Paz Vega on Spanglish!
Hollywood just loves to discover talent from other parts of the world and make them superstars. Spanish actress Paz Vega makes her American film debut in Spanglish. The star of Sex and Lucia and Talk to Her isn’t ready to go completely Hollywood, but welcomes the opportunity the film may provide her.
“This is my first Hollywood movie and I’m reading very good scripts,” Vega said. “I have to decide. It’s very difficult to decide. And I’m very open to proposals. What I‘d like is to live in Spain and work here. I think now on the plane, it’s just twelve hours. It’s easy to sleep and that’s it, when you wake up you are here. I would like to maintain my home in Spain.”
Writer/director James L. Brooks looked in all Spanish-speaking cities for the role of a maid who picks up English on the job but mostly communicates through her English-speaking daughter. The fact that he ended up with a Spaniard playing a Mexican became a minor concern. “We needed an actress who could do this role, and I did worry about that, but without hyperbole or anything there’s always a constituency for a film where if they say, ‘You’re full of it,’ you are,” said Brooks. “The constituency for this picture has been passionate about embracing the picture. They just say, ‘Yeah, you got it right.’ And that’s finally what you owed everybody is to get it right. I think Paz was the girl to get it right with, and she did a good Mexican accent, buy the way. It wasn’t easy.”
For all her director’s praises, Vega could not believe she passed the audition. “That audition I did in the house, my husband taping me. I didn’t speak English. I learned and memorized my lines like a parrot. I don't know how Jim called after that.”
The difference between Spain and Mexico was no issue for Vega “because the Spanish and Mexican cultures are very similar. All the Latin cultures, Spanish and other countries, are the same. What I had to learn was the accent because it’s very different.”
Vega’s character, Flor, learns the majority of her English from a series of video and audio tapes. In real life, Vega simply immersed herself in English-speaking culture. “When I was shooting I just talked with people, because I didn’t have time to have classes after the shoot. It was impossible. Now I’m taking a class here in LA, with a teacher. And talking, like seven hours, it’s the best way. Also watching TV. Now I understand many, many thing. In the beginning I watched TV and I couldn’t understand anything.”
Flor’s closest relationship in the film is to her daughter, Veronica. As the only other Spanish speaker in the film, Vega had most of her dialogue scenes with 12-year-old actress Shelby Bruce. “It’s interesting, at the same time it’s difficult. Somebody in Spain, I don't know who or where, said to me [the W.C. Fields quote], ‘Never work with kids or with animals because it is very, very hard.’ And this movie, kids and an animal, and it was great. No problem. I loved working with kids because the energy is great.”
After two years of marriage, Vega has not become a mother herself yet, though has many nieces and nephews whom she sees frequently. “Now, my friends around me are pregnant or have kids. Every weekend, for example, when I go to the pool, I go with kids in the pool.” Vega speculated perhaps beginning her family within two years.
Vega met her husband, Orson, three years ago on a vacation to one of Spain’s islands. “It was love at first sight. It was great and he’s great.” Her sister, Sara and mother, also Paz, work in a Flamenco dance company in Barcelona. Her father, Manuel, works in Sevilla.
As a visitor, Vega likes American culture. “I like the spirit, because American people here believe in something. I like that spirit.” She could do without, however, some of the cuisine. “For example, the fast food, it’s terrible. It’s not the food because here the food can be great, but the normal, fries, when you are here you have to think, no I don’t want to eat that.”
An American film shoot bore little difference than the Spanish films on which Vega had previously worked. “The biggest difference is living in another city and not knowing anybody, sometimes I feel alone and it’s difficult. But in the crew, on set, it’s the same work. I just have to learn some lines, perfectly in English. That’s it.”
From his experience, Brooks wanted to remind fans that Vega is different from her character in the film. “Paz doesn’t go to sleep until three in the morning,” Brooks said. “She’s fun and optimistic
and effusive and a young woman and all of that stuff and she plays somebody who had to be mature beyond her years, who has a great sense of privacy and dignity, and who’s thoughtful and also I think has a kind of quiet, everyday [life].”
Spanglish opens Friday.
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