When you picture a scrappy, streetwise skeleton do you picture actor, director, producer Gael Garcia Bernal? Pop your eyeballs back in their sockets because that is exactly who Pixar selected to voice Hector in the Day of the Dead film Coco. In theaters November 22 you will get to know Hector and the role he plays as the friend to Miguel, the boy with big dreams of being a musician.
I, along with 24 other bloggers were able to sit down with Gael during the #PixarCocoEvent press junket this month and have twenty minutes of his time. He was generous with his answers and his love for this film and the Day of the Dead celebration shone through.
Was the US premier reaction very different from the premier in Mexico?
It was in English! You know, in Mexico it was the same. Maybe there was some differences but I don’t know. If a film is good, it’s just know. It transcends anything.
What made you want to be a part of this film?
The email said something like, ‘Pixar wants you in a movie about day of the dead.’
I wanted to be in it. I went into a meeting with Lee and Adrian and Darla and they told me what the movie was going to be about and a really wonderful meeting. I was there with my daughter as well and they were very kind because they brought my daughter some Finding Dory toys.
They just told me what the movie was about, there was no script at that point, still. They showed me some little images of who the character was gonna be, how he was gonna look like, who was Miguel. As well as who were the actors that were involved a little bit.
They animate certain interviews or shows or films you’ve done and they put those dialogues into Hector. This was this interview I did with Chelsea Handler. They put it as if Hector was going into the show of Chelsea.
It was daunting the fact that I had to sing but I like the challenge of it. Coming from Guadalajara I think that’s why we are able to do those shouts, those mariachi gritos because if you’re not from there it’s very difficult to do it.
You have to be born with it or something you know.
Other than learning about the Day of the Dead that you would hope people will take away as it relates to Mexico?
If you’re not familiar with the Day of the Dead celebration, you saw it is a very open and very generous and very transversal. Anything you want to put into the alter is welcome. It invites a very personal point of view, you know, the day of the dead because it’s a reflection on death and nobody has the definite answer on what happens after you die, no? It is a reflection on death that we all engage in it on a very personal level. We all put our dead people, we put ourselves there, we put ourselves in the, as a calaca, little skulls.
As a little skull with your name on it you put yourself on the same level to reflect on death and life. I mean it is something that I feel so lucky to have been born with. The school I went to, my family, we always put them out, we always, so the memory, the stories, the storytelling, the tradition behind it.
It is a very generous and open. They grabbed little aspects from each region in Mexico, not trying to get everything in but having a very personal point of view around it. It just shows the complexity of a tradition that is incredibly deep and incredibly profound and necessary. Because ultimately this reflection leads you to be a better human being, leads you to build a better society, leads you to build a better future as well to live life in a much more essential way. And that’s what I think this film shows about Mexico.
How are you teaching your own daughter now about day of the dead traditions?
It is a very open ceremony. You start building the alter for example, you put the your dead people there.We put some books that we like, we put some toys, we put a lot of food.
A lot of little pieces that we found, Lego pieces and they start to reflect on them when they invite their friends to see the alter they start to explain it to them who they were. It is really interesting what they tell them about what goes on. Also the knowledge, the security that there is no concrete answer on what happens when we die. So it is a really, it is a great way to engage into that conversation with kids, as well.
Did you see any of your own characteristics, mannerisms when you saw the animated Hector?
They have a camera when you’re recording and sometimes they use certain things that you do and certain ways that you stuff. Yes, yes, yes. There were certain things that my own or maybe the character that I was you know, doing because at the time Lee asked us to be very expressive about it because everything that we do helps when constructing the character for them.
What is the biggest seize your moment episode in your life until now?
Well, this is a very personal opinion about seizing the moment. I think that what’s nice about the movie is that it shows De La Cruz having that carrying the flag of seizing your moment. I think it has been one of the most damaging aspects of western society you know, the notion of seizing the moment.
Because, it has made us burn the forests that we have in front of us, it has made us live the now as if there was no tomorrow. As if we’re not engaging with a responsibility that freedom gives us to know that there’s a future and there’s people that will come after. And it is not a rush, life is more, it’s more a craft.
Little by little, it’s built and seizing the moment sometimes makes you fall into trap that it is now or never. And there’s moments that it is now or never but you know when that is. It’s not that there’s a rule that you have to follow that path. I think it has very been the really very damaging that notion. It is interesting that in the film it kind of comes in play.
How was it recording with your own daughter?
It was beautiful! It’s gonna be one of those moments that definitely gives you a moment that you think, ‘we’re so lucky. I’m so lucky we’re doing this job,’ . I never thought that was going to live off the job I love doing or this experiences that I love doing. And then you get a chance to have a beautiful postcard for life.
This is gonna be something that my daughter one day will see when she’s, I don’t know, sixty. And it will be really, really fun to her to remember and to hear ourselves. It was such a great opportunity. She was really happy to do it but also say, like, ‘I just put it out there and that’s it. I don’t want to do anything more.’
Coco is in theaters November 22!
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