Luis Guzman Interview

The actor discusses working on the original Carlito's Way, how he creates his characters and the one role he wishes he could have played.

Today MovieWeb was honored to sit down and speak with one of the most consistently interesting actors working today, Luis Guzman. On the eve of the DVD release for Carlito's Way: The Rise to Power (the prequel to the 1993 classic, Carlito's Way hits DVD shelves on September 27th, 2005), Guzman spoke to us his role in the film as Nacho Reyes, his career and what is was like working both incarnations of Carlito Brigante.

Tell us about your character in Carlito's Way: The Rise to Power. Who is Nacho Reyes?

Luis Guzman: Nacho Reyes is this assassin guy, who’s into Santeria and is a major league coke head. That’s what was happening during that era with people like that, and he’s been hired to take out Carlito.

Was there a relationship ever discussed between your character Nacho Reyes and the Pachanga character from the original Carlito's Way?

Luis Guzman: Never. It never even entered the atmosphere.

So they are just two separate, distinct characters?

Luis Guzman: Exactly.

What was it like working Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante? And then Jay Hernandez playing the younger role?

Luis Guzman: Well, when I worked with Al that was like, “Oh sh*t!” When I worked with Jay it was like, “Okay.” You know? I mean, it’s two different worlds, man. We’re talking like 10, maybe a little more than ten years apart. The thing is when you work with the Pacino character... at that point it was a guy, he’d been around the block. He’d been there, he’d done that. He knows it, you know what I mean? Working with the Jay’ Carlito, it was like, “Okay, this is a new kid and he’s learning his way around. He’s gonna make mistakes and he’s gotta watch where he steps and how he steps. And who he deals with and stuff like that.” So for him it’s a learning process, growing up process so to speak.

Did you see something different in the way both actor’s portrayed this character?

Luis Guzman: I certainly think they brought something different. I think they both did a phenomenal job for that matter. They brought their own different form of instincts to that character.

How do you prepare to play a brutal character like Nacho Reyes vs. the character you played in The Limey?

Luis Guzman: I hang out at the back of a social club at 4 o’clock in the morning, with a lot of thugs from the neighborhood... and see who’s gonna take who out that night.

You’ve had a very versatile career. Is there one type of character you prefer playing over the others or do you go out of your way to mix things up?

Luis Guzman: You know, I just follow my instincts and I trust myself. I’ve been blessed because I’ve gotten really good material to do.

Who are some of your influences as an actor?

Luis Guzman: As an actor? Well, one of them was Raul Julia. He was awesome. I’ve watched quite a few of his movies. Another influence was Marlon Brando. I think a big influence too, that has nothing to do with acting, basically was a lot of the people that I grew up with in New York City on the Lower East Side, you know?

You just saw who they were and that informs your characters?

Luis Guzman: Yeah. You know, I don’t have to sit in a corner in a dark room and say, “How am I gonna come up with this one?” You just learn to put yourself there because life’s put you there, you know? And that’s it. Like I said, I’ve been around so many different elements of people and situations, that man, it’s like I have references for the rest of my lifetime.

How did you end up getting started in acting

Luis Guzman: Walking down the street, I was looking for two kids that didn’t show up for my program. I ran into this brother who was writing for “Miami Vice”, he gave me a phone number, I called it and I got called in for an audition. I waited around for awhile and four weeks later I got a phone call that I got the part. I had no clue what I was doing. All I wanted to do was to make some money so I could buy a used car, so I could drive to the beach on the weekends. I never went to sleep thinking and dreaming that I wanted to be an actor. It just kind of fell on my lap and I said, “Okay, maybe I can do this? Lets see.”

As someone with the body of work that you have, what is one movie, past or present, that you weren’t in that you would have liked to have been in?

Luis Guzman: I wish I could have been E.T.. I would’ve been so damn popular right now. Even more.

Did you want to beE.T.? Or, did you want to be inE.T.?

Luis Guzman: I wanted to beE.T..

What do you have coming up next?

Luis Guzman: I have a movie called Waiting with Ryan Reynolds coming out. And another movie called Dreamer with Dakota Fanning and Freddy Rodríguez and Kris Kristofferson.

Carlito's Way: The Rise to Power muscles it’s way onto DVD shelves September 27th, 2005 and will be released in select theaters on September 30th.

Dont't forget to also check out: Carlito's Way: Rise to Power [WS]