Fun, sexy and intense — but most of all, real.
That was "Y Tu Mamá También," the 2001 movie about two teens laughing, fighting, bonding and competing for the eye of an older woman on a road trip across Mexico. Maybe one reason that the onscreen bond rang so true is that the guys in the lead roles really are best friends: Actors Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal have known each other since they were children, first working together in the 1992 TV series "El Abuelo y Yo." But it wasn't until "Y Tu Mamá También" that their names became known in the U.S., and while the two have remained friends since those breakthrough days, their enduring closeness belies the different career paths the two have taken over the past three years.
Luna's route has taken him straight to the American mainstream — doing lighter, English-language movies with mixed results. First there was his Cuban Romeo in "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights," followed by a co-starring role with Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal," and now his current turn as a con man in "Criminal," a remake of an Argentine film (see "Diego Luna: 'Criminal' Conviction"). Audiences will see Luna return to Mexican films in 2005 when he stars in "Only God Knows," which also finds him producing for the first time.
"It's a love story between a Brazilian girl and a Mexican journalist. They drive through Tijuana in Mexico, and the end of the movie happens in São Paulo in Brazil. And it's a love story between two orphans. It's a beautiful, very sweet story, and it's very personal. ... The character, it's really close to me. Sometimes too close," Luna laughed. "I'm happy to shoot again in Spanish and be back in my country, traveling, getting to know better my country, working with a lot of people I like, people I admire a lot. ... Working in Mexico is always a pleasure."
In the meantime, his buddy has stuck to darker, more controversial fare. Audiences have seen Bernal as a not-so-celibate priest fighting corruption in "The Crime of Padre Amaro," as a young Che Guevara in "The Motorcycle Diaries" (see "Behind 'The Motorcycle Diaries': Gael Garcia Bernal On Portraying The Young Che Guevara"), and can soon see him as a blackmailing drag queen in Pedro Almodóvar's latest, "Bad Education." It's this last turn that's already garnering buzz, especially since "Bad Education" is filled with explicit sex scenes.
"There was never a concern about all the sexuality," Bernal said, downplaying the graphic footage. "It's a film full of life, and Pedro's point of view is about finding and exorcising those demons in life. This film wouldn't work without that. ... I don't have a problem with it."
The fact that foreign films are no longer as hard to find in U.S. theaters — a development no doubt aided by the success of "Y Tu Mamá También" — comes as a welcome surprise to Bernal. "I seriously never expected these little films to get the attention that they're getting and also to have this resonance in other parts of the world."
Indeed, "Y Tu" opened doors and increased opportunities. So should we really be surprised that the two actors behind that breakthrough have taken different paths?
"Everyone has his own career, you know?" Luna mused. "You can't repeat the career of anyone, and you have to know that you're unique and you have your own path."
"We definitely are completely different," Bernal added. "We even kind of defend all the time that we are very different people, yet we know we're best friends."
And according to the duo, that's what's most important.
"It's good to know that you have a friend there that's going through the same process," Luna said. "You can call him and he's not gonna say, 'Oh, you're crazy.' He's gonna understand what you're going through. He's a really good friend and a fantastic actor. I'm dying to work with him again."
"Definitely having a friend that is on the same kind of journey and that asks himself the same questions I do is always really nice, to talk about things," Bernal agreed. "Go out, get drunk and then go play football or something."
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