. I mean, it’s always…it is part of the challenge of being an actor in movies to be very aware of the technicality and that is something that I relate myself very well to, however you always appreciate when the camera is just there trying to capture your moments and you don’t have to worry about it.
Q: You’ve been linked on the always-accurate IMDB to possibly playing Pablo Escobar.
Edgar Ramirez: Yeah.
Q: So is there any truth to that?
Edgar Ramirez: It’s in works.
Q: So, would that be a dream for you to play Pablo?
Edgar Ramirez: It would be a great challenge and it would be a great responsibility to history—of contemporary history—in my region. We’re talking about a character who really definitely changed the face of a whole country and the face of a whole region, and a character filled with contractions. A character who for half of his nation he represented hope and emancipation for the other half represented horror, terror and desperation, so it would be quite a challenge and something very interesting to get involved with.
Q: Is this the project you were thinking or didn’t want to sort of say that this could be the thing that is happening next?
Edgar Ramirez: Among others, yeah.
Q: But now you’ve said it now.
Edgar Ramirez: Yeah, that it’s in works, yeah.
Q: What do you think the percentage chance that that’s your next project? Better than 50?
Edgar Ramirez: Yeah, over 50.
Q: Okay, there we go. Have a good day.