Mexican director explores sibling rivalry

Rudo and Cursi
Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal in "Rudo Y Cursi," the first film they have made together since they burst onto the international movie scene with "Y Tu Mama Tambien."
Image courtesy sony Pictures Classics

Director Carlos Cuaron said he wanted to make a fake documentary about a huge soccer star who mysteriously disappears. Cuaron wrote "Y Tu Mama Tambien," so perhaps naturally he told his friends the actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna about the idea. Both said they wanted the role.

"I had a problem," Cuaron said, "I had two actors and one character. At that moment I realized I wanted to work with them again and I made up a brother."

Carlos Cuaron
Carlos Cuaron makes his directorial debut with 'Rudo Y Cursi.' He came up with the story after he pitched the idea of a story about a soccer star to Bernal and Luna, and they both said they wanted the role. He rewrote his story to make it about two brothers who escape poverty to become soccer stars.
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

And so he wrote "Rudo Y Cursi," a story of sibling rivalry. Two brothers scraping to get by on a banana plantation are plucked from obscurity to become stars on opposing teams in Mexico's top soccer league.

One of the brothers is nicknamed Rudo, or Rough because of his bad temper. The other is called Cursi, or Corny, because be believes that whatever his skills are on the soccer field, his real talent is singing.

It's a belief no-one else shares.

"I had a problem. I had two actors and one character. At that moment I realized I wanted to work with them again and I made up a brother."

Bernal and Luna loved the new plot line. They even decided who would play which role.

"Gael said, 'No, I must be Rudo,' and Diego said, 'Yeah I should be Cursi.'" Cuaron said. "But I told them I didn't want to make 'Y Tu Mama Tambien II,' that I wanted to make something completely new and original, that I wanted to start from scratch and the way of doing that was to cast them against their types."

The actors went for it and set to work. Luckily Bernal and Luna's parents are friends, and the actors have known each other since they were babies. Cuaron said they knew exactly how to depict intense brotherly rivalry based on an even deeper love.

"It's something that you cannot do with years of rehearsals," he said. "It's something that comes naturally to them."

The acting partnership is central to the success of the film as a comedic drama. But Cuaron also made several other important decisions. He said he didn't want to make a sports movie, a genre he sees as formulaic. As his film is about soccer players this clearly was a challenge. Then he saw the horror movie "Funny Games."

Cursi
In "Rudo Y Cursi" Gael Garcia Bernal plays a soccer player who believes he should really be a pop star. Unfortunately he's the only one of that opinion.
Image courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

"I was impressed because I saw the most violent film ever, and all the violence is off camera," he said. "And at that point I realized that's what I had to do."

So there is remarkably little soccer in the film, which was tough on the self-described soccer freak Cuaron.

The film has done well with the critics, but "Rudo Y Cursi" is significant for another reason.

It is the first movie by the new Mexican production company Cha Cha Cha. It was created by some of Mexicos biggest film names.

There's Cuaron's brother Alphonso, who directed "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban."

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director of "Babel" and Guillermo del Toro who directed "Pan's Labyrinth" and the Hellboy movies round out the group.

It's a powerhouse combination which is attracting other top Mexican talent and generating great excitement in the film world. Cuaron said the team was demanding, but gave him complete creative control. He sees them collectively as older brothers.

Rudo
Diego Luna plays "Rudo," a talented goalie cursed with a bad temper and a gambling addiction.
Image courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

"This is a family that has been growing, of people who support each other just for the sake of film making, and for the sake of, I guess, love," he said.

One battle he fought and won was over the music. Cuaron said he wanted to find a song for his character Cursi. He wanted it to be cheesy, maybe a cover of a hit song from the past. One day as he was driving he heard Cheap Trick's "I want you to want me" on the radio.

He began singing along in Spanish.

"Someone who said or sings 'I want you to want me,' has attention and affection problems, and that's what defines the character. It's perfect," Cuaron said.

The song became a hit in its own right. Cuaron jokingly told the film choreographer he wanted the accompanying dance to become adopted at Mexican weddings in the next year. That goal has also been achieved.

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