Alfonso Arau (born 1932) is a Mexican actor and director who has worked in film, theater, and
television since the 1950s. Sam Peckinpah cast him in (1969), which led to a steady career playing supporting roles in Hollywood film, including (1980), R (1984) and directed the satirical comedy E Á (Tthe political farce C (1974), and the comedies MP (1981) and C (1986); films about working class individuals that mix popular genres and political commentary. Arau’s adaptation of Laura Esquivel’s novel C(1992) became an international art house hit, winning two Ariel Awards in 1992 and one BAFTA nomination for Best Film Not e English Language in 1994. His first Hollywood film, A W(1995), with Keanu Reeves, s a romantic drama set in 1940s Napa Valley. In (Z (2004), Arau recast the Mexican revolutionary as the lead protagonist in a magic realist story. His romantic comedy L’I (T (2010) paid homage to the beginnings of cinema. In 2016 Arau received the Salvador Toscano Medal for his contributions to Mexican cinema.
Alfonso Arau is interviewed by Michael Ramos-Araizaga at Arau’s home in Mexico City on November 26, 2016.
Arau begins by discussing his formative years in Mexico City. He talks about the premature death of his father, his time spent studying medicine, and his love of classical ballet. He remembers going to the movies to see the stars of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema on the silver screen; Jorge Negrete and Gloria Marín. He credits documentary filmmaker and director Julio Pliego for giving him an unofficial cinema education and for introducing him to the worlds of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers. He also speaks fondly of Seki Sano, the Japanese actor, stage director and choreographer, who shaped his career in the dramatic arts.
Arau share memories of acting alongside the actor and comedian Sergio Corona and going to Cuba to work on Canal 4 television shows in the 1950s. He discusses the impact of the Cuban revolution on his life and career. He traces back his friendship with Alejandro Jodorowsky, referring to E (1970) as “the most beautiful western ever filmed”. He recounts the first time he met Luis Buñuel, his early impressions of Hollywood, and how he ended up being cast in Sam Peckinpah’s T (1969). Arau chronicles his transition from acting to directing and shares his experience collaborating with Héctor Ortega on E Á(T) (1971) and their second film together C(1974). He talks in depth about his film (1992), contemplating how the film’s success was due to its ability to transcend cultural boundaries. He asserts that the screening of this film at Cannes Film Festival introduced the world market to Mexican cinema.
Throughout the interview, Arau discusses numerous film works, from his role in John Landis’ T (1986) to his Hollywood directorial debut (1995), starring Keanu Reeves. He emphasizes the importance of Latin themes in his directorial work, particularly the genre of magical realism, where the metaphysical, the esoteric and the occult all play a part. He discusses the evolving landscape of Mexican cinema and touches upon the ways in which it has influenced the Hollywood film industry throughout the years.