HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER
About The Making
Following up the global success of Instructions Not Included in 2013 was no easy
task for Mexican comedy superstar Eugenio Derbez, who wrote, directed and
starred in what remains the highest grossing Spanish film in US movie history.
Capturing that sort of lightning in a bottle twice can be elusive. Still, the
timing of Instructions Not Included proved fortuitous, playing a role in further
illustrating the importance of diversity in Hollywood-produced entertainment.
Derbez opted to flex other creative muscles while patiently searching for the
right project to tackle as a filmmaker, securing roles in such features as the
recent hit Miracles From Heaven and the upcoming action drama Geostorm. Being
able to choose the project that best fit his established comedy brand was a
serious task, so when Derbez and his 3Pas Productions partner Benjamin Odell
heard the pitch about an aging gigolo, they knew they hit pay dirt.
"I was looking for a script for me that could fit my accent, my audience, my
age, my everything," Derbez recalled with a smile. "What I loved about HOW TO BE
A LATIN LOVER was the fact that we could play with this image of someone who is
beautiful and handsome like Julio Iglesias or Enrique Iglesias or Ricky Martin.
Maximo is really aging, probably in the worst years of his life, and I think
that's the funny thing about this character."
Initially conceived as a television series for Derbez, producer Odell said the
concept of a fallen gigolo trying to get back on his feet was irresistible for
the duo. As the image of the Latin lover is shared the world over, it was an
iconic screen image waiting to be subverted for film audiences today. More, it
was a challenging role that would build on Derbez's momentum, one that could
also appeal beyond his very loyal audience.
"I loved the idea of somebody who was so lazy and spoiled trying to live in the
middle class world," Odell explained. "It's very 'fish out of water' in a funny
way. You start with the stereotype of a Latin lover and then you break it into
pieces. That was the thing we got most excited about. Eugenio's comedy comes
from a very real and human place. I think he's one of those rare comedic forces
that excels with the physical comedy. Maximo is a character that could easily be
despicable, but Eugenio has this light in side of him. It makes him so loveable
that you're able to really push character a lot further."
Hitting the right comedy beats in the awkward reentry of an aging, overly
pampered gigolo into normal, family life does require a deft hand. While the
audience will find themselves laughing at Maximo's often outrageous antics, it
is important for them to also root for the character as he begins to acknowledge
the error of his ways. For director Ken Marino, comedy of the awkward has been
his strongest suit with acclaimed and inventive shows as Childrens Hospital and
Burning Love. It was finding that balance between hilarity and the heart that
proved to be the opportunity he sought to make his feature film debut as a
director with HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER. Inspired by the tone of such classic
comedies as The Jerk, The Big Lebowski and Tootsie, Marino wanted to show how
extreme characters become endearing because of their being grounded in real
"I did everything I could to get the job," Marino said. "My hope and my goal in
getting the job was to kind of create a movie tonally like the movies that have
affected me. My writing partner (and wife) Erica Oyama and I wanted to give it
more warmth and heart, so we punched up the relationship between Maximo and his
sister Sara. We felt if we can find the balance between the heart and truth of
their relationship, we can go extreme with the bigger broader jokes. Like the
set pieces of arms being pulled off or Maximo jumping into the pool and all the
hair dye coming off or having the two car wrap guys chasing him down and
grabbing his balls. Eugenio playing this character was that perfect
The image of the Latin Lover is an indelible one in terms of Hollywood history,
yet it can also be viewed as somewhat anachronistic by 21st century standards.
Marino credits Derbez in not wanting to avoid the past connected with this
archetype, but pay homage to the great Latin lovers of Mexican cinema, like
"When I met with Eugenio," Marino revealed, "we looked at some footage featuring
Garces and we talked about it at length. It's a celebration of these great,
iconic Latin lovers. Then you get Eugenio in there, kind of making fun of the
tropes and the stereotypes. The hope was to embrace it all."
Even amongst the cast, the revamped image of the Latin lover proved a selling
point for them, including Rob Lowe, who took a shine to the comic nuances of
playing a character like Maximo's bronzed golddigging bestie, Rick.
"There are reasons why you don't hear 'WASP lover," Lowe laughed. "Nobody wants
to see that! The Latin lover still rocks it. We're keeping the hope alive with
Added Derbez about creating the character of Maximo, "Every man carries a bit of
the personality of the Latin lover inside. If you have the energy, if you have
the inner self-confidence, you can be a Latin lover. It's not a stereotype. It's
a way of living!"
Audiences are sophisticated enough today to know that the best comedies work
when the ensemble, along with the filmmaking team, let them in on the jokes.
It's the classic definition of a unified front. If the people on screen are
having a good time together and that feeling transcends off the screen, in
theory, your audience will be along for the ride.
Director Marino has worked on enough ensemble pieces as a writer, actor and
director to know what works and what doesn't when it comes forging that
inclusive experience. As he prepared to start work on his first feature film
effort as a director, Marino instinctually felt the experience would be that
much better with a little help from his friends, all of whom had a history with
him on previous projects.
"When I got this job," Marino said, "my first thought was, 'Okay, so who can I
call? Who's super funny and super talented to just raise the material to another
level?' I'm very blessed in having a lot of very talented friends. So I called
them up and they said 'Yes.'"
Among those who answered the call were Kristen Bell, who took on the role of
Cindy, the singing yogurt shop manager-slash-cat lady who hires Maximo for his
first real job. Also eager to make it onto the production call sheet were what
Marino likes to call the "infield of Robs," which included Rob Riggle & Rob
Huebel as Nick & Scott, the nefarious owners of a car wrappering firm that
Maximo tries to swindle; and Rob Corddry as Quincy, the gigolo blocking chaffeur
for the wealthy Celeste, whom Maximo tries to seduce. Streaming TV fans will
also see Michaela Watkins of the hit Hulu series Casual as Salma Hayek's career
blocking boss at her architecture firm. And yes, that is theater and TV legend
Linda Lavin as Millicent, Rob Lowe's scandalously adventurous sugar mama.
"For me," Marino continued, "and certainly for Eugenio, "it's important,
especially in comedy, to bring in people that you trust and you feel safe with
and feel safe with you. I think that's where you get those magical moments that
might not be in the script, the rewards that happen in the moment."
Marino wasn't alone in engaging his circle of comedy friends for HOW TO BE A
LATIN LOVER. Derbez also turned the feature into a family affair by enlisting
the aid of his own son Vadhir to portray young Maximo during his yellow Speedo
clad glory days working pool side at a hedonistic spa resort.
"Vadhir was on a diet for four months," Derbez revealed. "He was exercising and
was killing himself to try to get in shape. It was so curious. People would ask
me, 'How did you cast someone that looks exactly like you, but young?' I was
like, 'I planned this 25 years ago!' Even Salma said to me when she saw the
film's trailer, 'What the hell did you do? You look amazing!' I told her that it
wasn't me but my son. She replied, 'I thought it was you! I was going to ask
about your plastic surgeon!'"
Despite sharing a friendship that spans more than 30 years, Derbez and Hayek had
often regretted that they've never had the chance to work together. That
lifelong promise made good proved a formidable "get" for the film that all the
filmmakers hoped would happen. As Sara, Maximo's headstrong, burgeoning
architect sister, Hayek said establishing that familial bond was hardly a
stretch given her history with Derbez. (Fun fact: they share the same birthday
of September 2.)
"I've been friends with Eugenio for a long time," Hayek explained. "When I
started my production company, one of the first ideas that I had was to do a
show for Eugenio. But America was not ready yet, this was before Ugly Betty, to
understand the power of the Latino market. We are very similar in many ways. I
cannot think of a better fit for the characters than to be brother and sister.
For me it's a great opportunity to act in Spanish and to play a Mexican woman
and to have fun, reliving a little bit our childhood. I got to relive my
childhood in Mexico with a brother that in real life feels like a brother to me.
For Derbez, other practical realites existed in wanting Hayek to join the cast,
extending beyond the chance to work together. The duo even took to the recording
studio later in the film's post-production to capture their upbeat salsa version
of the classic ballad "El Triste" for the soundtrack.
"It was an amazing good time because she's lovable. She's crazy. And she's very
creative. She's always bringing new stuff. When we were acting in Spanish, we
felt really good. It was like we weren't even acting. We were like just playing
around, like brother and sister. It's not easy to find something like that sort
of chemistry. It's just so good to have two real Mexicans playing Mexicans
because I've seen a lot of Hollywood films with supposed Mexicans that aren't
Mexicans. Another producer would have hired an actress from another place and
probably some audiences wouldn't be able to tell the difference. But for us you
can absolutely tell when somebody has an accent from Colombia or Argentina or
Spain. It was really important for us to have two real Mexicans portraying two
Audiences will also be treated to an Oz-like experience while watching HOW TO BE
A LATIN LOVER thanks to a carefully chosen list of supporting players (and
cameos) that add an element of surprise and joy to the proceedings. Chief among
then is Emmy and Golden Globe- nominated star Rob Lowe, who continues to build
up his canon of memorable comedic roles as Rick, whom he considers the "Yoda" of
"Ken Marino was the reason I wanted to do the movie," Lowe explained. "Eugenio
was a beautiful surprise, but he was an unknown quantity for me coming into it.
I always wanted to work with Ken and I knew that he would take a movie that
frankly has to hit the tone bull's eye. The one thing that I know Ken knows more
than anything else is tone.
As for playing a character with a penchant known for having a randy demeanor?
Lowe couldn't help but quip about the practical realities of playing a seduction
artist at this stage of his life.
"I've been domesticated now for 25 years now with an anniversary coming up,"
Lowe laughed. "I still have a very foggy memory of what it was like to be
single. It's very foggy. But playing this part? It's all coming back to me. It's
fun to let that part of me out again!"
Marino and many of the male ensemble were thrilled to know that eternal sex
symbol Raquel Welch would join the company, whose "disarming" performance as
super rich widow Celeste is one of the unforgettable highpoints of the film.
Same for Oscar-nominated actress and writer Renee Taylor, who delivers a
"breathlessly" indelible turn as Maximo's former love Peggy. (Wait until you see
whom she chooses for Maximo's replacement!) And then there's the breakout
performance from Raphael Alejandro as Hugo, Sara's son and Maximo's nerdy, but
earnest nephew, bridging the age gap in the most endearing way.
"Raphael Alejandro is one of cutest boys I've ever worked with," Derbez said
about his scene-stealing co-star. "He's amazing!"
Marino concurred by adding, "We auditioned a bunch of kids. There was something
special about him. He was just a larger than life personality and he was so much
fun and smart. He wasn't trying to be something that he wasn't. That's who he is
in the movie. That is a version of him. I think he speaks like six different
languages! He's just fascinating."
Hayek further extolled the benefits of having a film populated by an ensemble of
contrasts, which further enhances the humor found from the clashes of cultures
and generations that are the film's core.
"What's great about the movie is that I think there's going to be a lot of
different audiences for this film," Hayek said, "I liked the idea that in some
ways Maximo also enjoys his job. It's important to him to make these women feel
special. It gives him joy. The minute they get older, they are abandoned or
overlooked by society. I think that it's a lovely quality of the character that
is original in the film. Everybody gets to laugh about themselves in the way we
laugh about the concept of the Latin lover. It has a lot of heart and that is
extremely important. It's a little naughty but it's done in a clever way so that
it can go over the kids' heads, but there are still things they l get to enjoy."
Shot on location throughout Los Angeles, Marino is proud that the film reflects
more than just the iconic, glittering parts of the city audiences have come to
enjoy on screen time and time again. Despite the often-raucous events that occur
throughout the film, he wanted to make sure the face of the city was also a key
player that was grounded in reality. The mutli-cultural and bilingual sights and
sounds of the city are also complimented by a soundtrack that includes a new
recording from Grammy-nominated star Carla Morrison.
"We got to embrace all the beauty of Los Angeles because there is a lot of
beauty here," Marino said. Our goal was to embrace the diversity, the different
cultures and lifestyles of Los Angeles in a real way."
"It was a blessing to shoot in L.A.," Derbez added. "In this case, we could
afford the luxury of shooting here. And it's so good to see L.A. like it is."
Timing again looks to be on the side of Derbez with the release of HOW TO BE A
LATIN LOVER. In this era of exaggerated luxury and status symbolism, Maximo
would feel right at home in the Instagram-documented age of certain reality TV
"stars." Derbez has worked hard to curate a comedy brand that's ranks him as one
of the top artists working in Mexico and Latin America today. While he's made
some inroads in the United States, HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER did provide him with
his first ever leading role in English. The actor-filmmaker admitted that the
process was "tricky" at times, even prompting him to wonder if his type of
comedy would translate into a different language.
"I come from the Hispanic world and we are broad," Derbez exclaimed. "We're big!
In this movie, I go to places that I've never been, but in a very contained way.
It's really been a learning curve. I feel so good about it."
Upon seeing the finished film, Derbez is more confident than ever that the
strengths of the material and its message will play to the widest audience
possible. It is one more phase of an overall plan to continue bringing a unique
slate of projects that will not only redefine his own brand of comedy, but do
away with the labels associated with being a specific type of entertainment.
"Eugenio and I both were excited by the possibility of something that could be
organically diverse," Producer Odell said. "What's great about organically
diverse stories is that you don't have to call attention to it. Nobody's going
to look at this movie and go, 'Oh, it's a Latino movie.' It's just a movie."
"It came from an original idea and it became funnier and funnier every single
day," Derbez concluded. "I'm so proud of it because it's really different. We're
breaking all the stereotypes. Every time I work, whether it's on my TV shows or
my films, I love putting something for everyone. I like to work for the entire
family. This feels really fresh and different. It also has such a nice and
important message. Money's not the only thing that's important in life. Maximo
had everything. Cars, yachts, helicopters, planes. He lived in huge mansions,
but he does realize that life is about something else. Life is about family,
about love, about taking care of each other. That's one of the best things the
movie has to offer."
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