How to Be a Latin Lover: An Interview with Eugenio Derbez
Enrique Derbez may not be a household name domestically, but he’s literally one of the biggest stars in Latin America. Over the last three decades Derbez has made his mark as an actor, director and producer.
Derbez’s popular Mexican television series La familia P. Luche ran for a solid ten years, and the 2013 release Instructions Not Included, which Derbez co-wrote, produced, directed and starred in, has grossed $100 million worldwide. He has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
The uninitiated may recognize Derbez from his cameo role in Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill (a comedy masterpiece). His new film How to Be a Latin Lover takes a cue from Sandler films in the sense that it uses stereotypes to poke comic sense of an otherwise unfair world.
Free Press Houston sat down with Derbez a few weeks ago during his visit to Space City to promote his latest film, which promotes the axiom “you don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for.”
“That’s the story of my life,” Derbez says. “When I was a kid I dreamed of Hollywood. I told my mom when I was eight that I wanted to tell stories, that I wanted to go to Hollywood. I got into other lines of work but when my mom died I remember what I told her about my dream of going to Hollywood. When I was 40 I decided to start all over again and to come to the US and start a new career.” Derbez was born in Mexico City in 1962 and has acting credits beginning in the 1980s.
“Here I am, maybe a little bit out of shape. I would’ve loved to of come here when I was 25, but it’s never too late to fulfill your dreams, especially when you work for them. Latin Lover was produced in my office. When you wish for things they never happen, when you work for things they happen.”
How to Be a Latin Lover includes Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, Salma Hayek, Michael Cera, Rob Corddry, Raquel Welch, Mckenna Grace and Rob Riggle among its large cast. Derbez plays a gigolo who seduces wealthy women. When his aging wife dumps him for a younger model, he moves in with his sister (Hayek). Ken Marino directs.
“Ken has the ability to help the cast improvise. He was always bringing new jokes to the set. He’s an actor/director same as I. He was the perfect director because he was funny but grounded. Mexican humor is broader. I needed someone to teach me to be funny in a different way,” says Derbez.
As an aside, those familiar with Instructions Not Included will notice that the young girl who plays Derbez’s daughter in that film looks like a pre-teen Kristen Bell. “Exactly. It’s just a coincidence. Loreto Peralta, the little girl in Instructions is Mexican, but she doesn’t look like a Mexican at all.”
How to Be a Latin Lover includes some great soundtrack pop songs performed in Spanish including Guatemalan singer Gaby Moreno’s cover of Blondie’s “Call Me,” and Mexico’s Carla Morrison’s version of “Pale Blue Eyes.”
“The music on the soundtrack is a perfect mix between the Latino world and the American world,” says Derbez.
Derbez made his American debut in the Sandler film because “Sandler had heard a lot about me. When I met him he told me, ‘My nanny is Mexican and my gardeners are Mexican. I asked them who was their favorite comedian and they said your name,’” recalls Derbez.
Upcoming films that Derbez will appear in include the disaster flick Geostorm, set for release in October. “It’s from Warner Brothers, with Gerald Butler, Ed Harris and Andy Garcia. It’s the end of the world, it’s huge, it’s beautiful. I play an astronaut. They called me two-and-a-half years ago. Usually I only got offered roles like the drug dealer or the gardener. So when they told me I was going to be in outer space, I was like what am I going to be? The space gardener?”
Derbez is also cast in the 2018 Disney film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms with an all-star cast that includes Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Morgan Freeman. “I’m the lord of the realm of flowers.”
Derbez has gotten what he worked for. Other American films include a remake of the Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn vehicle Overboard. Except in this version, which Derbez will produce and star with Anna Faris, the roles are reversed. He plays the wealthy boat owner and she’s the mistreated employee. “Comedy is different. It depends on where you were born or your age and cultural upbringing, social and economic status.
“We’re also bought the rights and are developing a script for Speedy Gonzales,” Derbez says. “We have a line in Overboard where we talk about Speedy. Someone asks me, ‘Isn’t Speedy Gonzales kind of racist?’ What are you talking about. We love Speedy Gonzales in Mexico. He’s Mexican, he’s fast, he outsmarts the gringo cat to bring the delicious cheese to his people.”
It seems like Derbez has done the work to make his dreams reality.
How to Be a Latin Lover opens in area theaters this weekend.