By Jose Cruz
Just sitting down with Lupe Ontiveros is a trip. I mean she is Lupe Ontiveros. A simple IMBD search will produce a webpage with a four foot scroll to the bottom because of the number of credits to her resumé. To say she is recognizable on the street would be an overstatement but to Latinos she is our Betty White. She is the universal “Abuela” and exudes humble warmth to match that title. Lupe is the abuelita we all had, if our abuelita had acted in everything from Real Women Have Curves, The Goonies, Desperate Housewives, El Norte and yes, Charlie’s Angels (I’m talking the original series).
So when I had an impromptu opportunity to talk with her along with actor Joe Hernandez-Kolski at the screening of their new film Guido, we jumped at the chance. Joe H-K (as I like to call him) quickly interjected- “I’ll talk but Lupe is who we really should hear from.” I knew this interview was going to be all about Lupe as it should. Lupe steals the show in Guido, dubbed as Driving Mrs. Daisy meets Goodfellas. The story follows Guido (Alki David) an Iraqi immigrant hit man, who gets mixed up in a deal gone bad and is forced to transport a corpse across the country, with several Albanian assassins and the FBI (Armand Assante, Joe Hernandez-Kolski) on his trail. When his elderly, Mexican-American landlady (Lupe Ontiveros) blackmails him into taking her with him, he is forced to confront his past and, ultimately, find hope in the future.
Jose: We are here with Lupe Ontiveros a true cultural icon of our community and Joe Hernandez-Kolski who both star in the up and coming film Guido. Tell us, what is Guido about?
Lupe: It is about life and finding that connection somewhere in the darkness where we all find each other off and on. In this case it is a Mexicana and an Iraqi assassin. That is what drew me to the role, because I was given the opportunity to come out of the traditional and stereotypical roles I’m use to playing. She is a deep spiritual character that has a strong connection with this young man Guido (Alki David). The story reflects on how we meet people in life under the most unusual circumstances and that causes an effect, a change in people.
Jose: And without giving away the whole story, you two go on this journey together traveling from New York to Los Angeles and through your time together you see this transformation in Guido. What would you say at the end is the message of the film?
Lupe: There are people who are put in our path, no es asi? At the moment when we least expect it in our life in his case and also in my case and they are launched into this journey and it is a forced journey by my character. The film shows what we can give to one another in sharing our spirituality and the ironies of where we have been. And all it takes is really some probing and some patience from one or the other. Eventually you find out that you can make a change in someone’s life.
Jose: What was your favorite moment in making the film?
Lupe: I enjoyed it all, but I really liked the moment where she forces Guido to take the trip with her. She has just discovered a dead body in his car and blackmails him into taking her. Either you take me or I’ll call the police.
Joe: It is a beautiful balance of comedy and drama that she brings to the role.
Jose: Joe, what was your favorite scene in the movie?
Joe: Well, naturally, every scene that I’m in.
Lupe: (Laughter) Well, that was honest.
Joe: I’m fortunate enough that I get to work with Armand Assante and he is a bull to watch. It is amazing to watch how he attacks a scene.
Lupe: He is very passionate. He has all that Italian Ummfff and that is what has always appealed to me outside of his good looks.
Joe: The funny thing was I would tell people I was working with Armand Assante and people my age and younger aren’t really as knowledgeable of the breadth of his work. And I realized that it wasn’t that he is not well known anymore, but that I was hanging out with the wrong people. We shot a scene walking down Hollywood Boulevard and every time we started shooting I would hear a Latina voice say- “Ay, Armand Assante!” But when I first read the script I was very drawn to the relationship between Lupe’s character and Guido.
Lupe: It is my Harold and Maude moment.
Jose: Being very humble in asking this question, Lupe how many films have you been in?
Lupe: Lots (laughter)! I’ve really lost count. And I really thank God for all of my blessings because I’m no Miss America but let me tell you I have a lot of Chutzpa! A lot of huevos, en Espanol.
For more information on the film and to view the trailer visit GUIDO.