Luis Guzmán is one of the most respected character actors in Hollywood, with iconic roles in Boogie Nights, Carlito's Way and Traffic. Now, he's joined the cast of The Last Stand, the first movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger since 2003, and the first time Guzmán has been able to really kick ass on camera. We sat with Luis Guzmán to talk about working with Kim Jee-woon, the Korean director of The Good, The Bad and the Weird who's making his American debut with his translator in tow, and why they had to reshoot his ending to the film because, well… he's Luis Guzmán.
The Last Stand hits theaters this Friday, January 18. There's a MAJOR SPOILER ALERT coming at the very end of the interview.
CraveOnline: You have this “Luis Guzmán Look” when something weird happens. You have a really subtle way of reacting. How do you do that?
Luis Guzmán: I think it’s something natural that comes out of me, and it’s because I’m really looking at something. Like, “What?” [Laughs] I don’t even know how to explain it, because it’s just something that instinctually just comes out of me.
You didn’t have to audition for this, right? You’re Luis Guzmán.
I’m Luis Guzmán.
Was this a Schwarzenegger film already when you were brought on?
Was that a part of why you would want to do it?
I think the first thing was that I read the script. I heard about this director [Kim Jee-woon] being an incredible director, and definitely the Schwarzenegger finesse played a big part in it for me.
Had you seen Kim Jee-woon’s The Good, The Bad and the Weird?
I’d only seen clips of them, like the highlights of his films, and I was pretty blown away by them. It was different!
Very different. He’s very energetic. Does that translate on set?
No, he’s a very cool, calming kind of guy. I think that his translators were the ones that were more hyped. This is Kim talking to his translater [acts very calm]. This is his translator talking you: “OKAY! SO NOW, I WANT…!” For real. For real. After three days of that, I had to explain to the translator, “My man, you are not the director. You are just his translator. Calm down.”
Did he have to use his translator the whole time?
All the time.
Was that barrier ever difficult?
I think it was a barrier for like the first five minutes. Like, “What the… What?! This is how… No, alright…”
No, because you I kind of knew that this guy was a freakin’ visionary, man. The way he’s setting this up and would look at the shots. What was amazing was, as he was shooting, he was having the film edited like two feet away from him. So all those scenes were being edited as he was shooting them.
Did you get to watch…?
Oh yeah, yeah. He was always more than happy to show me stuff. I don’t like seeing stuff, but it was a whole different situation so I was very compelled. Like I said, he has an incredible team of people that he works with, and the way that they were putting it together, I said, “Oh, snap.”
He has a very energetic visual style. Did you have to act for the camera a lot, or was he able to just trust the actors to be the character…?
I think pretty much he trusted. Sure, if he wanted an adjustment sometimes it was more of a physical adjustment than it was an acting adjustment, you know what I mean?
Yeah. “A little to the left.”
Yeah, but I believe he had his trust in us. And plus, he just saw what my personality was. Look, more than anything, he wanted me for his movie. So he knew what he was getting.
Did he understand English well enough? Did he just need a translator to speak to you? Because I’m wondering, so much of the film is based on funny character interactions and dialogue…
He definitely needed a translator, because he does not speak, outside of “Yes” and “No.”
“Was that good? WAS THAT GOOD?!” “…No.”
But in some ways this is kind of just an ensemble comedy. Did you guys get a lot of rehearsal time for that?
We would rehearse certain things, and there were certain things where I would just say, “Let’s shoot it. No need to rehearse it.” Because nowadays you shoot on these cameras that are digital. It’s not like back in the day, you’re shooting on film, you know. But whatever worked. Of course you’ve got to stick to your script, because that’s why it’s written, but you sprinkle it. You sprinkle it with improv. A line here, a word there, an expression here and there, and stuff like that. Because you do have an incredible process of editing, it all comes together at the end.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen you spraying bad guys with a Tommy gun before.
Yeah. Did you get the action beats that you wanted out of this? Did you want to do any bigger stunts than this?
When you see that rocket-propelled grenade, and it blows up, and how the f*ck is anybody surviving that sh*t?
I was really worried about you.
You see? You care.
I do care!
The next thing you know, you see me coming out of there with that freaking Tommy gun. I really say that’s the hero shot of the movie.
They screened the movie and every time that part came up, people were like, “Aw…!” Then they see me coming out, and the whole freaking theater, they said, twice erupted! “Yay! Oh sh*t!”
[MAJOR SPOILER ALERT]
Now, did you know this? Did you know, in the original shoot, my character died.
I was wondering about that! Because you get shot, and it’s like, “Oh, sh*t’s getting real.” That’s the moment. This beloved character dies, and then…
Well, let me tell you. While we were shooting the movie, I got shot and I died, right? In the shoot. And I go up to the producers and the director and say, “You know what? You should really should an alternate here, because dude, I can’t die.” [Laughs] They said no, no, no, they were sorry. They were very apologetic. The character died. Then they test screened the movie, and everybody across the board: “You can’t kill that character.” So several weeks ago I did a reshoot, and I ended up living. Am I dead still, or…?
No, you’re very much alive. You get that cute scene with Johnny [Knoxville] in the back of the van.
So my fans pay homage to me, and say, “You can’t kill off the Guzmán.”
Luis Guzmán does not die.
And the fact that they agreed to do that, and everything, it says a lot. But I had an incredible time shooting this movie. Again, it was different. We all came away with some bruises and stuff like that, because any time you shoot a movie like this you’re going to end up with some bruises.