Q&A: 'J.C. Chavez' Director Diego Luna

It's a friendly competition, but there can be no doubt that Diego Luna has finally beaten his friend and "Y tu mama tambien" co-star Gael Garcia Bernal to the "punch" -- literally -- not by besting him for a part but by being the first to venture behind the camera. Luna recently completed work on "J.C. Chavez," a documentary on Mexican boxing legend Julio Cesar Chavez, a film he thinks says as much about Mexico as it does about Chavez himself.

The actor turned director recently phoned me from his car to talk about the flick he views as a metaphor for fathers and sons, about his own relationship with his father, and about future projects with Bernal and Alfonso Cuaron.

MTV: Are you a giant boxing fan? What drew you to Chavez's story?

Luna: Well, it was a chance to talk about fame and what happens when fame meets power. Also, it was a chance to talk about my country because to know the character you have to know his country. And the context of Julio Cesar Chavez is basically all the things that happened that made Mexico what it is right now.

MTV: So for those of us who don't know too much about Mexico in the early nineties...

Luna: Well, basically what happened in the last eight, nine years in Mexico, the PRI -- the PRI is the party that was in power in Mexico for 70 years -- this kind of dictatorship we were living under just died at the [same] time Chavez's career was going down. There were many killings happening. We had this huge crisis where three pesos for a dollar became nine and almost eleven once. So the whole country changed in those days. And at that time, Chavez started to lose. When [Mexican Presidential candidate Luis Donaldo] Colosio was killed, that same year [1994] was the first time he lost. To me, that was really important. To me, that was something to follow.

MTV: So he lost and that was it?

Luna: No, [but] that's the other thing I wanted to talk about. This hero: where is he now? And that is where the documentary starts. Where he is right now and what it happening in Chavez's life? What happened to this big hero? What happened to this champ? He's 44. Just the idea of being a legend already at 44, and people are not interested anymore in following him and knowing what he is doing. And to me that sounded very unfair and very stupid. And I said, 'Hey, we need to know where our champ is. We need to follow him. And we need to keep honoring him in a way.' That's what happens with heroes, we build them up and then we tear them down.

MTV: Is it true he's helping to train his son now?

Luna: His son is fighting right now and he's following him and with him all day long.

MTV: Listening to you talk about his impact, it's almost sounds as if he was also kind of a father to Mexico for a time.

Luna: It is like Mexico was looking for a father; someone to look up to. It's a human thing to have the father as hero. But when you're not the [literal] son, you can see a man struggling to educate someone. And the same process of being educated himself as a father.

MTV: How important is that relationship to you?

Luna: I revisit the father metaphor many times. When you go to the psychiatrist or the shrink, you know it really well. I totally know it, and I do have many issues with the father and son relationship.

For me, the relationship with my father is the most important thing that I have. My father had to play father and mother at the same time. So for me, when I started to see the relationship between him and his son, I was like completely blown away. Because suddenly he becomes a human.

MTV: Have you gotten a chance to share this with your dad?

Luna: It's really the best sharing this experience with my dad. When I was in "Y tu mama tambien," I flew to Venice. Then to present the film, I flew back to Mexico, and when I landed they gave me a call and said, 'You're the best young actor. Do you want to come back?' And I said, "Yeah!" And I took a plane and I flew back and took the award. The only thing that I was missing was my father. Now every time that something exciting happens to me, I try to bring him.

MTV: Speaking of "Y tu mama," are you ever going to work with Alfonso [Cuaron] again?

Luna: Yeah, I would pay for a reunion with Alfonso. He's the best. He's an amazing friend. I'm just sad that Alfonso's film ['Children of Men'] didn't get the recognition that it deserved. I think it's the best film Alfonso has done, and by far one of the best I've seen in the last year. It's an unbelievable film, and I think he's got to a place where he knows exactly how to say what he wants to say so clearly. Even if we haven't worked on a film together, we always work together in a way. We are always in contact and we talk and are connected.

MTV: You're working with his brother right?

Luna: The Carlos film ['Rudo y Cursi']...I'm not allowed to say anything because it's not a reality yet. But, yeah, I am working on a film with his brother. We're preparing that film. It's part of the same theme because we did create a family in "Y Tu Mama Tambien." And that family is going to stay with us together.

MTV: Is there something you took from them to help you in your directorial debut?

Luna: Directors should be paid for promising impossible things. Today, if an actor comes who has never directed a film and says 'Oh, I'm going to do a film; a beautiful thing, about you and about your life. And you just have to trust me on this.' I would say no, you know? Believing in me, It wasn't easy. But I promised.

Movie & TV Awards 2018