Partial Transcript: INT: Okay Eddie, tell me a little bit about where you grew up.
EJO: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, in the Boyle Heights area, which is on the corner of 1st and Indiana.
Segment Synopsis: Edward James Olmos remembers his early childhood growing up in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
Keywords: Childhood--Influences; Childhood--Neighborhood culture; Family; Los Angeles, California
Subjects: Birthplace/Place of origin Childhood Family
GPS: Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
Map Coordinates: 34.039939, -118.202188
Partial Transcript: EJO: We would walk down the street and like I would ask him questions, you know, I was always, you know, grandpa, abuelito, abuelito
Segment Synopsis: Edward James Olmos describes his family's Sunday traditions of attending church in Downtown Los Angeles and going to the movies in Hollywood
Keywords: Baptist Church; Chicano culture; Childhood--Influences; Childhood--Movie going; Childhood--Neighborhood culture; Family; Gone with the Wind; Movie theater; Ten Commandments, The
Subjects: Birthplace/Place of origin Childhood Family Religion
Partial Transcript: INT: Like films like such as what?
EJO: All of El Indio, you know, all of his movies.
Segment Synopsis: Edward James Olmos discusses the films and movie stars that influenced him most.
Keywords: Catholicism; Childhood; Childhood--Influences; Childhood--Movie going; Golden Age of Hollywood; Latin American Cinema; Matinee
Subjects: Childhood Family Religion
Partial Transcript: INT: I mean when did you first think that you could be an actor, was it that moment?
INT: Tell me.
EJO: No, no I never got into, to being a, thinking I was going to be an actor, or acting in movies or anything like that
Segment Synopsis: Edward James Olmos remembers the influence of his father and actor Paul Muni on his childhood.
Keywords: Baseball; Catholicism; Childhood; Childhood--Influences; Childhood--Movie going; Dancer; Divorce; Fathers; Jazz clubs; Muni, Paul; Rock music
Subjects: Childhood Dance Music Religion
Partial Transcript: INT: Where did you go to college?
EJO: East LA Community College, and then Cal State LA. And...
INT: What did you study there?
EJO: I studied sociology and criminal law, you know, that was just degrees
Segment Synopsis: Edward James Olmos remembers the start of his acting career and the end of his baseball career in community college and Cal State Fullerton.
Keywords: Actor; College; Jazz clubs; Rock music; Zoot Suit (theater)
Subjects: Education Improvising Musicians Theater
Partial Transcript: INT: Tell me a little about ZOOT SUIT. How you came to ZOOT SUIT. And to that character.
EJO: ZOOT SUIT was a blessing. Total blessing, for, not only for me as a performer, but for the culture, and for the United States of America, and what we stand for.
Segment Synopsis: Edward James Olmos describes his introduction to "Zoot Suit" at the Mark Taper Forum.
Keywords: acting--improvisation; Audition; Chicano Culture; Historical events; Historical films; Jazz clubs; Valdez, Luis; Zoot Suit; Zoot Suit Riots
Subjects: American History Chicano Identity Theater
GPS: The Mark Taper Forum in Downtown Los Angeles, California.
Map Coordinates: 34.057693, -118.247824
Partial Transcript: EJO: And then I'll never forget. They hand me the paper, I look at it, and it says, you know, Pachuco. And then it says, que le huacha a mis trapos. Sabe que estas garras me las planté, por que me dijeron que iba a estar aquí.
Segment Synopsis: Edward James Olmos describes auditioning for "Zoot Suit" and creating the character of El Pachuco.
Keywords: acting--improvisation; Audition; Body language; Chicano culture; Chicano movement; Childhood--Neighborhood culture; Dance; Rock music; Valdez, Luis; Zoot Suit; Zoot Suit Riots
Subjects: American History Chicano Identity Language Theater
Partial Transcript: INT: So this moment, Eddie was just really crucial to your career. This was the moment, right?
EJO: Oh. This is, this was the moment that literally changed the course of not only my life, okay, it changed my life sure.
Segment Synopsis: Edward James Olmos remembers bringing "Zoot Suit" from the stage to the screen.
Keywords: Chicano cinema; Chicano culture; Dance; Early film work; Film acting; Historical events; Historical films; Rock music; Theater acting; Tony Awards; Valdez, Luis; Zoot Suit; Zoot Suit Riots
Subjects: American History Chicano identity Film vs theater Theater
Partial Transcript: INT: What was it like working with Luis Valdez?
EJO: Working with Luis Valdez is probably the high--one of the high points of my experience in theater and in film. Tremendous, tremendous artist, who really understood, and really focused in on what it was that he was doing with his life.
Segment Synopsis: Edward James Olmos describes working with Luis Valdez and developing "Zoot Suit".
Keywords: Acting; Chicano culture; Collaboration; Dance; Historical events; Personal style; Public response; Reception; Theater acting; Theater directing; Valdez, Luis; Zoot Suit Riots
Subjects: American History Chicano Movement Collaboration Critical reception Theater
Partial Transcript: INT: Let us talk about BLADE RUNNER and your work with Ridley Scott. How did you come to that role?
EJO: BLADE RUNNER came by way of a young woman who, Katie Haber, who was associate producer of the film, who had seen me perform El Pachuco
Segment Synopsis: Edward James Olmos describes working with Ridley Scott and developing the character, Gaff.
Keywords: American culture; Audition; Blade Runner; Character; Costume; Director; Early film work; Scott, Ridley
Subjects: American film industry Collaboration Science fiction
Partial Transcript: INT: So you were the one that...
EJO: Everything. I worked with the costume people, I worked in the designing the hat that I wore in the spinner.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos discusses his creative contributions to the character, costume and production design in "Blade Runner" and the unexpected significance of an origami piece
Keywords: Behind the scenes; Blade Runner; Costume designer; Costumes; Props; Scott, Ridley
Subjects: American film industry Film production Science fiction
Hyperlink: Blade Runner (1982)
Partial Transcript: INT: Now you, your contributions with these directors have been really fabulous. The one, one of the other relationships that you've had, which is very collaborative has been with Robert Young.
EJO: Bob, yeah. Robert M. Young.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos discusses his early collaboration with Robert M. Young.
Keywords: Alambrista; Audition; Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, The; Behind the scenes; Young, Robert M.
Subjects: Collaborator Director Early film work Film Production
Partial Transcript: EJO: And so we were there on the, on the scene, and set, and we were gonna shoot that night, it was a night shoot again. But this was, we were there about 10 o'clock now, I flew in about, I'd say about nine
Segment Synopsis: Olmos remembers shooting on location in a farming community with Robert M. Young for Alambrista.
Keywords: Alambrista; Behind the scenes; director; Farm Workers; Location shooting; Young, Robert M.
Subjects: Collaborator Documentary Early film work
Partial Transcript: INT: THE BALLAD OF GREGORIO CORTEZ
EJO: The Ballad was the key.
INT: So tell me about THE BALLAD OF GREGORIO CORTEZ and why it's important to you.
EJO: The Ballad was, and still is probably the best film I've ever been a part of.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos recounts his experience working on "The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez", Robert Young's aesthetic, and the importance of the film in his career, life and as a historic document as a Mexican and all-American story.
Keywords: Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, The; Film adaptation; Film aesthetic; Milagro Beanfield War, The; Producer; Screenplay; Young, Robert M.
Subjects: Adaptation Collaborator Early film work
Hyperlink: The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982)
Partial Transcript: INT: Tell me from the beginning. How it changed from Robert Young to, from the ZOOT SUIT to Robert Young.
EJO: Well, Robert Young was '75. ZOOT SUIT was '78. I brought Robert Young's aesthetic to my performance in ZOOT SUIT.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos describes his working style and movement in relation to acting, directing and producing. He recounts working relationships throughout his career.
Keywords: Aloha Bobby and Rose; Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, The; Early film work; Editor; Music producer; Mutrux, Floyd; Producer; Style; Young, Robert M.; Zoot Suit
Subjects: Collaboration Musicians
Partial Transcript: INT: So Eddie, let me just ask you a pointed question here. The question of language and mistranslation are crucial in THE BALLAD OF GREGORIO CORTEZ. Gregorio Cortez doesn't speak a word of English, but he clearly communicates his integrity. How difficult was this role for you?
EJO: The story, as it's written in the book, was quite interesting.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos describes the beginning stages of assembling "The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez" and details the mythical quality of the story and man
Keywords: Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, The; Blade Runner; Chicano cinema; Chicano culture; Film adaptation; Historical events; Historical films; Sundance Institute; Tender Mercies; Zoot Suit
Subjects: American film industry American History Chicano Identity Film festivals Western
Partial Transcript: EJO: And it was my first film production, producing a major piece of work. And when we got into it, our team was so profoundly understanding of what we had to do, Tom Bower, a close and dear friend, who, I had gone to help Robert Redford create the Sundance Institute.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos tells the founding of the Sundance Institute and the key players involved with the production of The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez
Keywords: Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, The; Collaborator; El Norte; Historical events; Historical films; Nava, Gregory; Producer; Redford, Robert; Reds; Screenwriting; Sundance Institute
Subjects: Film festivals Independent film Westerns
Hyperlink: Sundance Institute
Partial Transcript: INT: Now tell me something, did you make any contributions to the screenplay at all?
EJO: Yes. All of the stuff that I do, Bob wrote. It's an amazing story on the screenplay of The Ballad because, like I said, Victor Villaseñor wrote the original piece but it was a little bit, it was really outside of where Bob's aesthetic lay.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos discusses the writing and scouting process of "The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez". He describes Robert Young and his visit to the original town and courthouse where Cortez was tried.
Keywords: Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, The; Historical events; Historical films; Judicial process; Location scouting; Location shooting; Script development; Young, Robert M.
Subjects: American history Chicano identity Discrimination Mexican-American culture Westerns
GPS: The location of the courthouse where Gregorio Cortez was tried.
Map Coordinates: 29.512538, -97.447236
Partial Transcript: INT: Let's talk a little bit about STAND AND DELIVER, talking about moral integrity. What inspired you to make this film? How did it come about in your life? And why about youth?
EJO: This story came by way of, in 1983 I was given the opportunity to meet Jaime Escalante.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos recounts meeting Jaime Escalante and the events that led to the development of "Stand and Deliver"
Keywords: Chicano cinema; Escalante, Jamie; Historical films; Los Angeles, California; Social activism; Stand and Deliver
Subjects: Education Funding Independent cinema
Partial Transcript: EJO: So we ended up making the film. We went into production and in the process, I studied Jaime Escalante, the teacher, I studied him for a long time. For over a year at his classroom and at his house and questioning him. And in that process of doing the research, I asked him one day, I said, "What do you think of the story?"
Segment Synopsis: Olmos shares his experience working with Jaime Escalante and rewriting the script in order to make it truer to reality. He stresses the importance of the story above all.
Keywords: Caught; Chicano cinema; Escalante, Jamie; Historical films; Los Angeles, California; Menéndez, Ramón; Script development; Social activism; Stand and Deliver; Young, Robert M.
Subjects: Chicano identity Education Independent film Screenplay
Hyperlink: Stand and Deliver (1988)
Partial Transcript: INT: Now did, in some ways STAND AND DELIVER inspire you to kind of get involved with education and young kids, right? Or was that interest?
EJO: It was way before.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos recounts how he started giving back to the Latino community through education and the power of storytelling.
Keywords: Chicano culture; Grandparents; Immigration; Public speaking; Script development
Subjects: Chicano identity Education Family Mexican-American culture Social activism
Partial Transcript: INT: Eddie, tell me a little bit about AMERICAN ME. You know, why did you make this film? What was the reason that you made this film and how did you come to the story?
EJO: I came to the story of AMERICAN ME through its creator. And the guy who made it was Floyd Mutrux.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos recalls the long journey to making "American Me" and the impact of the film "Stand and Deliver" on future generations
Keywords: American Me; Chicano culture; Escalante, Jamie; Mexican mafia; Mutrux, Floyd; Social activism; Stand and Deliver
Subjects: Chicano identity Education Independent film Mexican-American culture Representation
Hyperlink: American Me (1992)
Partial Transcript: INT: Let us talk about your experience working with Gregory Nava in MI FAMILIA, SELENA, and AMERICAN FAMILY. How did this working relationship develop and what did you learn from him?
EJO: Working with Gregory Nava was, has been a real joy. I've done three major pieces of work with him.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos discusses his relationship with Gregory Nava and their joint projects. He goes on to describe his involvement with Latin America cinema and cinema influences
Keywords: American Family TV Show; Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival; Mi Familia; Nava, Gregory; Selena
Subjects: Film Distribution Film festivals Latin American Cinema Television
Hyperlink: Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival Wiki
Partial Transcript: INT: How about any other interchanges with, did you ever go to Cuba to see Latin American films in the film festivals there?
EJO: I've never been to Cuba. One of the few people that has been able to go. There's many reasons why.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos shares his thoughts on the socio-political situation of Cuba and his hopes for peaceful and just due process
Keywords: Castro, Fidel; Cuban Revolution (1953-1959); Garcia Marquez, Gabriel José de la Concordia; Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival
Subjects: Communism Film festivals Film history Latin American Cinema Latino cinema Social activism
Partial Transcript: INT: So you see yourself more as a peacemaker before you...
EJO: In this case. I made that decision in 1983 to be ready to be able to do it.
INT: But have you seen like Cuban films that you've liked, Eddie?
EJO: Of course.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos details the power of cinema, the importance of bringing Chicano and Latino perspectives through The Latino International Film Festival and the education opportunities his organization, The Latino International Film Festival and Latino International Film, provide to Southern Californian youths
Keywords: Academy Award nominations; del Toro, Guillermo; Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival; Los Angeles, California
Subjects: Academy Award Chicano cinema Chicano culture Education Film festivals Latin American Cinema
Partial Transcript: INT: Okay, Eddie. Now as a, I mean you're a highly regarded, you know, person in the society in Hollywood. Did you ever feel that you were discriminated against?
EJO: Yeah. I felt discrimination almost every day. It's really difficult to, not to feel it. The only way you wouldn't feel discrimination is if we were represented in the high levels of the art form.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos describes his experience being Chicano, facing ongoing discrimination in Hollywood and the progress being made to increase representation of Latino stories
Keywords: Argo; Chavez, Cesar; Chicano Movement; Film vs. theater; Huerta, Dolores; Latino cinema; Media Representation; Mendez, Antonio Joseph
Subjects: American film industry Chicano culture Discrimination History of film Theater
Hyperlink: Tony Mendez, the real CIA spy in Argo
Partial Transcript: INT: What is the most important thing about being an actor?
EJO: Oh, I think it's a privilege more than importance. It's important to do the things you love to do. You know, it's just important for you to live a life that you feel complete in.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos considers his acting career a privilege and shares his thoughts on the qualities of an actor and his process of choosing projects
Keywords: Acting; American Me; Caught; Filly Brown; Go for Sisters; Mexico; Personal legacy; Sayles, John; Stand and Deliver; Storytelling
Subjects: Chicano identity Representation Screenwriting
Partial Transcript: INT: This was a question I had before, right? Tell me a little more about AMERICANO.
EJO: AMERICANO is a film to do with the values and hopes of each person and how we have to look inside for the hero and not go looking for the hero outside
Segment Synopsis: Olmos shares a few details about an upcoming project, "Americano".
Keywords: Academy – Membership; Americano; Film unions; Upcoming projects
Subjects: Acting Cartoon Mexican-American culture Unions
Partial Transcript: INT: Let's see, I think I asked you this, but I'm gonna ask it again. Do you feel that being a Chicano has impeded your career in any way? What is it like for you now, have, things have evolved for you?
EJO: Being Chicano's been my biggest asset and also my biggest problem because it's hard to find movies in which I get to play who I am.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos describes the influence of being Chicano on his career and types of roles he has had because of his identity
Keywords: Academy – Membership; American Me; Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, The; Chicano culture; Racism; Stand and Deliver; Young, Robert George
Subjects: Academy Award American film industry Chicano identity Collaboration Discrimination
Partial Transcript: INT: Okay, When and why did you become an Academy member?
EJO: I became an Academy member when I received the Academy Award nomination for best actor, 1988.
Segment Synopsis: Olmos recounts being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and reflects on his films within the historic record
Keywords: Academy Award nominations; Academy – Membership; Stand and Deliver
Subjects: Academy Award Film preservation
Partial Transcript: INT: I have one big question and then I have a lot of little ones on reflections. Mm-hmm. We're almost done.
EJO: Go ahead.
INT: Okay? How did you, what was your idea of Hollywood when you were a kid?
Segment Synopsis: Olmos reflects on his idea of Hollywood as a kid, being inspired by Anthony Quinn, lessons learned and the most difficult challenges throughout his career
Keywords: Career lesson; Childhood--Influences; Family; Golden Age of Hollywood; Hollywood; Quinn, Anthony; Walk of Fame
Subjects: American film industry Chicano identity History of film Representation
Partial Transcript: INT: What are your hopes for the future of the industry?
EJO: May the stories that deserve to be told be told. And may the stories that are not blockbusters, that are independent, be held with the reverence they were
Segment Synopsis: Olmos expresses his hopes for a variety of stories told in the future of the film industry, actors he admires and how his aspirations have and continue to change
Keywords: Filly Brown; Future of filmmaking; Inspiration; Muni, Paul; Quinn, Anthony; Young, Robert M.
Subjects: Academy Awards American film industry Independent cinema
"INT: Okay Eddie, tell me a little bit about where you grew up. EJO: I wasborn and raised in Los Angeles, in the Boyle Heights area, which is on the corner of 1st and Indiana. Just a little street. I was actually born at the First Japanese Hospital in Los Angeles, after the war. Very important hospital. It was put together right after the... most of the doctors got out of Manzanar and different camps that they were in. And, born and raised there, and stayed there with my... raised with my great grandparents, my grandparents, and my parents, and my siblings. And we all lived in the same house, and very crowded. And we lived in the garage for a while. Quite interesting, there was no bathroom, there was no, it was just, there was nothing. We had, the only wash basin we had was outside on the side, it was just a tub. And we’d hook a hose up to the sprocket to have running water. And very different. But it was just real natural, normal. You know. Didn’t have a concrete floor, it had dirt 1:00floor. And quite different. And it’s been an interesting place to start. [INT: What were your earliest memories of your parents?] The earliest ones I think are them coming home, they were always working. And so they were, we would, they would come home, and the mood would change. It would become, you know, alive, more alive, and a lot more energy, as soon as my mother got home and my father got home from work, they were always working. My grandparents were working also. My great grandparents were the ones who took care of us, even though my great grandmother was really the housekeeper. She was the one who really kept all the house together. And cooked, every day, I remember getting up, and there was 2:00always the smell of coffee in the morning. You know, as soon as you woke up you woke up to that smell, I loved that smell. And she would always have food ready to go. Big, there was always frijoles, there was always beans. There was always rice, and always tortillas. With every meal, I don’t care if we were having spaghetti, or chicken, or whatever else we were gonna eat that day. There was always that available. And so it was really incredible. And as I got older, I really started to realize what that was, that was the stable force of our living existence. That there was beans and rice, and with corn tortillas. We very seldom had flour tortillas. It was like a rarity. It was always the corn tortilla that we would have, and when anybody came over to the house, whether it 3:00be for just a quick visit or whatever, my grandmother would make them sit down and have something to eat. And it was always beans and rice and tortillas. I mean it’s integral, I mean there wasn’t one person that ever came to my house that didn’t eat. [INT: Now tell me, what, who were you closest to in that time that you remember your grandmother taking care of everybody?] My great grandparents were the closest to us, as children, yeah. I mean not that my parents didn’t wanna be close, of course they did, but they couldn’t compare to the amount of time that we spent with my great grandmother. And my great grandfather, and they were, it was really a different kind of understanding. Very grateful, I’m very grateful. It made me, I have grandchildren now, and it’s made me very aware of my participation in their life. I remember my grandparents, and I remember my great grandparents cause they spent so much time 4:00with me. And so I try to do what my great grandparents did, and I try to spend as much time as possible with them. I bring them here to my house, and they spend weekends here, you know. All the grandkids, there are five of them. And so they’re constantly here, and because I really remembered everything that happened. From like about two, two and a half, I remember very vividly. And so it’s, I know that by two, two and a half, they’re on. They’re remembering everything. They’ll remember the things that happen, so you know, now that they’re in their tens, nines, eights, seven, six. They, I have ten, eight, six, two, and I think four months. [INT: That’s right, that’s how it is. So what were the most important lessons that you learned from your great grandparents, your grandparents and your parents. Was there one, a line of you know, a lesson?] The wisdom that one gets from the elder is really what really 5:00makes you who you are. And I was very grateful. I wanna be a great grandparent. My mother has I think 18 great grandchildren, 27 grandchildren. That I think is a real strong. But she has, she has a lot of kids, she had seven, so. There, what I learned, I’ll give you an example. When I would walk with my great grandfather down the street, he had to been in his late 90, 70s, late 70s. Beginning of his 80s. Matter of fact he was already in his 80s. Yep. Cause I was seven when he passed, yeah, he was in his 80s, he was 87 when he died. So he was in the 80s, so he was, he was an elder. And, but strong. He was, there was no, he shuffled, but he didn’t have a cane, or didn’t use a walker or anything like that, and he walked everywhere, we walked everywhere. Or took the 6:00streetcar. We never had a car. And I think in 1954, I think we finally got our first car. And those are, you know four or five years old already. And I was older, I was six. And from my great grandfather, like when we’d walk down the street, on 1st street, and that area, it was beautiful, but it was downtown east LA, 1st and Indiana, and right there by the cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery by Lorena. That’s where we lived. And it was pretty much city living. So it was really fun. " EJO: We would walk down the street and like I would ask him questions, you know, I was always, you know, grandpa, abuelito, abuelito. You 7:00know. You know what’s that, what’s this, what that, constantly. Just, you know, diarrhea of the mouth. Just constantly asking questions, you know, like kids do, you know. Why’s that, what’s this? So I, like one time I remember I was walking down the street and I’ll never forget, I asked him what, I go, “Grandpa, grandpa, abuelito, abuelito,” I was pretty small. I said, “What’s that? What’s that, what’s that?” And he looked at it, and then he looked back at me and he says, “Mejito, when you see that, look for the birds, or look for a tree, or look for the flower.” And there were none around us cause we were in the city block. There was no tree, there was no flower, there was no bird. But he said, “But you gotta look for them, you gotta look 8:00for them.” And we’re looking for the pigeons, and any kind of a bird that was out or something, you know we’d look around. And then he said, “Because, mejito, that is a stop sign.” And so I said, “Okay,” so now when I look at the stop sign I remember my great grandfather’s voice, telling me look for the bird, look for the tree, you know, look for the flower. When you see that. Most people get to a stop sign, they just stop, look both ways. My grandfather would’ve told me that’s a stop sign. My father would’ve said, it’s a stop sign, and you stop and you go if you’re, you know, you stop there to make sure that nobody’s crossing traffic or anything like that, and you keep on going. But my great grandfather said, “When you see that, you look for the bird, you look for the tree. You look for the, you know, the flower.” Because you see so many of them throughout your lifetime. And when, you know, of course 9:00I learned later, you know that that’s a stop sign. It’s red, it says stop on there. And the basically, but my grandfather put, infused that in me. And so every time I see a stop sign, I say I gotta look for the bird, gotta look for the tree, gotta look for. And it snaps in, and I go, that’s cute, that’s fun. But it really grounds me. And makes me look for nature, rather than be stuck in the city, not thinking about nature. And that like, was such wisdom that I, it took me years to come up with that story again. To remember it. Cause it was such an ingrained part of me. It’s like, we were talking, my great grandfather was the custodial keeper of the church that we went to. So we’d get up in the morning on Sundays, and leave for church around, I’d say 6:30, quarter to seven. And we’d get there around seven o’ clock, we’d walk to church, it was on Gage. And we were on 1st and Indiana, which is about, I’d 10:00say about seven blocks, eight blocks. City blocks, small ones. Not country block, okay. And so we’d get there in about 10, 15 minutes, we’d walk there. And we’d get there, my grandfather would open the church, and then he’d open the doors, and the windows, and then we’d go into the main part of the church, and we’d lift up all the seats, make sure all the seats were lifted, make sure all the hymn books were placed in the right place, and everything looked neat, and because church was gonna start around 8:30, people would start arriving. And first service would start around nine o’ clock. And so we’d go there and we’d work, and then we’d, the church would start, and it was a Baptist church. American Baptist church. So I was raised American Baptist for about, a 11:00little while of my life, that’s the beginning. And very different. And most people don’t know what Spanish speaking Baptist churches are like. You know they know what Southern Baptist churches are like, and, where they speak in English, and there’s fire and brimstone, and there’s people that talk in tongues. Fire and brimstone in Spanish is a lot more intense. It’s just really, really intense. It’s more vivid. And there’s much more drama in Spanish. It’s much more colorful. And so it was a Spanish speaking American Baptist church. [INT: It’s a spectacle, and music.] Oh my god, it was singing, and performance, and there was you know, it was an incredible, incredible day of church going. And we’d go in the morning, like I said, 7:30, and we wouldn’t 12:00leave until seven o’ clock at night. And the thing was, is that that was every Sunday from seven in the morning until about seven o’ clock at night, we were at that church. About, when I was around eight, seven or eight, my father, who came from Mexico, I was first generation on my father’s side here in the United States. My mother was born here. So she was Chicana, okay. But my father was born in Mexico, and came over here, followed my mom. They had their first child in Mexico, and then they brought him over at one year old, and then I came two years later, and I was born here, so I was the first one on my father’s side. My father took us to a Catholic church. And we stood up, we sat down. We stood up, we kneeled. We stood up, we sat down. We stood up, and we sat down. And the priest spoke nothing but Latin. He didn’t, no English, except for the homily, and but everything was in Latin, the whole mass. And we’d stand up, 13:00we’d sit down, we’d kneel, stand up. And then they would all, you know, listen to, to him say things in Latin, and then he’d say the last prayer, he’d give us his blessings, in 47 minutes we were done. And then my father took us to Clifton’s, yeah, in downtown LA, and gave us lunch. We used to eat lunch at the Baptist church there at the church. They’d make big pots of menudo, and everybody would eat there, but my father took us to the Clifton’s, and then after Clifton’s, about I’d say around 12, 12:30 we’d finish up, he’d take us to Hollywood. And we’d go to the Paramount, or we’d go to the Chinese, or we’d go to the, you know to the Egyptian, or one of the great theaters that was on, in the ‘50s, middle ‘50s, ’50, oh, I’m talking 14:00about ’55, ’56. And beautiful theaters. And we would watch, you know, Ten Commandments, we’d watch great movies. Beautiful movies, you know. I remember Gone With the Wind on the big screen. And that was done in ’39, but they would play it there, and my father took us to see it. And before that, we would just go to the Unique Theater, Unique Theater, on 1st Street. And we’d watch films in Spanish. That’s how we watched, and… "INT: Like films like such as what? EJO: All of El Indio, you know, all of his movies. We would watch, all… [INT: Santo?] Pardon? [INT: Santo?] Oh, we would watch all of the latest movies from Latin America, from Mexico, really. They would bring them there, and they would play them there. And so we’d watch that, and it was matinee. We’d always go 15:00to the matinees when we went to that theater, and that was on a Saturday. But being Sunday, and going to church and then going to eat, and then going to the movies, we saw major, major pieces of work that were… [INT: Which ones do you remember that left a big impression on you?] Well, I gotta tell you, we saw, you know, Ben Hur, we saw you know, God almighty, The Bible, Ten Commandments, god, Lawrence of Arabia, but that was a little later. Major, major features, Around the World in 80 Days, with Cantinflas. [INT: So you didn’t have like one film that stuck in your subconscious, you know, that kind of really impressed you?] Well… [INT: Or did you?] Let me tell you. First of all, we turned into Catholics real quick. We stopped being Baptists. Cause it was really a lot more 16:00fun to go to church for only an hour and then take off and go to, go to the cafeteria, eat at Clifton’s, and then go to the thing, so we started real quick telling our dad, let’s go, let’s go to your church. So we ended up going into the Catholic, so we had Baptist bringings, and then Catholic bringings, and my mother was pretty crazy, she would take us, like on Saturdays and Sundays we’d drive along, once we had a car, their age. We would go by a church, didn’t matter what church. And if there was cars there she’d stop and walk inside to take a look around. And then watch the services. So we went to different churches, including synagogues to watch them do their services. And just like spectators. And we’d just walk in and see it. So you know, I 17:00remember talking about movies, I think that David Lean’s films were probably the most impacted films that I’d ever seen in my life. Things like, cause I was older too, I was 10, 11 years old, and I was watching, you know, Lawrence of Arabia, I was watching Bridge on the River Kwai, Doctor Zhivago. You know, pictures that just like were really overwhelming, you know. I remember he took us to see 2001. I remember that one, it was very, Stanley Kubrick’s movie, was just breathtaking. And we saw, at the, we would see classics too. I mean, my father loved movies. And he liked film, and he liked going for that experience. And so we saw The Good Earth on the big screen, with Paul Muni. He was probably the largest influence I ever had in my life. Any single person. And that was 18:00truly probably the biggest gift I ever ran across was finding out about Paul Muni. " "INT: I mean when did you first think that you could be an actor, was it that moment? EJO: No. [INT: Tell me.] No, no, I never got into, to being a, thinking I was gonna be an actor, or acting in movies or anything like that, I just, that was a process. And that process was different, but as far as influences, no single artist has influenced me more in my lifetime than Paul Muni did when I saw him perform as Benito Juarez. As Pasteur, as Scarface, as in The Good Earth, a Chinese, you know, lord, landlord. He was amazing. If people 19:00don’t know who he is today, that’s sad. But truly a gift of gifts. Probably one of the finest character actors the world has ever seen. Could definitely do and become everything that he was capable of doing. I remember there was, Lon Chaney, my father took us to go see Man of A Thousand Faces. That had a big influence on me too, Lon Chaney’s life story. And he played himself. And it was a very interesting look at what acting was. And probably one of the best understandings that I’ve had where a person transforms themselves into different characters, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame to you know, to a cripple, to, it was amazing what this man could do. Lon Chaney, and what he did 20:00to himself to get to that level. He would strap himself into doing different roles and different things. I remember he strapped his legs to himself all day, so that he would have a look that he needed. And the makeup, he did all his own makeup. Very well known for that. And but those exposures that my father gave me, became monumental. And my father’s influence on my artistic career was monumental, he didn’t even know it. He taught me, at the age of nine, eight and nine, how to dance. He taught my brothers and my sisters too. And he wasn’t a professional dancer, but he, him and his family had danced their whole lives, so they danced swing, jitterbug, cha cha cha, mambo. Waltz. They knew how to dance. And so my father taught my sisters and, my sister, myself and 21:00my brother how to, how to dance. So our movement became, and music became overwhelming. We, he listened to a lot of music when we were young. And he’d always put the record player on. And he’d dance around while he was working, and cleaning house and doing, cause we all used to help clean the house. So we’d put the music on, on a Saturday morning, and being we’d start, little kids, we’d start working. We started working at a very young age. My… [INT: Let me just ask you one thing. When you went to school, did you go, did you become a part of the, you know, theater group, or music, or?] I never, I wasn’t involved in, I got involved at the age of five with baseball. Very interesting. I couldn’t, it was out of a necessity to stay alive, really. My 22:00mother and my father were having difficulties, and so I would leave, they eventually divorced. But, and in those days, Catholic, or not, excuse me, a Latin family, divorcing was unheard of. And so it was quite an unusual situation that was going on. And so my father and my mother were having problems, and so I would go outside and just play with a ball, and I couldn’t really play with it. I learned how to play through hours and hours and hours and hours. And that discipline of learning how to play the game of baseball carried me into the rest of my life. It was the sport that really taught me what discipline was, perseverance, determination, patience. Those four ingredients were the key to bringing me to this point in my life. I used it in everything I’ve done since 23:00then. That’s where I learned to do the things I love to do when I don’t feel like doing them. And at a very young age, when you’re six, seven, eight years old and you know that, watch out. Cause that child will in turn, discipline themselves to do things. And that discipline then becomes like a strength of giants. If you can touch something for over 10,000 hours, put 10,000 hours of concentration and focus into whatever it is that you like to do, you’ll get real good at it. Real good, and I became very good at playing baseball. And then at the age of 14, I took the same discipline, and moved it to music. Cause my father taught me music and dance when I was eight, nine, ten years old. So by the time I was 14, rock and roll, the year was 1960, rock and roll was hitting hard, and we had been listening to it for five years, since about 1955 on KFWB, we’d play the local rock and roll station, that’s what, first rock and roll 24:00station of LA. And we would listen to it obsessively, and it was incredible, we’d listen to Little Richard, and to James Brown, and Bill, Buddy Holly, The Crickets, and Ritchie Valens, and all of the music, doo wop, all of that stuff that was being played. And so with music and the discipline I learned in baseball, cause I became a very good baseball player. And I felt very confident. I had a lot of self esteem, self respect, and self worth at the very young age, and I just felt strong. And I used it and I went right into rock and roll music, and I never looked back, I just started, I put away my cleats, put away my glove, my father was in shock, the whole, cause I had won the state batting championship two years in a row. I was a very good ball player. And I was catching Eddie Roebuck, and Sandy Koufax, at the age of 13 and 14 I was playing 25:00with Bobby Knoop, Gary Knoop, the Knoop brothers, in the California Sun League, with Rick Fenton was our coach, and he took me into that league. And I was a, you know, 13, 12, 13, 14 years old playing with guys who were 19, 18, 19, that were pros already. But they would, California Sun League was during the winter. So these guys like Eddie Roebuck and these guys would stay in condition by going and playing in these games during the winter when they were off season, just to stay in shape. So, I used all of that experience into music, and I walked into music and just started doing it seven days a week, like I had played baseball. And ended up becoming very strong. When I went, at 14 I started playing on the Sunset Strip, and singing at the Pandora’s Box. Preston Epps would play first, and they would play for a 45 minute set and then we’d play for a 10 minute set between their sets while they were. And right there on Crescent Heights and 26:00Sunset Blvd, there’s a little island, that just has trees and stuff on it, but it used to be a house there. And that house used to be called Pandora’s Box. It’s a little place where, nightclub. And so we went, I started there, and I worked up there for a while, and then I moved over to Gazzari’s, on the Sunset Strip. And I stayed there for four consecutive years, seven days a week, and I put myself through college. " "INT: Where did you go to college? EJO: East LA Community College, and then Cal State LA. And… [INT: What did you study there?] I studied sociology and criminal law, you know, that was just degrees, I was, I didn’t know what I was doing. But I just knew that I needed to do something, you know, so, I started working. But by that time, my very first year, first semester at East LA Community College, I took an acting class. I took that acting class to help myself on stage, performing. As a singer. And so, I wanted to combine the, see what that was all about, so I took it. And that’s 27:00where it all started. It all started there, in the classes, I’ll never forget the very first thing that I ever did was an improvisation. And the teacher said, “Do whatever you wanna do.” So I sat down in a chair, and I put my hands behind the chair and I became, like if they were interrogating me. And I did an interrogation scene on myself. Answering questions that, things that weren’t being said to me. But you know, and me talking to them about this as they’re beating me up, and throwing me around, and you know, I would move the whole chair and the chair would fall down, and then I’d get back up on the chair and I’d be there as if I was getting beat up and everything, and people were like in shock. They had no, I mean nobody, not even the teacher knew what the hell I was doing. And I didn’t know what I was doing, but he said, just do it. But I 28:00had been on stage, remember, I’d been on stage since I was 14, performing almost every day. And then by the time I was in college, I was performing seven days a week, and I performed for seven days a week for eight years, straight, I never stopped. And in that period of time, during the daytime, or the afternoons, I’d go and help do the music at The Actor’s Studio. For Fox Harris, and these guys that were doing this kinda like improvisat-well, avant garde theater, at The Actor’s Studio, with Strasberg, Lee, and I would watch them work. I wouldn’t, I was, I never got in. I tried to get into The Actor’s Studio, but they wouldn’t let me in. [INT: Why?] You know I wasn’t talented, I wasn’t any good. You know, I wasn’t capable of handling the reason for being in there. When I got in there, was in 1978 when I did a play called Zoot Suit. I did a performance called El Pachuco. And this character resonated itself around the world. And they invited me to be a lifetime member 29:00at The Actor’s Studio, I said, “Of course, thank you. Thank you very much, I’d love to.” Then they made me… [INT: Did you?] Well yeah, yeah. Then I became a member, sure. But that was, you know, way after the fact. [INT: Right. When did you feel that you had talent? That you could do it? In that moment, when you were in, in the class?] My ability to feel strength in character, in the art, became evident when I was playing ball. It was a performance for me. I mean, I really knew that, how to play the game. And by playing the game correctly, you need to draw the focus, I was a catcher. I played second base, I played shortstop, I played every position that there was to play. But, and I played them all really well, cause I played, spent so much time on that field. And it was like, people say Magic Johnson and all these guys, you know, Kobe, they just spent an incredible amount of their life on their art form, their 30:00basketball, or baseball, or, that’s the only way. There’s no shortcuts. Talent, everybody’s got talent. How much do you evolve that talent is interesting. Cause you gotta first find it, and then secondly you gotta really discipline to do the things you love to do when you don’t feel like doing them, and you get out there and you do it every day. But that’s the key. The key was to really, and so I did. And so, when I was playing baseball, I would, especially catching. I would make so much noise behind the plate that the umpire sometimes would say, “Hey man, can you take it easy?” I said, “No. No. I’m not gonna take it easy. This is, you know, we’re playing ball here. Come 31:00on, man. Wake up.” You know, I’d keep the entire team on vibrant. They would be, I needed them to chatter, I want you guys to be alive out there, and I would get the ball, and I would, I would see that like, my shortstop or my third baseman was like twisting. And you know, we were eight, nine years old, little kids. And he would be touching, going like this, or, and I’d get the ball and I’d just throw it at him. Like I’d catch it, and I’d see him, and I’d just get the ball and throw it at him. And all of a sudden he’d be, and I’d say, “Wake up, stay awake. You stay awake, everybody stay awake,” and so then I’d throw the ball back to the pitcher and I’d go back behind the plate. And so the team became this, and people would come, people came to see those games. They wanted to, and they, yes it was a team, but there was something going on. And it was all from the center of understanding the energy of performance. I was performing. And so when I went to music, pooh, I shot right through. I mean I was a terrible singer. I couldn’t sing worth a damn, I still can’t sing. And, but I could scream, and I could dance, and I could 32:00perform. So when I was singing a song, I remember I used to sing at the, at a night club called The Factory. And to me, performing a line in a great song, and doing a play, and performing a line in a play, good play, were the same. You were telling a story. One was taking three minutes to four minutes, the other one was taking, you know, whatever amount of time you’re on stage doing a play. But you always tried to tell a story. So I became a storyteller really early. Right away, with music. And so I ended up becoming very, very strong. So the very first time I stepped on stage as a actor, performing a scene, which I was way ahead of the ball game. I mean I tore them apart, literally. I wasn’t ready for it, cause I didn’t know what I was gonna do. But you know, they said 33:00do something. You know, whatever you feel like doing, you know that’s how they started off the first class of acting. Acting 101, right. Okay, get up, tell me about yourself. Or you know, do something. You know. " "INT: Tell me a little bit about Zoot Suit. How you came to Zoot Suit. And to that character. EJO: Zoot Suit was a blessing. Total blessing, for, not only for me as a performer, but for the culture, and for the United States of America, and what we stand for. And, cause it was a very very important piece of work. Luis Valdez is a genius. I don’t use it lightly. He, the man is just exquisite intellectual. Just beautifully constructed human that has really dedicated himself to really evolving to the fullest of his capabilities. And at this point in time, he had 34:00been doing theater for many many years. The year was 1978 when we started doing Zoot Suit. And he had written it on behalf of the Mark Taper Forum. Who asked him, commissioned him to write a piece on the LA, during the Zoot Suit Riots. And, very strong era. And so he took an incident that happened, Sleepy Lagoon murder case, and put it on its feet, and wrote a play around that situation. And inside, he had been creating for many years, a character throughout his plays, the Pachuco. And so this character was evolving and then became and found itself inside of this play as the Greek Chorus, as the voice, the alter ego of the real essence of the storyteller. And I remember, I was, at that point I was doing work at the Los Angeles Theater. Ralph Waite’s company. And had been working 35:00there for a couple of years. I had been doing a play for nine months there, at night. This is in the ‘70s, ’77, so I’d done my music and had gotten, my music took me into, like I said, into the theater. And then the theater, I combined music and performance. And so I kept on stage to pay my bills, cause I was making money, I was working at some of the finest night clubs in the world. The Factory I worked there for two years, at The Factory, seven days a week. And we performed, that was a night club, the most exquisite night club in the world at that time, The Beatles were members, you had to be a member. The, Frank Sinatra, the, you had the, you know, Judy Garland, the Barbara Streisand, you had Sammy Davis Jr., you had, Paul Newman owned it, along with Peter Salinger, 36:00and Ron Buck was the guy who actually ran it. And Minnesota Fats, Willie Mosconi. They would play in the back, the pool, and they had their own tables. It was really high end. And very very private. And so we’d perform there. For two years I’d perform there, every night, seven days a week, and I would sweat on people. And Judy Garland was, she was into her age already, and, but she just loved to come and watch me perform. She just, god, I don’t know what she found in me, cause I couldn’t sing. But man, she, she was caught by the performance. That’s when I knew, I said, it’s really in the delivery. It’s not only in the vocal quality, but in the actual commitment of the person singing, and committing to doing it. And so when I walked on the stage to do Zoot Suit, El 37:00Pachuco, we were ready. And boy when I took the audition, the audition, I didn’t know it was happening. I went, I got a phone call from our stage manager on Perfume, which was a play that I was doing at the LA Theater Center for Ralph Waite’s theater. And that’s on Santa Monica and Wilcox. Right off of Western and Santa Monica. And it later became different. The LATC, it became the Los Angeles Theater Center, then it became the Latino Theater Center. And that’s what it is today, in 19, 2014, it’s been the, Jose Luiz and Evelina Fernandez have been owners and running that theater center for quite a few years now. But, when I was doing that at the, Ralph Waite’s place, we were doing, they call me up and said, “They need, they’re asking me to find them a Latino to play in the American Messenger Service. It’s six days of rehearsal 38:00with book in hand, you’re gonna perform for six days at the Mark Taper Forum.” I said, “Oh my god, that’s fantastic, I’d love to try out for that.” So Rudy Ramos and myself, who were both working at Ralph Waite’s place at different plays, I was doing Perfume and he was doing something else. We were the two that they picked to send to the LA theater, to the Taper, Mark Taper, to try out for The American Messenger Service. And I went in first, I did the audition, came out, and Rudy went in. And when I got out of the audition, I was walking through the corridors, there at the, at the Mark Taper Annex, the annex where they hold rehearsals, and they have all the offices. And I was walking out, and I was looking at all the posters. And I stopped at a poster of 39:00The Odd Couple. And I was looking at it, and as I was standing there, it just happened to be right at the crossroads where there was offices on the four points of the hallway. And I was looking there, and I hear, “Hey you.” I turn around, and there’s a young woman sitting in one of the offices, way in the back in the corner, and she could just see a corner of me, and she goes, “Yeah you, you, come here.” And I said, “Yes?” She goes, and I come to the door, and I said yeah, I didn’t go in. She goes, “You look like you could be, do you wanna try out for a play?” I said, “Excuse me?” She goes, “Do you, or don’t you?” I said, “Yes.” I had no idea what she was talking about. She’s, I just heard, do you wanna try out for a play? Of 40:00course, yes. Yes, what do I have to do? And she goes, “Okay, be here tomorrow.” And I said, “Okay, what time?” And she goes, “Be here at one o’ clock.” And I said, “Okay.” So I left, I came back to find out that it was Zoot Suit. They were holding open call, open casting call for a play called Zoot Suit. No one knew what it was. And so I went in, I walked in there, and they hand me a piece of paper. And I’ll never forget. They hand me the paper, I look at it, and it says, you know, Pachuco. And then it says, que le huacha a mis trapos. Sabe que estas garras me las planté, por que me dijeron que iba a estar aquí. Huacha mita, cuche. This is words, I said, “This is not Spanish. This is not Spanish, this is the stuff that I heard on the street in front of my house, done by the home boys, the Pachucos, Los Chuco Suaves. They were standing on the corner of my house. Right on 1st Street and 41:00Indiana. The way the local kids used to talk. You know, 12, 15, 17 year old kids. But it wasn’t Spanish. Huacha, tacuche, you know Lisa, tramos, carlango. Those are words that, I had never seen them written. " EJO: So when I said them, I said, wait a minute, that’s, carlango, that’s coat. That’s, you know, abrigo. That’s how that’s spelled. Tacuche, that’s a suit. That means suit. And so I started to break it down. And then after this whole speech, it said actor. And then it had, the play you’re about to see is a construct of 42:00fact and fantasy. But relax, weigh the facts, enjoy the pretense. And I’m reading it, I’m saying, am I supposed to do the whole thing, like I said, and I asked the stage manager, I said, “What am I supposed to do here? What am I playing?” He goes, “No no, read the whole thing. It’s the same character.” Pachuco, actor. I said, “Wow. This is, okay, okay.” I knew what they wanted though. They wanted the character, and then they wanted the guy who was creating that character to speak in normal language. So it’d be a switch, right? So I said, “Man oh man.” So I walked in there, and I did it. And sitting down there was Luis Val-... I mean, was Danny Valdez, Phyllis Barza, 43:00and a couple of people from the Mark Taper Forum. And there was about four or five people in there. And so I did it, I read it, and I walked in with an attitude. I said, okay, this is a Pachuco, okay. So I walked in, I never played just normal, straight, hi, everybody how are you. I never walked in the room like that. I walked in as hard as nails. I walked in like the chucos that I used to see in the corner, man, they had an attitude, they wore their pride. They wore it as like a shield. With an attitude, they had a, there’s an intensity that these kids had on the street corner man, you’d walk across the other side of the street rather than walk next to them. You don’t wanna pass them. You 44:00don’t wanna have eye contact with these guys. Cause they’ll, they’ll, they’ll do you right there in the street. What do you know me, you wanna know me, what is it? And it would be a confrontation immediately. And even little kids, so us little kids, we’d be, we’d go, we’d leave. We’d run around, but we would never look at them. You know just walk fast and hope that they didn’t grab us or do something, but they never did. But they, but the way that they stood there, and the style that they had, and the way that they fell, and the attitude, attitude, attitude. I mean just permeated it. It was just like, whoa, you don’t wanna mess with those guys. They have an attitude. And so I walked in with an attitude. I said okay, they want Pachuco, all right, I know Pachuco, I’ll give you Pachuco, you want Pachuco, you got it. You want it, here it is. So I walked into the reading of the thing with an attitude, boom. 45:00And I, and I carried it, and I just walked in, and I you know, kinda looked at everybody, but I didn’t really you know. And then all of a sudden, I said, “Okay, that’s it, you ready?” And I go, “Yeah, yeah. Que le huacha, mi strapos,” and then I started reading it with an attitude. And then, boom, when it gets to the actor I go, “Ladies and gentlemen. The play,” and then I did it as you know, bravado actor. It was crazy. And so I had a good time with it all right? I had a really good time, and I walked out. And as I was walking out, I folded that one sheet of paper, and I put it in my pocket as I’m walking towards the door. It was a huge room. It had exits, huge areas where you’d assemble entire plays, as if you were on top of the stage, that’s how big the rooms are. So I walked from there, they were at a table, two or three tables, and I walked away from them, and I put the piece of paper inside my pocket, and I walked out the door. But when I walked out the door, the stage manager said, 46:00“Where’s the paper?” I said, “Oh, I left it inside on the table.” It was in my pocket. Right? So I walked out to my car, I was driving my truck, I was delivering furniture, I used to deliver for my own, I had a little furniture moving business so I could take care of my life and, while I’m doing all of this different things. Cause I quit performing on stage as a singer, and had been working as an actor now. You remember, this is ’76, ’77, ’78. And so I walk out, and I said okay, and I got the paper, and I said well I’m gonna learn this, and I wanna go to the theater and find out who did it, and I wanna see them do it, I wanna see how real they are, you know. So I go and I work. I of course, forget all about it. I don’t remember the paper, and I do my work, and then the, my shirt, I took off my shirt, put it in the dirty clothes and I washed it. I washed it. I get a phone call about four days, five days later 47:00saying, “Can you come back for a callback?” I said, “Sure.” “Tomorrow?” “Yeah, yeah I’ll be there, what time? Okay I’ll be there.” Where’s the paper? Oh my god. So I go and I try to find it, and sure enough I found it in the pocket. Had been washed, had been dried, that big cycle. And I pull it up and it’s just in shreds, I’m like, shit, why didn’t I do what I said I was gonna do? I should’ve known this. But I had it there, and I was reading it and reading it and reading, and reading, reading. So I memorized it. So the next day, I go to work. Now this time, I walk in with a Levi jacket, long Levi coat, looked like a Wyatt Earp coat, you know. Levi, Levi’s, Levi shirt, and a Levi hat. Big brimmed hat. Okay, and I walk in, and they hand me, and I was like I hope they give me the same paper, I hope they give me, and sure enough, they gave me the one sheet of paper, and I go all 48:00right, all right. So they open the door, I go walking in here, and now sitting at the table is Luis Valdez, Teddy Valdez, Gordon Davidson, the head of the Mark Taper, and Ken, what’s Kenny’s last name? I’ll get it right now. Brecker. Ken Brecker. He was producing, Phil Esparza who was producing. All the producers, all… [INT: Did you know them before?] No, no no, I didn’t know who they were, I just, later on I found out who they were. But they were all sitting there I had no idea, I didn’t even care. I came in that room as a, not an actor, not a performer, but as a real street Cholo Pachuco. Okay, and I mean attitude flying, and boom. I walk in, and I had the paper at my side here. And 49:00then Luis says, “What’s your name?” And I just look at him. I didn’t even answer. I just looked at him. And then about 10 seconds goes by, 12 seconds, that’s a long time. That’s a long time to hold. And then I’m looking at him, and I say, like, “You can’t read it?” I said, “You got it right there. I know you got it,” I said, “You can’t read it?” So boom, right away it was a confrontation. And then he says, “Oh, okay. Go ahead, you wanna, you wanna do it?” And I said, “Just a minute.” And I grab the paper, I look at it, and I just throw it away, I throw it to one side. Very dramatic. I mean I was, I was there to knock it out of the park for myself. You know if you want this guy, here it is. The real deal. And I did it, and I 50:00started to, I did the first part of it, and all Pachuco attitude going, and I said all of the Cholo, I mean the Calon that was on the page. EJO: And then I went into the, and as I, but what I did, as soon as I got to be the actor, I did a spin. Cause remember, I was a dancer. Okay. So I spun. Whoo. And I came across with the hat, zoom. Ladies and gentlemen. And then all of a sudden, boom, I was the actor talking to them directly. Now I’m looking right at them again. But now, with a completely different attitude, as a performer, and talking to them. And then after I finished the end of it I put the hat back on. It’s a secret fantasy of everybody to put on the zoot suit and play the myth. Las chuco degala chingala. And boom, I hit it, it’s the first time I hit it. Swayed back, the whole thing. Boom, there it was, right? And Luis was like, Luis was 51:00looking, the whole place was quiet. I mean nobody said anything. And then Luis was just looking at me, he goes, “Okay, can you sing?” Oh no, he said, “Can you dance?” He said first, “Can you dance?” And I hit a set of splits. All the way to the ground. And as I’m coming out of the splits, coming up the splits, I run my hand across the top of my hat like this. And I looked at him and I said, “Better than the Italian Stallion.” 'Cause Travolta had done this other piece. He had done, you know, Saturday Night Live, right? And so I said, “Better than,” in attitude, in Pachuco, it was el Cholo. Better, it cracks me up, I would have loved to have experienced that from the other side of 52:00the table. Because it must’ve been a real trip. So I did it, and then he says, “Can you sing?” And I said, “Like a bird.” And he says, “Okay go to the, go next door. And there’s a, you’ll be dancing in the back over there.” And I walked out of the room with a sway, you know and the whole thing. Sacudiendo Mosca like we say, swatting the flies with the hands on the back of the butt, you know, swinging. So I walk out of the room, I walk around the corner. Now I’m in character. I’m not gonna break it. Not hallway, not for anybody. As far as I was concerned, I was El Pachuco, period. And I walked into this dance area, and there was the head captain of the dance troupe. And she teamed us up immediately, me and Evelina Fernandez. Boom. “You and him.” “Okay.” And she became you know, the best artist we had. And we have, to 53:00this day, she’s still one of the great actresses of all time. [INT: So this moment, Eddie was just really crucial to your career.] Oh. [INT: This was the moment, right?] This is, this was the moment that literally changed the course of not only my life, okay, it changed my life, sure. Cause I got to expose my creativeness in all of the elements that I had been working on for years. Music, it was a musical, I had to sing, I had to dance. I had to do drama, I had to do comedy. I had to do all of that. Now I had been doing all of that in, on stage. Both in theater, but more importantly as a singer. I would entertain people, being funny. I could you know, be like, use humor. But at the same time I would switch it on them. And I would become really dramatic on the song that I was about to sing, and I would cry, if the song was a really tender song, I would, 54:00boom. I was crying, and really emotional, and then you know if it was a happy go lucky song I would be up and at them and running around, and dancing like crazy, jumping off of, I used to jump off of six, seven foot speakers into a set of splits. Wham, and hit the splits, and slowly come up and dance around. We were doing moves that Michael Jackson later on became famous for. And those, I’m not trying to brag, what I’m trying to tell you, is that the art form was developing. I got my situation from James Brown. I came straight from James Brown, I watched James Brown, and I could do James Brown as well as James Brown could do James Brown. And then I took it, and I took it to my own level, and I started using my own situation with it. Well, this style that I, that we were 55:00using, and the movement that we had, and the things that we were doing, you know this was in the ‘60s. ’64, ’63, ’64, ’65. Those movements were not, you know, they were still with Elvis Presley. Elvis was like nothing compared to what the African American was doing, and what movement was going on then. It was like listening to you know, I liked Elvis, don’t get me wrong, and he was little, he was real, ooh, Elvis Presley, the way he would move, do his hips. That was nothing compared to what was going on in the African American community. To music and soul, and the whole idea of dancing. [INT: So this whole thing, this Chicano thing, you know this Zoot Suit character, got you in. It made everyone aware of your talent. It changed your life.] Yeah but it wasn’t, like I said, and I haven’t finished, really being expressive, because I get so caught up in the moment as I’m listening to myself even say it. It was about a culture. It was about a whole understanding of who we were, as human beings. Cut. It’s Eddie doing whatever he’s doing. Cut, then it’s a performance on 56:00a stage. What are the values of the art form. Theater, music, acting, storytelling, poetry, you know drama, comedy. All of that mixed together by one of the great, great, you know, playwrights and writers of any era. Luis Valdez is brilliant. And you know, he, that was, I think it, Harold Clurman said it best, when we opened on Broadway with this piece, he said, “This is a culture that has been waiting to be heard. And this is, they’re saying their story, it’s beautiful.” He said, “This play is amazingly beautiful.” Harold gave us the strongest review we’ve ever had on that play. [INT: And for this, you got a Tony nomination.] We were nominated for a Tony, for the performance, 57:00it was my first time on Broadway. I won the Theater World award, I won the critics award, I won the Tony nomination for that performance. [INT: And then they adapted it to the screen.] We adapted it to the screen a couple years later. And performed it as a film, but in a atmosphere that was quite original. Again, this was Luiz Valdez at his height of understanding what he was doing. "INT: How did you make this transition from acting for the stage to film? How was that transition? EJO: The transition, which I had been exposed to both, I had been exposed to film and to television, and to motion, and to theater. Theater I started, like I said, when I was 17. And I started work on theater, but I hadn’t been exposed to film, I hadn’t performed on film. But I found 58:00it to be all depending on the character in the story more than it depended on what the medium was. Even though on stage it’s, I consider it this way. The difference between playing an electric guitar and playing an acoustic guitar. The difference is, they’re still guitars. But the touch is completely different. The touch of performance on stage is completely different than the touch of performance on film and television. [INT: How?] Well, with film and television, it’s all in the eye. Here is the performance, right here. And in theater, it’s the whole body. The whole thing. So when you go like this, it means something. You know you do this, you know, we used to, I could change the mood of a scene just by the angle of my hand. The Kabuki theater. I studied 59:00Kabuki and I studied Khali, Indian theater, and I used to see how they would move. And they could change the atmosphere, the feeling of the room by just a single movement of the hand. It was amazing, I would say, you know and, people are watching it right now can see it becomes, you know, all of a sudden. I’m saying what I’m saying, but something else is going on. And so we, I used that in Zoot Suit, and it went right through the roof. And my performances on film were much more inside of it than just standing there. You don’t move. You’re all inside the moment of the eye. And the human emotion is coming through. And so everybody’s stuck on the eye, even though yes you could be bigger than life, and dancing around doing whatever else you wanna do on film, but basically 60:00when people wanted to know what you were thinking, what you were saying and what they felt, they go right to the face. And that’s why the invented the close-up. And the first people that used the close-up were really smart. " "INT: So what were the most challenging aspects of shooting your first film? EJO: The biggest challenges I think, of shooting a film is self consciousness. On stage, you usually get self conscious before you go on, you just try to grab a hold of it, and all you can think of is I’m gonna go up, I’m gonna go up right now, I’m gonna go up. You know you get, you know, then finally you get down to the very seconds before, curtain going up, five minutes, okay. And then you’re completely wacko, your nervous system’s going and then boom, the curtain goes 61:00up and you’re on stage and you forget about everything. Let’s take care of business. On film, well it’s the same thing. But you couldn’t, on film you don’t get yourself going. If you do, if you do a three minute scene in a movie, like on a take. Oh, that’s like years. Years and years of time, you know. But it’s very quick. It’s only minutes, and so you, cut. Before they’re cutting you. And there’s nothing organic or normal about film and television. Nothing. And you know, people will say, well I feel very comfortable, I don’t even think about the camera. Okay, great. You don’t think about the camera, you don’t think, but you’re, tell me what’s organic about this? Quiet on the set. Okay ready? Okay everyone. Action. There’s nothing organic about that, okay? At least in theater, curtain going 62:00up, okay, and lights, okay, the curtain goes up. The play starts. It starts. And it goes on, and it goes on, and it goes on, and it goes on. Five, 10, 15, 20 minutes sometimes, one scene. You know. You know, or you know it’s just a couple of quick moments and then cut the light, and then you’re into the next scene, and then, but in film, in television, oh my god. You just have to get ready for that total focus to be thrown into. From, hair, makeup, okay, touch the face, okay, ready, okay yeah, okay ready? Okay now, action. Oh please. You know. And then you have to jump right in there and then they go, “Cut.” What are you cutting for? You know, why are you cutting? You know, in your mind 63:00you’re saying this, you’d never ask a director why you’re cutting. You never ask very many questions on the set. That was one of my biggest, biggest faults, is I would always ask questions. " "INT: What was it like working with Luis Valdez? EJO: Working with Luis Valdez is probably the high-one of the high points of my experience in theater and in film. Tremendous, tremendous artist, who really understood, and really focused in on what it was that he was doing with his life. And he was really confident, and wonderful, wonderful performer. So his performance level as an actor is very high. I think that’s probably his biggest forte. But his writing ability is just like amazing. So his intellect is, comes out in everything he does. He breathes, eats, sleeps his life. And his life is full, it’s whole. Always whole, even in his worst moments of pain, and discomforts that he’s had, and he’s had some really strong ones, because 64:00he’s an artist. And he’s you know, he’s still that solid person who will give you, he gives a lot of himself in everything he does. He’s not floating around, he doesn’t, when he’s directing, he’s totally in focus. And demands that of you, just by his presence. His presence demands that you be on you’re A game. Or, what are you doing there? You know, and when, he comes from, he started El Teatro Campesino. And this theater group started in the back of trucks, helping Cesar Chavez understand the plight of the farm worker. And the migrant worker. And that’s really where it grabbed this whole sense of balance. And it was very, very large in its presentations from the back of a 65:00truck, it was a stake truck, they just moved it a block, put up the... and that was their stage. And they would perform actos, acts. And this was in ’64, ’65, when he was studying at San Jose State. And he then went on to become a professor there, a teacher. But his whole performances started from live performances that he would perform in. He was the actor, as well as the writer of the pieces, as well as, and his brother Danny would help him write the music, his brother played, sang songs and wrote music. But and also was an actor, but his performances were more, he like music more than he liked performance and acting. He was a storyteller by way of music. And as well as Luis. But Luis was a consummate artist in the performing arts. He could dance, he could sing, he 66:00could write, he could direct, he could produce. It all worked for him, and he’s one of the few guys on the planet that can do that. You know. [INT: What do you see as the film, Zoot Suit film significance today? What are the, what resonance does it have with you, or you’ve heard, or seen?] His, that play to me is the beginning of an understanding of a cultural dynamic in the United States that had never been seen before. It was the first American play dealing with Latino themes in the United States of America, ever. And not to say that Short Eyes, and or West Side Story, which were pieces that came out before Zoot Suit, I think they, yeah. I think they did. For sure West Side Story. But they were not as deeply rooted inside the experience, cultural experience as was Zoot 67:00Suit at the moment when it hit the stage. They used culture in like West Side Story. But you know, it was really more about the music than it was about the culture, even though the songs portrayed, you know, I like to be in America, you know, feelings of what these people were going through. With us, it was really blatantly a story about injustice, and profound discrimination, and based on truth and reality. There was nothing made up. Everything was taken from facts. And Luis was brilliant in his construct, and his usage of the theater concepts that he did. [INT: Do you think that this was the reason that it didn’t have a 68:00broader appeal? The fact that it was so rooted in the culture?] It had a huge appeal. To everyone. Everyone that saw it enjoyed the piece. [INT: No, definitely, but I’m saying I thought that it could’ve been even greater than it was in its dissemination, you know. In the culture, it was marginal, it was, it did have great success, you know.] Mm-hmm. [INT: But not for my, in my thinking it seemed to me like it could’ve been even bigger.] Well, depending on what you consider to be bigger, you know, in the respects of what we’re talking about. But it hit, everyone that has seen that play, the play, remembers it. Everyone. Black, white, brown, yellow, red, didn’t matter what culture you were, you saw that play, you remembered the play. I would say that the impact 69:00was so profound that people came from all over the world. That play was seen by the entire Moscow Theater. They came over here in two airplanes, passenger airplanes, filled, hundreds of them. Two of them. Came to watch the play. The entire Moscow Theater came. Five Kabuki families from Japan came to see the play. Different ones. The Khali theater came to see the play. Theatrical troupes of the Khali Theater came to see. The entire Royal Shakespearian Company, every single member, including the executive director, flew in to see the play. Here in Los Angeles. And they came at different times. And but the world was turned 70:00on, the theatrical world was turned on, and it became a shot heard around the world. Very few artists have ever come out of the American Theater as strongly as El Pachuco the character came out. I was fortunate to be able to perform it, and I was fortunate to be able to be prepared to be able to do the character, because the character was not simple. It was very rooted inside the culture. So not only did you have to have the gifts and the talents of, and develop them, and singing, dancing, comedy, drama. But you had to be able to understand the cultural dynamic that was being portrayed because that really was the essence of 71:00the piece. And later on, years and years and years later, Luis came out and said that when he saw me perform it the very first time, he knew that his biggest fear had been eliminated. That he had found his Pachuco. And that you know, he was very grateful, because it’s a very, he could perform it. And if he had to, he would’ve had to perform it. He would’ve had to play El Pachuco. Because there’s very few people that could do everything that was needed to be done. " EJO: You know, he couldn’t dance like I danced. And that’s where it, he was blown away. Cause I started doing things with, on stage that weren’t choreographed. I would throw the microphone. I remember I was singer, lead singer, went crazy. I would throw the microphone in the air, high up in the air. I would spin twice, hit a set of splits as the microphone’s coming down, and 72:00catch it as it’s coming down, and grab, I would hit the floor at the same time the microphone would land on the floor, in my hand. And then I would come up, slowly come back up, and continue to sing. And the first time I did it, everything stopped. Luis was sitting there looking at it happen, and knew that we had crossed to a high level of artistic endeavor. Because my dancing and my performances were as strong as his dialogue. As his portrayal of this character. And I could, I was capable of handling his words. And so I was, he was at home finally, and he was very happy. "INT: Let us talk about Blade Runner and your work with Ridley Scott. How did you come to that role? EJO: Blade Runner came by way of a young woman who, Katie Haber, who was associate producer of the film, who had seen me perform El Pachuco. Zoot Suit on stage. And the year was 1980, 73:00and they call me in to meet with Ridley. And the character, they hadn’t sent me the script, they just told me a little bit about the character, but I came in knowing that the piece took place in the future. At that point it was 40 years in the future. 2019. I knew that I was a cop. And I came in, and I sat there with him, and I said, “Listen.” Remember, at that point I was doing El Pachuco, I had hit a very high point of understanding. I had already done one film before his. There was a large film called Wolfen, which I did with Michael Wadleigh, and myself and Albert Finney. And Diane Venora, it was her first 74:00performance, Diane. Brilliant Shakespearian actress. And also Tom Noonan, and first, Gregory Hines’ first performance on film. And so there was some, some of us were just busting out, it was my first major commercial piece of work in film. I’d done some other work, but I had not done, nothing of that caliber, that amount of expense, it was a very expensive film to make. And so I’d done that. And I played a Native American in that, I played a Mohawk Indian. Steel worker. In Blade Runner, when I walked in, I looked at him, and I said, 75:00“Listen, I wanna do something that, if I do this with you, I’d like to do it a certain way, and I’d like to bring a certain cultural dynamic to the piece.” And he says, and in his English tone, he says, “What do you mean?” And I said, “Well, I want my character to know where he comes from. And his great, great grandfather on his mother’s side was from Russia. He was a sailor. And he went to Japan, and found his wife, my great great grandmother. Russian, Jew, Japanese, Buddhist, come together. They in turn have children, grandparents, and those grandparents, that child then goes to Norway, and then to France, and finds a French grandmother. And that Asian and Russian child now is with a French German.” And so, I’m making it up like I am right now. I 76:00did it to him. And I said, and I followed the line down to my parents. On just my mother’s father’s side, okay. Then I did it on my mother’s mother’s side, and then I did it with my father’s. And so pretty soon he’s like sitting there listening to all of this thing, and I said, “And I speak all the languages.” And he’s looking at me and he goes, and I said, it would sound like [SPEAKING GIBBERISH]. And it was just gibberish. It was just gibberish and 77:00tones of different kind of, you know, and I said, and he said, “What is that?” I go, “I don’t know, I mean, I don’t know the languages yet, but I’ll learn them. And I will bring to life this thing, because I really believe,” and this is when we got deeply into it. I said, “I really believe that the future is cultural. Big time. More than you will ever anticipate.” And I said, “It’s gonna be Asian will be the dominant. But the Latino experience will be, which is like Filipino, it’s gonna be a mixture, a strong mixture of culture to make up one culture. And like the Filipino is probably the 78:00best identity cause it’s Asian indigenous, African, and Latin all mixed together. And it’s like beautiful, exotic people. But it’s really a very complex combination of different cultures that have come together on this little island.” And so I said, “That’s what the United States, and the world’s gonna be like in the future, it’s gonna be all people of color. I mean Caucasian people, European based people are not gonna be pure. Neither will the Asian people, they won’t be pure. The purity’s going right out the window, because people are coming together and they’re getting…” And so… [INT: What did he say? How did he react?] He loved it. He loved it. And so I, I ended up getting the job. And so I had, for six months I had to work in Berlitz, 79:00getting my dialogue, and turning it into languages. And then I went to some people, some of the lines in it are just hysterical, you know. The most well known line, I think is Hungarian. Which was, when I learned it I said, “I gotta use that, and it’s, nobody knows what I’m gonna say, unless you’re Hungarian of course.” And it’s the scene where Harrison Ford’s char-Decker, is sitting at a sushi bar, and he’s eating food. And the Japanese chef, sushi maker, is there, and he was completely crowded, and I bash him on the side with my cane, and I was, my character, I developed my entire character, the wardrobe, everything, the way he looked, and the eyes, the color of the skin, the kinda haircut, the Italian punk haircut, with the, you know, cobalt blue eyes, and it was, skin was yellow, and the mustache was French, and kind of a French-ish. And his dress was a really strange, different elements of… " "INT: So you were the one that… EJO: Everything. I worked with the costume 80:00people, I worked in the designing the hat that I wore in the spinner. I created the hat, I said, “Give me a P-52 fighter pilot helmet.” And he goes, “What?” “Get out, and then put little things on it. All kinds of stuff like, futuristic little knick knacks of stuff. But it’s gonna be an old P-52 fighter pilot hat.” And he goes, “Okay.” So that’s what they gave me, so I jump in the spinner, and I put on my 1942, you know, fighter pilot hat from World War II, on, and I’m flying the spinner, if you look at it, it’s hysterical. I mean it’s just this really advanced. And that’s where the 81:00origami comes up. Origami came out of a situation where he’s sitting in the scenes, and not having anything to do, and they wanted me to be in the back, and I said, “This is terrible. Cause if I move, it draws attention. And if I don’t move, it draws attention. So I need to do something that will keep me, as if I’m doing something, but that isn’t too big.” So I found a piece of Wrigley chewing gum wrapper, and it was made out of, half of it’s got white on it, where the gum is, and on the outside is the cello-... feels like it’s a metallic. [INT: Tin foil.] Tin foil. And so tin foil on one side and then white on the inside where you put the gum, and it was just kind of like sitting there, like it was all crumpled up in the ash tray. Probably one of the prop guys had been chewing gum, and just put it down there. And I was far away, you couldn’t 82:00see what I was, where I was. I mean you could see me, but you couldn’t tell what I was, so I picked it up, and I did it, and I made it into a chicken at the end of the scene when he was over. I put the chicken down and he says, “Cut,” and I just went, “Bawk bawk.” And then he, and then I put it down there and he came over, and Ridley looked at it, and he says, “Bring the camera around,” and he shot it. And that was the beginning of, and then me and the prop guy worked on the stick man, which was the second little origami piece that we did out of a match, I’m standing during the scene, cause I’m taking him around, but I’m not doing anything. I’m like overseeing him, but he’s the real, the detective who is trying to find out where, where Leon’s, we go to Leon’s apartment and he’s looking around for things that can help him understand anything about the scene, so I’m there, so I’m making this little stick man, and at the end, I put, I put the little stick man down, and he’s 83:00got a little hard on, and he’s got, flips across and I just put him like that, and he’s sitting there with his little thing sticking up, and he’s like this, and it was, I was commenting on the scenes that were happening, with my little origami pieces. Little did I know that Ridley would grab that, and make it one of the most stunning reversals of modern times, and how to throw a curve ball in everything, and everybody. Cause he used the last origami, which he made, I didn’t know it was even, I went to see the movie and I saw that it was there and I go, oh my god. That’s me leaving something, and it’s the unicorn. And the unicorn was Decker’s dream. So what Ridley had said, was saying by leaving that there, is that I knew that Decker was also a replicant. And I was guarding him. And of course, that was never spoken, and Harrison Ford hated it, hated the idea, and hated the whole situation, and it became a real 84:00issue for many many years, it was a big issue. And finally people grabbed a hold of it the last, you know, 10 years. They really embraced it as being one of the great you know, films of sci-fi ever made. But the cultural dynamic, the Asian, I brought the Asian cultural dynamic, I brought the different languages, city speak, I was all, brought that into light. So I brought the culture to Blade Runner." "INT: Now you, your contributions with these directors have been really fabulous. The one, one of the other relationships that you’ve had, which is very collaborative has been with Robert Young. EJO: Bob, yeah, Robert M. Young. [INT: Yeah. When did this relationship start, and how did it start, was it with the Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, or Alambrista?] It started in 1975, with Alambrista, the casting of Alambrista. I walked into a small little trailer, one 85:00of the little small bug trailers that you get, it’s got a small little door, you got a like, and it’s a real small little, it’s not a big trailer. And has no space in it, it’s just a little thing, and it was out in the parking lot of public, PBS. It was KCET’s parking lot. And when I went there, they said, “Okay, go to the parking lot, you’ll see a trailer there. He’s in there.” And so I said, “Okay,” so I went there for the audition. And it was just me and him, and it was just two chairs in the little trailer, and that’s all that would fit in there. And he sat in one, I sat in the other. And that’s where he was holding his auditions, and his casting, by himself. And 86:00the movie was Alambrista. He had written it. And so I went there, and we talked for about 45 minutes. And later on he told me, cause we’d been, that was the beginning of a very long relationship. It’s been over, I don’t know, 36, 37 years now, that we’ve been doing work together. And so at that moment, that’s where it all started. And I didn’t get the role. I didn’t, the role that I inevitably got was, he called me up, about a year later, and told me he was working on the film. And that if I would come and help him, he called me the night before. If I would jump on an airplane in the morning, and fly up to Stockton. And I said, “Of course. I’ll be there in a second, yes. It’d be my honor.” Didn’t ask any questions about anything other than, “Will you do this for me?” I said, “Yes.” And I was on the airplane the following morning. And I flew to Stockton, California. And as I got off the airplane, 87:00I’ll never forget. There was Bob, by himself, the director, picking me up at the Stockton airport, which is a little, you get off on the tarmac, there’s, it’s a little hut, just about, that the Stockton airport. And the year was 1975. And so I got out, and he says, “Do you want breakfast?” I said, “Sure.” You know. So he takes me to the counter inside of this small little thing, and orders me Cornflakes. So I’m sitting there eating Cornflakes with a little bit of milk. And he’s sitting there, not eating, he’s just sitting there looking at me and talking to me. And you know, he was about 49 years old then. And you know I was 25, 26, almost 26 years old, then. Cause we started ’75. It was, I guess about 25 then. But after breakfast, we went to the, the set. And at the set, I found out that he hadn’t slept, cause he had worked the 88:00night before. So he was working with no sleep. And as we walked in, I learned my very first, major, major contribution that I’ve just been so grateful. Everything that I learned from experiencing working with that man, has been amazing. It’s as amazing as my great grandfather telling me about stop signs. The wisdom that he just has, period, he doesn’t try to tell you anything. But he’s a very smart man, he went into MIT at the age of 14. And he was a very smart kid, he would’ve got in there at 12 but his parents said, “No, you’re not gonna go to college at 12.” But he was very smart. And so we were there on the, on the scene, and set, and we were gonna shoot that night, it was 89:00a night shoot again. But this was, we were there about 10 o’ clock now, I flew in about, I’d say about nine, I got there, and probably by 9:30 I was having that breakfast. And then we’d drive, him and I, he drove me over to the set. And as he gets off, there’s about, maybe six people on the crew, at the most. That was it. His crew was like six people. And you know, and so, they were gathered around and he says, “Okay. I’ll need, you know, we got all the stuff,” I said, and then I found out what all the stuff was. It was pots, huge pots, and they had been cooking beans. Huge pots. Three, four of them, full of beans. And they had put meat in there, and made like a, somewhat like a bean soup, but it was really like chili and beans, chili beans. And so they made it, 90:00and somebody, and they had big things, and it was about, I’d say now it’s about 11:30, 12 o’ clock. And he had gotten bread and milk. So he, we were on the street, in Stockton. And that’s the last vestige of dignity that anybody can have, as far as really trying to stay alive, and really work and do stuff, to keep yourself from dying of starvation, and or being in, being taken care of by somebody, because you’re not working. These people are still trying to work. And they sit there, they sit there all day, waiting for the night time to come, so that in the early, wee hours of three o’ clock, four o’ clock in the morning when the shape up starts, they get picked to go out and pick fruit, 91:00and pick vegetables. And this is where, this is how they do it, the shape up was what we were gonna film that night. And that’s what we needed. And so I found that this, all this out later. And so, but he, what he did, about 12 o’ clock, one o’ clock, he then goes to the middle of the street, and holler, now there’s people that are sleeping on the street, there’s, it’s really the last vestige of hope, like I said, that people are hungry, they’re trying, there’s a lot of alcoholism, they’re trying to stay one step from you know, being panhandling. They’re just trying to stay alive. And so he goes out in the middle of the street and he hollers at everybody and goes, “Come and get it everybody. If you’re hungry, come and eat.” And nobody moves. And he walks over, and he says that, and then he walks over to the thing, and he grabs 92:00some beans, puts it in a cup, paper cup, and grabs a piece of bread, and he grabs some milk, and he goes and he sits on the curb, right on the gutter curb of the street and he starts to eat, by himself. And then, I see that, and I go over and I grab beans, and I put some stuff in it, and I go over, and I do the same thing, and I sit next to him, and I’m eating beans too. All right, and with the milk, and the bread. And I’m eating it, and it’s delicious, and I’m eating it, it’s really good, I’m eating my bread. And then the rest of the crew, three or four more people get in line, and they get their food also. " EJO: And then one guy from the street comes over, and he’s like looking around to see if somebody’s gonna tell him to get away, or because he’s, they’re really, no hygiene, it’s really gross, it’s really hard, hard life. And he goes over and he looks around, and so he grabs beans, and he puts it in the 93:00thing, kinda hurried, and kinda scared, and waiting for people to holler at him. And he grabs the milk, and he grabs the bread, and he leaves. And then two, three, five, ten. Pretty soon there’s a line. Everybody in the street came and started to eat. And they were all eating, everybody’s around, and we’re all eating, and we’re all, you know, some people now are talking to each other, and everybody’s eating, and going back for more, and they finished everything. Everything was eaten. And so they ended up, that night, boy. Thank god we had fed those people. Cause that night it got really, really, very difficult. Because the farmers and the guys who do the driving of the buses and trucks to get the people, didn’t want us on that street. They wanted us out of there. And Bob came to film the shape up. So how they pick people, and how they get them on, cause he’s a documentist of the highest form, he had spent almost, he was the man who invented documentary journalism for television back in the 94:001940s, late ‘40s, early ‘50s. And he did the first four NBC White Papers, and he’s the first, one of the first people, if not the first person to go underneath the water with a camera. And they built the housing, you know they used Jacque Cousteau’s aqualungs, and he would go down and shoot, he shot the very first underwater footage, ever shot. This was in the late ‘40s. And so here we are, he had been, documentaries, had made some brilliant documentaries. And so here we are, and it’s, he’s doing his first dramatic piece of work, he had done Nothing But a Man, with Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln, he did that in 1964, after he had gotten his film, Actritele Cashino, confiscated and burned by NBC. They took it and they burned it. And just by an incredible story 95:00of how those elements were saved by one of the people who worked in the laboratory. They saved the elements before they came, and they made copies of everything, and then they took the originals and they burned them, and destroyed them. And then this guy took the elements, the copies, and brought them over to Bob years later. And they said, “Here’s your film.” And he said, “You’re kidding.” He said, “No, here it is.” And so him and his brother went off to Philadelphia and they finished the movie. And that was the movie that nobody could see, because it was confiscated, it was burned, it was supposed to be, and so they were doing something illegal. They didn’t, they had been commissioned to do it, they didn’t own the right to do it. So he did 96:00it, and that movie can be seen today, it’s an incredible film. So it, at this time, that was all he had done was documentaries, and here we were doing this piece of work, his first dramatic piece that he wrote and was directing. He had done co-writing and co-directing of a piece called Nothing but a Man, which was a beautiful film by Ivan Dixon, with Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln, back in ’64. Which won great critical acclaim. So here we were with his first piece, I’m there, and I see that he had, by feeding the people, the people were on his side. So when we started to film, and they started to throw bottles or rocks, they sent all the farmers, sent their henchmen to try to get us off the street, so they had climbed up on top of the roofs and were throwing stuff at us while we were trying to film. And it was really dangerous, and there was, like I said, there was like six of us, but now we had the street, and all the workers and all the people, they liked us. So they didn’t want anything to happen to us, so they were like our protector. And when the shape up came, they filmed it, 97:00and it was brilliant. But that’s the first time I ever worked with Bob, and became, I never wanted to do a film any other way. I learned that process of making films in 1975, and I kept that in, his aesthetic, I learned his aesthetic and never did I change from it, to this day. And we’ve been making films together for a long time, American Me, we did together, we’ve done Triumph of the Spirit, we’ve done Talent for the Game, we’ve done Caught. [INT: And The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez.] The Ballad was the key. [INT: So tell me about The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez and why it’s so important to you.] The Ballad was, and still is probably the best film I’ve ever been a part of. Because of the aesthetic that Bob uses, it became, it became a tremendous piece of work. Bob and I, Bob wrote the initial structure of the piece. And then I came in and I 98:00helped him write portions of my performance, my character. But it’s a true story. It’s maybe one of the few American heroes of Latin culture that’s ever been placed on the big screen in the history of film. Even to this day, there are very few. But that was truly one of the very first. And that’s not saying that Benito Juarez wasn’t, that Paul Muni did back in the ‘30s and ‘40s wasn’t a beautiful piece. But that was a Mexican story. This is an all American story of an American hero of Mexican ancestry. Here, Chicano. Here in the United States. And the year was 1901, and the authenticity was hit such a high level. When I talk about the aesthetic, Bob’s aesthetic, when I use that, 99:00what his aesthetic, it’s a very simple aesthetic, but very difficult to do. You don’t romanticize, you don’t glamorize, you don’t exploit. You don’t gratuitize. You don’t manipulate your audience, and you play no results. Now, pretty simple, until you try to do it. And then when you start to like, okay no romanticization, no romanticizing, no glamorizing, no exploiting, no manipulation, no results. How do you do that? If you watch his movies, you’ll see how you do it, and the outcome of his films is that you have a real understanding of the, you’re documenting human behavior, but it’s a fictionalized dramatic piece of work. So when I saw it being used when I 100:00produced The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez. And it was my first production as a producer. The year was 1982, ’81 is when we started actually, ’81. And… [INT: Did you do it out of necessity or?] It was an interesting, Moctesuma Esparza, who was a producer, executive producer, asked me if I would work with him on a film called Jack, John Nichol’s piece. [INT: INT: The Milagro Beanfield War?] Yeah, Milagro Beanfield War. "EJO: He asked me if I would do Milagro Beanfield War, and I had been exposed to Milagro Beanfield War, I’d read it in 1979, when Michael Wadleigh used me in, to do Wolfen, he had the 101:00rights to John Nichol’s piece, Milagro Beanfield War, and he wanted me to play the lead character. But he lost the rights, and we went off to do Wolfen. And but I knew about The Milagro Beanfield War. So when Mocte came up to me and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it, I said, he says, “I got two projects I want you to help me with.” I go, “Okay.” He goes, “One of them’s The Milagro Beanfield War, and the other one’s With a Pistol in His Hand, The Story of Gregorio Cortez.” I didn’t know anything about that, The Ballad. But I said, “Well great. Let’s do it, cause I really like, you know, John 102:00Nichol’s book.” What a tremendous piece of work he had written. And The Milagro Beanfield War was a, really a gorgeous piece of work. So he in turn, he says, “But before we do Milagro, we gotta do With a Pistol in His Hand.” And he says, “Who do you want to work with?” And I says, “Well,” I didn’t know anything about it. So I said, “I know who I wanna work with.” He says, “Who?” And I go, “Robert Young.” And as soon as he said that, I wanted to work with Robert Young. I want him to direct me in this. He says, “Oh. Can you get him?” I said, “I don’t know, let’s find out.” So they had, Victor Villaseñor had written a script on Doctor Americo Paredes’s book, With a Pistol in His Hand, which was a doctorial book, written by Doctor Paredes, to 103:00get his doctorate. And so I read the script and the script was not going to work, knowing the aesthetic that I had learned back in ’76, ’77 with Robert Young. I embedded that into my brain, and by 1980s I was pretty strongly committed to it, matter of fact all my performances had that in it, everything was in that manner, moving towards that aesthetic all the time, whatever I did. [INT: So you really, there was a big switch.] Big one. [INT: Giant.] It was the single most important element in my artistry, was that, with… [INT: Tell me from the beginning.] The biggest… [INT: How it changed from Robert Young to, from the Zoot Suit to Robert Young.] Well, Robert Young was ’75. Zoot Suit was 104:00’78. I brought Robert Young’s aesthetic to my performance in Zoot Suit. So remember, romanticization, glamorization, exploitation, you know, manipulation, results, oriented. I brought that, I carried that, so when I would work with Luis, he loved where I was coming from, cause I had all that, that was my aesthetic now, I was using it. So, and same thing happened with Ridley, and because it would, I wouldn’t talk about the aesthetic, I would just apply it. So that when I was talking to them about their pieces, I would apply those situations and say to them, you shouldn’t glamorize this, or why are we exploiting this? What’s the reason for manipulating the audience in this way? Why do we have a result here? You know, keep it in movement, keeping it going. 105:00People best know, when you play a result, musically, da da da da dun. Dun. The dun is the result. Da da da da dun, dun. Dun. Don’t play the result. da da da da dun. Da da da da dun. Do do do do do, do do do do do, do do do do do do, do do, do do, do do, and it just keeps on building, building, building, building, building. But you never hit that result. [INT: It’s more like jazz.] It’s, well, you can call it in any musical term you want to, it is a jazz form. But more than that, it’s not allowed, you have to see the next scene to understand the last one. When you start to move with that understanding, with that aesthetic, it’s brilliant. Because like I used to, the first time I ever 106:00directed a film, feature, was American Me. By the time I touched American Me, I’d been working on that project for 18 years, with Floyd Mutrux back in 1973, I did a film with Floyd. He’s the reason I got my SAG card in 1972, on Aloha Bobby and Rose. And he had hired me, I was an extra. And he ended up pulling me out of the extra line, of hundreds and hundreds of guys that were in the scene, playing pool at this pool yard, pool hall, in Hollywood, downtown Hollywood, Hollywood and Western, in the Hollywood Billiard Room. He pulled me out of a whole bunch of people, and he says, “You come over here,” cause they were having trouble with the scene. And again, he thought I was a street person, he didn’t know I was an actor, he didn’t know I was a singer, he knew nothing about me. He just liked my face and said, “Come here.” And so he brought me over, he says, “Can you say this? That’s how they play uptown, with 107:00markers?” I said, “Yeah.” I didn’t crack a smile, didn’t say, “Oh my gosh, yeah of course, I can do whatever you like, yeah, I’m ready for it, yeah.” You know, didn’t do nothing, nothing. I just looked at him, said, “Yeah.” He said, “Okay.” So we did it, we did the scene, and it worked. He carried me from there for five weeks on the picture, giving me things to do in the movie. And then 90 percent of it never made it to the screen. But it didn’t matter, I got my SAG card. Boom, finally got it. So I had started, I knew from you know, ’75, ’76, of moving forward from, with Bob, I gained access to my understanding of the aesthetic, and then I went on to use it in, with Zoot Suit, and then with everybody else. And The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, what was really poignant about it for me, was the fact that Mocte said to me, “Who do you want?” I just looked at him and says, “Don’t worry about this movie. I’ll take care of all of it. I’ll produce it.” And I had produced before this, in the ‘70s, I’ve never talked about this, but I had 108:00produced music. I had, in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, I had helped engineer and final mix things like BB King, Live in London. I had produced and helped final mix Eric Clapton’s first album. I had done Delaney and Bonnie, I had worked with Delaney and Bonnie since the late ‘60s, and had helped them in the studio, and learned immense things from everybody, and but especially those guys, Delaney and, I learned a lot from Joe Zagarino, who was the true producer and engineer of BB King, the band, Big Pink album, he was the, the engineer on that album, and he had done some really extraordinary, The Rolling Stones albums, Sticky Fingers, that was all his. He worked with Jimmy Miller and those guys. " "INT: So you were producing for a long time before. EJO: I was producing 109:00music. [INT: Right, but producing.] Yeah, yeah. But I had been in the producers and editor, I mean, mixer. Final mixer. That’s really the art of the music. Recording it is one thing. Of course you know the performances, you record the performances, and then you get into mixing it, and the mixing, how people hear it becomes like the editing of a movie. How people see it. So I was into producing, and I had felt very confident, I’d never produced a movie. But you know. Watch me. I know that we need, you know I know the different stages of the people that we need in the production, I can hire people. And you know that’s, who’s on your team, it’s who you know, and I knew a lot of people already in the business, so I started getting all my team together. And my editor I got was 110:00Richard Chew, who I had met with Michael Wadleigh doing Wolfen. And Richard ended up being the editor that edited Star Wars, and did all kinds of huge movies. And he was my, he was my editor. But on Ballad, he couldn’t do it. He, I said, “Richard, let’s go to work man. And I got this, this little movie.” And he said, “Oh man, I can’t, man.” And he was doing, Richard was doing some major piece of work at the time, I’m sure. But he sent me, he turned me over to Arthur Coburn. And Arthur became my editor from that moment on. He edited everything we did after that. And I never went back with Richard, Richard said, “Hey man, I’m here.” I said, “Great, I got, I got Artie, thanks. Thanks for that.” And Richard’s brilliant, I mean to this day he’s 111:00a brilliant, brilliant editor. " "INT: So Eddie, let me just ask you a pointed question here. The question of language and mistranslation are crucial in The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez. Gregorio Cortez doesn’t speak a word of English, but he clearly communicates his integrity. How difficult was this role for you? EJO: The story, as it’s written in the book, was quite interesting, because Americo Paredes was really talking about the corrido, the ballad. He wrote the doctorial on ballads that have been turned into stories, the story of where the ballad comes from, corridos come from. And that was his, and he chose the Corrido of Gregorio Cortez, the Ballad of Gregorio Cortez to write his dissertation on it. And so, but it’s really about the story, how it works, how the music works, how the stories are passed on by music, and it talks about the kind of story that was projected in the music. Okay, that storytelling. Which 112:00was really very mythical, it was larger than life, I mean the character was portrayed as a gun toting, incredible horseman, who was engroden with his two pistols in his hand, and ran the you know, was the most coveted horseman ever, and you know, and that was the entire book. But 30 pages of the book dealt with the man. And Doctor Paredes just told a little bit about who Gregorio Cortez was, the farmer. The way his brother had been killed. And he talked, and so Bob and I, Bob especially, when I gave Bob the script for this movie, Robert Duvall had given him the script for Tender Mercies. Simultaneously, he got two scripts. Tender Mercies, Ballad of Gregorio Cortez. Robert Duvall, Edward James 113:00Olmos. I had done you know, Zoot Suit and that, I was coming into my own. I had done Blade Runner, I had done Zoot Suit the movie, I had done Wolfen, and I had done these pieces of work. But Robert Duvall was very well established. And he had, it was an incredible amount of work that he had done, and he was very well respected, he’d done of course, Godfather I, and he had, you know, he’d done all kinds of incredible. So when Bob called me after I sent him the script. This is exact words, he said, “Eddie, Robert Duvall sent me a script and a story, 114:00he wants me to direct it for him, and he’s starring in it, it’s called Tender Mercies. And now you’ve sent me this, and this is interesting, because they’re both Westerns, and I’ve never done a Western, but I’d like to.” And, he says, “You know, Duvall’s script is excellent. Your script is terrible. It just,” Bob doesn’t mince with words, he tells you exactly, he says, “It’s terrible, it’s a terrible piece of work. But,” he says, “Your story is the story.” I said, “Oh my god. Bob.” He said, “How much money do you have?” I said, “1.25.” “Oh, that’s more than enough.” I said, “Oh my god.” To myself, I’m on the phone, and I go, 115:00“Oh my god.” And he says, “I’d like to do your story.” I said, “Bob, yeah. Let’s go for it Bobby. I’m with you. Let’s…” I didn’t say anything more about Robert’s thing or anything, and Duvall went onto do Tender Mercies, and won the Academy Award for best actor in that movie. And you know, I didn’t win no Academy Award, I wasn’t even nominated, they didn’t even see the movie, nobody saw the film. But Bob and I started our work on that day. And I started producing that piece of work. I gotta tell you, there’s very few things in my life that were more rewarding. It’s the most fulfilling piece of 116:00work I’ve ever been involved with, and I was very young, I was still quite young. " EJO: And it was my first film production, producing a major piece of work. And when we got into it, our team was so profoundly understanding of what we had to do, Tom Bower, a close and dear friend, who, I had gone to help Robert Redford create the Sundance Institute. The year was 1979. And that was where the nucleus of the team came together on for The Ballad. Michael Hausman was there, brilliant line producer. He had done like [MAKES NOISE] a, some of the most prolific stuff that had been done up to that point. And Waldo Salt was there, the people that went to help Bob in his very first outing of trying to structure what he wanted to do were brought there and I was one of the people he brought 117:00in for the acting, a portion of it. He brought in... [INT: So that was one of the first workshops...] That was... [INT: ...kind of, right?] ...the very first pilot of what was going to become the Institute. And Milos Forman was there. He was, Michael Hausman was his producer, for Milos', all of of his work. And Waldo Salt was there. Gregory Nava was there. Myself was there. Bob Young was there. 118:00Quite an impressive group of people, writers, producers, directors, actors. And Tom was, we brought in Tom as one of the, part of the ensemble. And at that place as we, that is the, what is considered to be the first Sundance production ever. It was the bastard child of Sundance. That's what it was called. And, because the very first production to come out of there was El Norte. Gregory was brought there and he was developing his piece and that's where he developed it. Then he went on to do it. And El Norte became El Norte and he won the Academy Award for, nomination for writing. And so it was a very powerful piece of work. 119:00That's registered as the very first production that came out of it. 'Cause they were actually performing it, they were actually working on it. But we all that came from, you know, I reaffirmed my relationship with Bob there. It was in the late '70's. Michael Hausman was there. He ended up line producing it for me. Tom Bower was there. I brought him in. Bruce McGill was there. I brought him in. And different people who worked on the production were at Sundance. And so we, so that became the bastard child and the very first production that came out of there before El Norte. And so with that being done, when Bob and I started to do this piece, the work that became, I brought two actors to that I met on Blade 120:00Runner, Brion James and Will Sanderson. And Will became, was the guy who did the puppet. He was the puppeteer that made all the little robot puppets. And, of course, Brion James, in Blade Runner was the, Leon, played Leon, one of the main replicants. So I brought those guys and they came and worked with me on this. And we got some of the most authentic looking people placed on film for a long time. And when we finished this movie about language, about the single most important aspect of communication, which is language, and how one word, misinterpreted word, caused the largest manhunt in the history of the United States of America up until that time. And more people were killed, hundreds of 121:00people were killed in this chase for the, Cortez and his gang. And you, as you watch the movie you'll realize what the whole situation was. It was the word, "yegua", which means mare. We distinctly say, when you're talking about horses in Spanish, you say, "yegua" or, you know, "caballo", male horse or female horse. And when the sheriff came to ask Gregorio Cortez a question of whether or not he had sold a horse, Cortez says, to the sheriff, "No, I did not sell a horse. I sold a yegua, a mare, but not a caballo." And the interpreter didn't know the word for yegua. So he turned to the sheriff and says, "He said he didn't sell him a horse." And they knew he had sold the horse so they thought he was lying. So he got off and he's, and then that's when the whole situation came 122:00where the sheriff shoots the brother in the face and ends up, the, Cortez pulls out his gun and he shoots the sheriff and that starts the whole situation. And that story was so incredibly done by Bob and the whole, everybody involved, all of us, that the United States Historical Society has proclaimed it to be the only dramatic piece of work ever done on film to be historically accurate. In the history of film. Warren Beatty wanted his Reds to be considered that, the movie Reds. But they said, "No," they said, "It fluctuates too much." But The Ballad, they called us and they told us it's been, it's the very first film, dramatic piece of work, fiction, that has ever been considered to be 123:00historically, totally accurate to the point of where it could be used as a historical document. So that movie has been hailed as the most authentic western ever made in American history in film, ever. And I can't tell you how many people watch that movie when they're gonna make a western [LAUGH], you know? More than John Ford movies, more than any other. And it's all because of the way that Bob shot it and his aesthetic and [INAUDIBLE]. [INT: And probably his documentary background.] Oh yes, of course, the, because the camera's always in the right place. His psychological truth is so strong and understanding of where the psychological truth of the story is and where to place the camera. It's amazing. And I don't think people really know it yet. They won't know until 124:00probably maybe they start to review these kind of films and all of a sudden they realize, well let me check on this guy. Who is Robert Young? 'Cause he's, his whole filmography is being placed into the Academy. They're putting everything in there. [INT: Yeah, they're preserving...] All of, they're archiving his entire work, body of work, everything. "INT: Now tell me something, did you make any contributions to the screenplay at all? EJO: Yes. All of the stuff that I do, Bob wrote, it's an amazing story on the screenplay of The Ballad because, like I said, Victor Villaseñor wrote the original piece but it was a little bit, it was really outside of where Bob's aesthetic lay. He couldn't do it. And he started from page one, rewriting. And he wrote it in six days. He was locked away inside of a hotel room Michael Hausman got him and said, ""You just go in here. You're not gonna come out until you have your script."" So he wrote the 125:00first 40 pages of the script and we started to film on the first 40 pages. And I took on the responsibility of my character. So everything that I was in, I wrote, I helped write. But I spoke very little in English, the, I'd say a few words. ""I no killy that man."" You know. I think that was it. ""I no killy that man."" Which is what he said. And we had documentation of the court trial. What was incredible is that Bob, when we went to do the scouting for the locations to get ready to shoot, we went to Gonzales, Texas, where it happened. [CLEARS THROAT] We went to the place where he was, the Frank Fly Museum. Frank Fly was the guy who captured Cortez. It was, made his career. But the Museum was the old jail, which Frank was the sheriff. And so he, they call it 126:00the Frank Fly Museum today and you can go see it. [CLEARS THROAT] But that was the place where Gregorio Cortez was placed in what happened in 1901. So the real courthouse, we used the real courthouse and we used the real jail where he was held. And the authenticity of these places really permeated the story. When we went to get, to see if we could use the courthouse, when Bob walked in a person greeted us, says, ""How can I help you?"" ""We're here to do a story on a...,"" he didn't want to say the name because he knew that nobody would know who he was talking about and, you know, Mexican name so he tried to like make it important without really using the name because he, you know, he says, ""I was afraid he 127:00was gonna, person would turn around and say, you know, thank you but no thank you."" But, so we needed to use this space because this was a real courthouse. " EJO: We walked in and the judge, the judicial judge of that district, right now, at that time it was 1982, I think, '81 is when we shot the film, 1981. He was, he greeted us and Bob was telling him, you know, "We're doing a story about this hero that was actually, his trial was held here." And the judge kept on saying, "What's the man's name?" "Well, he was a superhero for the Mexican-American people. He's like the most respected hero that we've ever..." "What's the man's name?" "Well, you know, he's..." And he wouldn't tell him because he didn't want to, you know? And finally he says, "Okay, well the man's name is Gregorio Cortez 128:00but he's a big...." He goes, "Oh my God. I been waiting for you for 35 years. Sit down. Sit down." And he goes over to this stack of shelves, old shelves, wooden shelves, and he opens 'em. And as he's opening 'em he says, "All of these are the transcripts. These are all the transcripts of all the trial. This is all the evidence. This is all the press that went out around the country that we could find." This man was, had been waiting, this chief justice, I mean this judge had been waiting, judicial judge had been waiting for this moment because, and had acquired all of this information and kept it there, knowing full well because he said, "This is one of the most important cases that's ever been tried in the United States of America. It was the first time they ever tried a 129:00Mexican-American in the United States and it was the first time they ever used a interpreter in the United States. The year was 1901. And it became, it was like a..." He said that while they played, they played dominoes every Friday or Saturday night and they always play, a group of people, he says, "Our biggest argument for the last 30 years has been who killed the sheriffs?" [LAUGH] And like they have debates and everything and, so he had all the information. So Bob went through the press and all of the information on the trial. He read it. And what happened was, it was like a situation, we started to read the newspapers. The newspapers had it, you saw how it changed, the story changed from the very first one of, you know, the shooting of a sheriff in Gonzales County and then it 130:00goes to chasing the gang that killed him. Then what was a gang and then there was hundreds of Texas Rangers and police and sheriffs chasing him with trains and it described the whole thing. But then it got to Frank Fly, and then Frank said, "There's no gang. It's just one man." And [LAUGH] all of a sudden the story starts to have a different turn. And what had happened is that Bob, while reading this, and we both talked about it, he says, "This is like Rashomon. This is like the same thing happening but different people commenting from different perspectives." And he says, "That's how we're gonna do it." And I said, "I think you're genius Bob. Of course that's how we're gonna do it." And so he did it in 131:00that manner. We have different perspective on the same thing and what that perspective is for that person at that given moment. So I gotta tell you, for me, making this film became a true, the best thing that could have happened to me in a, in my, living my life at a young age and doing my very first production as a film producer. It set the tone. It set the aesthetic. It set the caliber and the quality of the pictures that I would, in turn, go on to make like Stand and Deliver. I produced that and I wrote that, rewrote that. I went on to write, rewrite American Me. Took us years to make that movie. You know, all the things that, Walkout, all the things that I've been able to do all have that whole aesthetic and that whole understanding of what is incredibly important in how to tell a story, you know? And then Bob just pounded it into all of us, but especially to me 'cause I was around him the most, "Where is the story? Put your 132:00camera where the story is. [LAUGH] Don't ever just do a shot to do a shot. Where's the story? And then if the story calls for that shot put it in. But if they don't call for that shot, don't wait to get to the editing room to make the decision. Make the decision when you're there. And that way you'll get the most out of them. 'Cause we're making independent, small films. You know, we don't have the flexibility of just shooting forever and shooting everything and then when we get into the final edit we'll chop it down and make it the movie we think it could be made." So that movie became something that has changed the course of our history, the Latino in the United States, by being able to have 133:00that as the cornerstone of Chicano studies in the United States of America. That film is truly the cornerstone. And also the fact that it allowed people to experience the United States of America in a way they had never experienced it before in the history of film, ever. The United States Historical Society proclaimed it to be the most authentic western ever made in the history of American cinema and proclaimed it to be the only dramatic piece of work that's ever been historically accurate to the point of where it became a document. It can be used as a historical document. [INT: Also its moral integrity, you know?] Very high. [INT: Totally, yeah. And a big inspiration for many filmmakers.] "INT: Let's talk a little bit about Stand and Deliver, talking about moral integrity. EJO: Mm-hmm. [INT: What inspired you to make this film? How did it come about in your life? And why about youth?] This story came by way of, in 134:001983 I was given the opportunity to meet Jaime Escalante. I met him at an awards ceremony for the NAACP. They gave me the Humanitarian of the Year award at the same time they gave out three other different awards and one of 'em was Teacher of the Year award. And the recipient for the Teacher of the Year award was Jaime Escalante. And this was about June. It had happened in May that the records came back and then the whole, the country just went crazy, especially East L.A. and especially, you know, Los Angeles. They were just, the LA Times, everybody, New York Times, everybody was pushing out the lead stories which, you know, inner city school kids take top honors in advanced placement tests in calculus in the 135:00United States, highest ranking. They beat Stuyvesant. And, you know, there was just an amazing, amazing accolade. This was in May, first week in May is when they take the examination. They found out in, I guess it must have been June when they found the results and they gave 'em back the results in middle of June, about a month and a half later. And then everybody went crazy. Everybody was so happy. So it must have been July when we're doing the NAACP thing. I met him there and I thanked him. And it was big news all over the country that these inner city kids, you know, 18 inner city school kids from a school that was 136:00losing its accreditation had in an incredible moment of understanding had produced the highest scores in the United States of America on the most difficult exam given to high school students in the United States of America. Three percent of the children who are capable of taking the exam take it and only three percent of that three percent pass it. Very difficult examination. It's a college exam. It's the one that you take for calculus when you're in college. But you have to take calculus. And most of us don't prepare ourselves in high school to take calculus. We get up to, we take algebra, geometry, algebra two, math analysis, trigonometry and then you do calculus. But if you don't do those four before and, you can't do calculus. So you have four years in 137:00school, I mean four years in high school, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth. In my case we only had tenth, eleventh and twelfth because it was a three year school. But most of us don't get into, passed math analysis and trigonometry. We just don't get passed that. We hit that level but to take math analysis and trigonometry in the eleventh trade is a major, major, major jump then to take advanced placement calculus for your final year, your senior year, to take the examination and get college credit. 'Cause that's what happens. You pass that examination, you got college credit. You don't get high school credit, you've just done your college work in mathematics. [LAUGH] You can go on to do physics or whatever you want to do but you've finished your prerequisite for your college situation. So that being said, we were very happy. Everybody was very 138:00happy. Well, a month later, in August, is when they're, they, Princeton, out of Princeton University came the Educational Testing Service, ETS. ETS ended up saying to the kids, they sent them a letter, ""We have reason to believe that you, that these scores were not done correctly and that we are..."", they accused them of cheating because their scores were so high. And they had missed, and the main thrust of their note was the fact that they had missed less than the norm of multiple choices in the country. They missed like 13 and the average was like 32 or thirty, in the 30's or high 20's. So they were so low that they said, ""oh these guys had to have cheated. That's the only thing that's possible."" And that they all missed the, one test question the same way, all of 'em. So obviously they cheated. They all did the math wrong and they all put it 139:00down wrong. Well that drew more news than when they received the award. So now they got a lot of press when they and there was press heard around the world just about. [COUGH] It was three times more when they were called cheaters. It was bad. And what went from a glorious day of triumph in East Los Angeles and for our community and Latino children all over this country went to the biggest disappointment in the history of this country. That being said, we Tom Musca and Ramón Menéndez, the two co-producers and the writers and one was the director, Ramón, and myself got together. They came to me and said, ""We gotta do this story."" And I said, ""Of course."" And he says, ""Well, they got, we got the rights to his story for a dollar. For the exchange to do the story."" People 140:00say, ""Well that's so cheap."" And I said, ""Yeah, but I mean basically it, the story, nobody wanted to do the story."" Nobody wanted to do a story about a teacher, inner city schoolteacher, who helps kids, inner city kids, take a test twice. Not once, twice. That's not a real high end story, okay? [LAUGH] For anybody. We tried pitching it to everybody and nobody wanted it. I remember NBC told us that, ""We would love to, you know, be able to do something like this but the day that we put out something like this our opponent, I mean our, you know, CBS or ABC will turn around and put out Rocky. Now what movie are they gonna watch?"" I said, ""Well they're gonna watch this one 'cause they've already seen Rocky and this'll be a brand..."" ""Sorry, Ed. Talk to you later. Thank you for your..."" Nobody wanted to do it. So we went to PBS and PBS 141:00American Playhouse, which I had done The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, we'd done El Norte and we had done, at that time we had done...No, that was before. Okay. So those two movies had been done already. Seguin, we had done Seguin. And so we went to them and [CLEARS THROAT] they decided that they would help us. So they gave us about 450,000 dollars. And our budget was about one point two. So we nickeled and dimed it, God, and getting from, you know, this corporation and this corporation, our largest donor was like 300,000. And it was all money that was donated because I mean it was non-profit. It was about schoolchildren so, you know, nobody was expecting anything. So we ended up making the film. " EJO: We went into production and in the process, I studied Jaime Escalante, the teacher, I studied him for a long time. For over a year at his classroom and at 142:00his house and questioning him. And in that process of doing the research, I asked him one day, I said, "What do you think of the story?" And he goes, "Well, it's nice. It's a movie." I said, "Wait a minute. That's not what I asked you." [LAUGH] I said, "What do you think of the story?" And he says, "Well it's a movie." I go, "Wait a minute. What's wrong with the story?" "Oh nothing," he says, "except, you know, it's a little exaggerated. There's some, you know..." I said, "Oh really?" I said, "Okay, well let's get down to it." Six days we worked on it. I rewrote the script from page one. And he would tell me, "Well, you gotta remember, I mean when I came to school, man, the first day I got there man, the place was trashed. They found, they, excrement in the back of the 143:00thing. You could smell it. It was all torn apart and [MAKES NOISE]. You know, when I got off of the, when I was done with my, having my heart attack and I came out of the thing two days later after having the heart attack, I got out, came straight from the hospital to my room." I go, "You didn't go home?" He goes, "No, no, no. I went straight to the thing 'cause they were preparing to take the examination so it was too close to that so I went there to help them. I had sent notes by way of one of the nurses, that I wrote on this little like pamphlet." And I said, "Okay. Okay [LAUGH] I got it." You know, but when I got in the room I just said, I just thanked that, the assistant teacher that was helping me, the..." What do you call those? [INT: Teacher's aide?] Not the 144:00teacher's aide but the teacher that takes over the... [INT: Substitute teacher.] Substitute. "I told the substitute, thank you very much for watching my canguros and thank you very much." And I said, "Okay, canguros, okay. Thank you very much." "And then I turned to them and I said to them," and this is all coming from him, he knew exactly what he was doing. And I'm ready for this. And I'm sitting there and he says, "Then I got up and I said to everybody, what are you doing sitting there? You should be standing in a line like a snake." Standing in the line like a snake. And, "Up against the wall." [LAUGH] And up against the wall. "And then I went to the front of the line," he says, "and I started asking questions. And if they got it right they stayed in the line position. But if they got it wrong they went to the end of the line." And then he started [going?] down. And so that's what we did on the script. And everything. It was, 145:00it became pretty strong because of his intellect. He was such a strong, strong teacher that he knew that if he fed me the right understanding, you know? Like the scene when he goes in and talks to the two people from ETS, "And then I said to him, if I catch you outside on the street I'm gonna kick the shit out of you." I said, "You told him?" He goes, "Yeah." I said, "Okay." [LAUGH] So it was all in there. And all the dialogue, he was telling me, "And then he said to me, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And then I said, to him, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And then he said to me, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. I said back to him, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah." You know? [LAUGH] And I said, "Okay. Okay. [LAUGH] Let's go." So we wrote it in six days. And I, really, it was a testament of his strength as a teacher. He wrote his own script. [LAUGH] It was a brilliant piece of work. It really was. Then when he chops an apple with, dressed as a McDonald's guy, 146:00[LAUGH] the director says, "I don't want this in my..." I go, "Wait a minute. You may not but let's just film it." [LAUGH] [INT: So the director had a different vision?] Oh yeah. A big one, big one. It was a, we, Ramón and I went at it. We had to go, we went at it. I have a very, I'm known for how difficult I am to work with. And the difficulty comes not in that I'm trying to usurp or do anything other than to make the story the best that it could possibly be. You know, I had fights with Bob in, when we were doing, [MAKES NOISE] we were, in Caught, we had a huge fight in Caught over a certain, inside of the fish store. And I said, "Bob, you're breaking your own aesthetic. What's wrong with you? Think." He goes, "Oh, oh, oh darn, you're right. Okay." [LAUGH] So, you know, I, it wasn't like I would not fight for the, it's got to be, the story's got to be the most important thing or why are you doing what you're doing? And everybody 147:00should be making that story the best that it can be. If you talk to the director who has total control on the set and you give him an idea and if he's secure enough to allow growth around him, 'cause that takes a lot of security. And I worked with Bob and Bob was very secure. You know, I could ask him, "Why are you putting the camera there?" And he would tell you, explicitly. He'd go on, "Yeah, well I think this, why? Because, thank you for even asking the question. Let me tell you why." And he would get excited. I ask some directors, "Why are you putting the camera there?" And it was as if I was actually confronting them and questioning their ability. They would just say, ""Cause I want to. Now get back. Do your thing." "I'm sorry man, this wasn't a, I wasn't trying to depose you or 148:00do anything, you know, against you, man. I really want to know why you put the camera there? What was, where, why...", 'cause I'd worked with Bob, "...psychologically, what is the psychological truth that you're after right now to put the camera at that angle in that place? That's incredible. Why? I wouldn't have put it there, I would have put it over here, you know? [LAUGH] But, okay. I got it. I got you here. But tell me because, wow. [LAUGH] 'Cause I'll learn. I want to learn, right?" If you work with secure people, it's really hard to work with insecure people. It's really hard. [INT: Wonderful. Now [CLEARS THROAT] did, in some ways Stand and Deliver inspire you to kind of get involved with education and young kids, right? Or was that interest...] It was way before. [INT: It was way before?] Yeah. I was, I got into teaching, or not teaching but to going out and speaking, in about 1971, '72. I was asked to go out and speak at a local high school. And when I did it. I didn't, I felt very uncomfortable because I'd be doing some off, off, off, off L.A. theater work and 149:00the teachers came in and they asked me if I would help by coming to their school and I said, "You should go get somebody that's successful." And he goes, "No, no, no. We want somebody that's in the struggle." Hm, I understood that. I said, "Okay." So I went. I felt very uncomfortable. The teacher stood in the back of the room, asked a million questions from the back of the room. And all the kids in between her and I were just, totally did not want to be there. Could care less about anything I was saying. And I felt very self-conscious and very awkward and I could hardly wait for the bell to ring and me to get the hell out of there. [CLEARS THROAT] Then, I went to work that night, and on the stage I gave one of the most honest performances I'd given in my life. EJO: And I said, 150:00"Why do I feel so good? What the heck?" And then, and I asked everybody off, on stage and they looked at me as if I was weird, nothing they had, nothing changed for them, it was just me feeling that, you know, that I had really hit the inside of the understanding of my character and I'd really fully got everything that I was feeling out there and I understood it. Then about a, two or three days later, there was two teachers that came. The second teacher calls me back and says, [COUGH] "I heard that you went over and you talked and you...We'd like to have you do it again over here in my class." I said, "Okay." But this time I went prepared. Prepared meaning I didn't want her to ask me one question from the back of the room. I said, "You don't talk to me. Let me just talk to the guys, the kids." 'Cause they're all high school kids. They were all Latinos. They were all sitting there and did not want to be listening to me about anything. They didn't know who I was. They didn't care. Actor, smactor I 151:00don't care who the hell he's...I don't care. And so I immediately went to another level. I went to a level of not caring that they didn't care and started to talk and tell a story. And that's when I learned the power of "Let me tell you a story." You could see the change in people's faces when you say that. When you turn around and you say to somebody, "Let me tell you a story." They all of a sudden say, "Okay." They'll listen. Could maybe listen for one second or three seconds or one hour, 10 hours, it depends. Once you start to tell that story, if you catch them, you'll take them for the ride and they'll follow you all through the story. But those words, those simple six words, you know, let me tell you a story, those six words have a tremendous power. You ever want to really grab hold of the situation, just say, "Let me tell you a story." And I'd go, "Okay." They'd, people love stories. We love stories. So being a storyteller [CLEARS 152:00THROAT], I, this time didn't ever ask for a question from them, I just studied their faces on the impact of what I was saying to them. "You know, when I sat in this classroom with, just the same way you did, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Now, man, I am really having extraordinary time in my life. And I'm not even successful at it. I'm just learning it but man I love..." And all of a sudden I got passionate. I got really motivated. And then you could, I could see it in their faces I got people who were not listening but, or pretending not to listen, all of a sudden start to look up, you know, halfway through and by the end of the day everybody was looking at me. And by the end, when the bell rang everybody wanted me to continue. And I had really dominated the space and made it my own, you know? I made it my domain. Okay. So I started doing that in the early '70's. And it helped me 'cause when I went back to, sure enough when I 153:00went back to the theater that night the same thing happened. All of a sudden I said, "Man," I did a performance on stage. I said, "It must have been something that I, it must be what I did during the day that has everything to do with what happens to me at night." And I started to search it out. I started to go to libraries. I started to go to, speak at libraries, I started, anywhere that they needed someone to speak about the, you know, the understanding of their lives and motivate and try to help, I went. For nothing, didn't pay, I didn't get paid for years and years and years by doing this. But every time I went, I got paid by my artistic endeavor just flew through the roof. And so by the time I hit Stand and Deliver, compounded by the stuff that I was doing in singing and all the other stuff that I had done, giving to the community, giving to others, I got so much more in return. It was amazing. From that moment on, I really understood that the more you give the more you receive. And the more that you 154:00give out, to help others, that comes back to you and your artistic endeavor and you become an artist that you could never be without having that ingredient inside of the structure. [SNIFFS] [INT: Where do you think that came from? The seed of the...] It came from my great great grandparents. That's all they did. They helped everybody. That's all they did. That's all I ever saw when I was a kid, just them helping people and taking care of people and taking care of things and helping at the church and, you know, they were just, they were beloved by the people who love, knew them. They weren't outward. They weren't extravagant, they weren't...My grandmother use to go to the store, the santavita, which was right across the street and she'd buy, you know, 37 cents or 38 cents worth of stuff 'cause pennies use to go a long way. And she would buy and then, but she'd come home and then she'd look at the receipt and she'd, in a little book she'd write, okay, I spent 12 cents, 12 cents it cost me for this 155:00little juice and 13 cents for this can of food and she'd put it all down there and then she, at the end she'd add it all up and, you know, it cost us today, the food cost us, you know, she'd put down there, you know, 73 cents. And every penny. And it was normal. That was just the way life was. And everything meant, you know, to survive, you had to be very, very frugal with your understanding of the monies that you had coming in. Everybody was working very hard for that money. [INT: That's right.] So by her ability to stay centered and her ability to help others, she taught me everything. And so did my grandfather, great grandfather. They both did. They were the centerpiece of my, 'cause I didn't have anybody else. My mother and father were working. You know, they were working parents so they weren't around. My mother wasn't around cleaning house and, no, no. She was a tremendous lady. She never, ever, she was always working. 156:00She's worked hard all her life. "INT: Okay. Do you think that life has changed for Chicanos or, and Latinos? EJO: I think that life changes for everybody. I think the only thing that's constant is change. So, yeah. It's changed a lot for us. It's changed and the biggest way has been the amount of people, the quantity of Chicanos and Latinos in the United States of America has [MAKES NOISE] grown immensely. And will now not stop. We're the, right now they say we're between 52 to 55 million people right now, Latinos in the United States of America. Both legally and illegally they say. We're well over 65. We're closer to 70 million and growing at an, exponentially at a much faster rate than all other cultures. It's just impossible to keep up with us. And, nor, and plus the fact that, you know, the migration is so strong. So that's the biggest change. That has given 157:00us an ability to understand one thing, the Latino sets the trend. What do I mean by that? Whatever Latinos like in Los Angeles, New York or Miami, the world is marketed that product. We set the standard for marketing. Whatever we love, whether it be the kind of beer we like or the kind of food that we like or whatever it is that we like, we set the trend. We're trendsetters. We use to be known as the people who actually consumed the most. Like we drink two and a half more times more beer than non-Latinos. We go to the movies and we spend five dollars more per person in entertainment than non-Latinos. All those kind of numbers. You, we, you still have them, even today in 2014. But now it's not so 158:00much as that this is what they spend as what, no, this is what they're liking. This is what Latinos like. This is what Latinos are buying. This is what Wal-Mart, this is what [LAUGH], you know, all the, Target, all these companies say, ""What are the Latinos buying? Let's..."" Because the amount of Latinos is so huge that if you want to understand and encompass that you're gonna have to be inside of that culture. So they're really studying that culture. And basically I think we're up to a point now where we now set the trend, totally. " "INT: Eddie, tell me a little bit about American Me. You know, why did you make this film? What was the reason that you made this film and how did you come to the story:? EJO: I came to the story of American Me through its creator. And the 159:00guy who made it was Floyd Mutrux. In 1972 I made a movie with Floyd called Aloha Bobby and Rose, which I received my SAG card. My first union job. And he had showed me during the screening, during the shooting of that, a little news clipping that he had taken out of the newspaper about the head of the Mexican mafia, creator of the Mexican mafia was stabbed 89 times and thrown off the third tier at Palm Hall and died today. And so he showed me that. And then he says, ""I'm, I got a story around this."" He says, ""It's incredible, man."" And he was a hell of a writer. he's a really good writer, Floyd. Crazy but great writer. And so he had the story and I, all I wanted to do since I, this was a first movie and, you know, I just wanted to be part of it, in the movie. And I 160:00think that's why he was telling me about it 'cause he wanted me to be part of it. And so I said, ""Wow, that's great man. I'd love to be part of it."" So I started doing research and I started to get inside of that story. About a year and a half later, now the year's about '75, '74, '75, I inquire about that movie 'cause I'd just finished working with Bob, '76 actually. And he tells me that Lou Adler has it and that Al Pacino's gonna be playing the lead. And I said, ""Great. Great. Let's..."" I just wanted to be in it. So I said, ""Yeah, I been researching."" And he gave me the script, the latest script, and I read that. And I kept on inside of the story. Well in 1977, Lou Adler was kidnapped and 161:00everybody thought it was the mafia that had kidnapped him. But Al Pacino quit. Don't want to touch this one. So I picked up the story in 1978. Once I became El Pachuco, I went back to Floyd and says, ""I'd like to do that."" He said, ""Man, go ahead, man. Take it. It's yours."" So I took the piece around1978. And in 1988, now during that period of time I had been doing research. I had been going, I had been talking at inner city schools. I had been talking at Indian reservations. I had been talking at libraries, like I told you, hospitals, elderly homes, penal institutions, juvenile halls. So I'd been doing, I had been doing a lot, a lot of work in the community. And so in 1988, of course, I, nominated for an Oscar for Stand and Deliver, leading actor. The very first 162:00Chicano. And so here I was, I got nominated. And Tom Pollock, in 1988, once I was nominated, calls me in his office, he was the chairman of Universal, says, ""What do you want to do?"" I says, ""Oh man, American Me."" He goes, ""Oh, you're kidding?"" He goes, ""That's the best,"" and this is the, ""That's the best script in Hollywood that's never been done, on the top 10 list."" There's a top 10 list of the best scripts that have never been done that are just sitting around but Hollywood hasn't done them. it was number one for like 15 years. Okay? American Me. So Tom goes, ""Okay, well I represented Floyd Mutrux when I was a lawyer. He, I, he was one of my clients so let's do it. It's time."" The year was 1989 and I started into it and I started rewriting it and went up until 1990 is when we started shooting and 1991 it came out. [INT: Well, what do you feel, what do you think the impact of this film was on the audience, on your career?] On, this film, American Me, the film, when you saw this film and even to this day, here we are 2014 and it, even today it resonates with such a strong understanding of itself [COUGH] that, compounded by the fact that it has the aesthetic that we've been talking about, that it became a very powerful piece of work. It's the single most powerful piece of work I probably have ever done. Even though Stand and Deliver has a tremendous accolade, I think we talked off camera about it and that it's the single most viewed film in the history of film 163:00in the United States of America, bar none, Stand and Deliver is, because teachers use it. And it's been out for like, now 25 years, going, 26 years. And teachers use it every year, tens of thousands of teachers use it in their classroom and let millions and millions of kids see it every year. So I can't even begin to tell you how many millions and much more than Avatar or, you know, Jaws or Raiders of the Lost Ark or, you know, Close Encounters, ET, Star Wars, all of the big budgeted, big money making movies that made billions of dollars all over the world, in the United States made hundreds of millions of dollars. So, you know, ""X"" amount of millions of people went to see it, 10, 12 million, 13 million maybe. And gave them hundreds of millions of dollars. Doesn't make it 164:00close. In one year we're showing that movie to more people than that in the classrooms. It's, most people have seen it at least twice before they graduated from high school, in the classroom. And if they haven't, it's only because their teachers were afraid of it because [LAUGH] that film, I don't know how a teacher could show that movie and then get up and start trying to teach a class after the whole class saw Jaime Escalante teach. " EJO: You know, the kind of passion and [kindness?] that he had and the relationship he had with those kids and how, what he expected of them and the things that he said. You know, "They will rise to the level of expectation." What expectations do you, the teacher, have when you step in front of your class after you've seen that movie? What is, what are you going for now? Are you gonna sign the contract that, Jaime signed contracts 165:00with his students. 'Til the day he stopped teaching, if you wanted into his class you had to sign a contract to get into his class. With rules and all kinds of stuff that was set up [LAUGH] you had to. And his last, the last year he taught, he taught 250 students to take that examination. One teacher. American Me, even though Stand and Deliver is a tremendously powerful picture and has been seen by millions, nothing has affected as much as American Me has on it's, the people who see it. It has saved more kids lives than anything we've ever done. It allows you to experience inside of that world and then you have a choice. You have a real, honest choice. You can either go that route and do that, that's like a training film. You have to see American Me if you want to be a part of the Mexican mafia. If you want to be, stay out of jail and stay out of the situation, watch American Me. It'll either help you become a better solider 166:00or help you to stay away from having to go through that journey 'cause you've already experienced it. Let the movie take you through the journey that you would have experienced in real life. Don't have to go through it to understand it. You are, can look at it and see it. That has helped more kids. They use it, all the guards in all the federal penitentiaries in the, on training, all have to watch it. Police departments, new recruits have to watch it. you know, people who work in with gang related kids watch it. It's used sociologically as a very powerful piece of work. [INT: Yeah. I think it is. And it just falls kind of into the category of all the films that you have been making to help people. Even though American Me is so dark.] It's too dark. [INT: So dark.] It's too dark. [INT: You know?] It's not a film for everybody. I was saying it from the very beginning, if, unless you have a reason to watch this movie, don't watch it. You know, it's just too dark. [MAKES NOISE] [INT: Okay.] "INT: Let us talk about your experience working with Gregory Nava in Mi Familia, Selena and American Family. How did this working relationship develop and what did you learn from him? EJO: Working with Gregory Nava was, has been a real joy. I've done three major pieces of work with him. And I've been his friend from the very beginning when, like I said, we met each other up at Sundance in '78. And, '79, and I can just tell you that he is his own person. He's a really great writer. And he wrote Selena. He wrote American Family. He wrote Mi Familia. Those are his writings and he's a director and he directs and writes really, really well. And so I've experienced working with him, which has been a joy because he's been 167:00very easy to work with. He respects me and I respect him. And we just fly to the moon. And it's been a really strong commitment to understanding our lives. And I've worked with him a lot. [INT: Okay.]" "INT: When did you first become aware of the Latin American films? Films that were not Mexican [CLEARS THROAT] but, you know, were coming [COUGH] from Latin America? And where did you see them first? EJO: Well [CLEARS THROAT] the majority of the films that I've seen out, coming out of Latin America, really Chilean films, Guatemalan films, Ecuadorian films, Central American films, South American film, I really got my big thrust when I created the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, in which we would bring hundreds of films to Los Angeles and over a 10 day period we would 168:00watch 'em. And my co-founder, Marlene Dermer, is probably the finest programmer that this, of Latin film that this country's ever had, maybe in the world. She's so well understanding of the craft and the art form and the films and the filmmakers. And so she was the programmer. And she was the executive director, co-founder. I was the chairman and I was also the founder, co-founder with her and there was four of us. [INT: Is there one film that you were impressed by at a certain time that came from Latin America? I want to see if there's any links in terms of influence, you know, going back and forth between Latin America and Hollywood?] More than a film, it was directors, Carlos Saura, and, you know, Alindio, These guys gave us work that was just extraordinary, very, 169:00very advanced. The writings of [CLEARS THROAT] the stories that Fuentes, Carlos Fuentes wrote, The Old Gringo and his books. Gabriel García Márquez, ""Gabby"", he was extraordinary. Those, I got most of my influences from the creators of it more than just a film. Because I mean if you watched Figueroa's work, Gabriel Figueroa's work as a cinematographer, the films that he did with Alindio and with everybody, John Huston and, you know, Night of the Iguana and all these films that he created, incredible, masterful shots and artistically changed the course of black and white film in the world. He was the inventor of a lot of the [CLEARS THROAT] what do you call it, oh gosh, my brain, filters 170:00[CLEARS THROAT] that would help filter the light. They were just amazing, you know, what he would do with clouds and what he would do with black and white. He was the master of masters. And if you see any of Gabriel Figeroa's work you'll understand what the beauty of it...And his movies are spectacular, Cantaclaro and, you know, all the films he did, La perla, [MAKES NOISE] the list is immense. [INT: How about any other interchanges [CLEARS THROAT] with, did you ever go to Cuba to see Latin American films in the film festivals there?] I've never been to Cuba. One of the few people that has been able to go. There's many 171:00reasons why. And, but basically I have not gone to Cuba but I saw, we received The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez received the very first Concha that... [INT: Coral.] ...yeah, that the Coral, yeah, that had ever been given. They, The Ballad, in 1983, that's when they gave it to it. [INT: To...] And Bob went to receive it. [INT: Right. He's been very highly regarded there.] Oh, they love him there. And I'd love to go. I just haven't been able to go. And I'll tell you why. Some day things are gonna change on that island and, not that I'm against what happened, or I'm for it politically, that's not my journey there. My thing is that there are human beings that have stayed there and had to endure whatever they had to endure. And there're some people who had to leave there because of 172:00the politic. And their children and their children's children feel that they still are owed what their parents had over there, whether it be land or money or businesses or, you know, the, what their family over hundreds of years had been able to understand and accomplish there. And on the island, Cubans that were, had to flee, had to get out, exiles, that are gonna go back. [CLEARS THROAT] When they go back, some of them will be understanding of the responsibility of humanity that, you know, not to blame anybody for, you know, the people who had to stay there. Don't take it out on them, you know, 'cause your parents had to leave or your grandparents had to leave or your parents had to leave. Don't make the people who stayed there something less than your parents. You're all related. You're all Cubans. But those people that come there in a very strong way to get back things that they deserve, they think they deserve, because their families, you know, started the, this business in 1850 and here we are in 1950 and a hundred years later and up, you know, in the '50's and all of a sudden, you know, Castro comes in and wipes out all independent, you know, capitalistic movement in that country. [CLEARS THROAT] And of course there was a rightful reason for it because of Batista and the politic there lent itself to a takeover. And it was taken over. And the person who took it over he eventually became Communistic and he was totally a dictator. And some people had to leave 173:00right away because they were people of wealth and had to get out of there with nothing. They just left and left everything behind. And a lot of those people's children are gonna go back. And some of them won't be as kind and giving or forgiving of the situation that made this happen. So therefore, they're gonna go back there with a lot of frustration. And they're gonna finally get to go back and get back what they rightfully own and deserve. Now that's fine and dandy with me. I don't [MAKES NOISE], please, do your thing. Just don't hurt anybody in the process. Don't do a violent takeover. Don't do a, you know, a situation that makes people get hurt. If the people that you go up to and you say, ""This belonged to my great grandfather. I'm taking it back."" And they say, ""No, you're not."" Then don't get angry. Don't start getting violent. Go to the court 174:00of law and work it out. " EJO: And that being able to bring about a communication between those two entities, of the people who are living there and the people who are gonna come back, only people that didn't go there will be able to talk to the people who are gonna go back. Anybody that went there during the embargo, [CLEARS THROAT] whether they thought that it was okay or not, will be dismissed. Will not be able to talk to the exiles returning. They won't even listen to 'em. Robert Redford, all these people that have gone there and, anybody that went there. They got your name. They're really, really strong in understanding that anybody that went there to Cuba is not a person that they want to deal with. That's how life is, politic. I'm not in that. But I 175:00understand that. So far that I said to myself and I made a decision back in 1983 when I was invited to Cuba 'cause Gabriel García Márquez has invited me there every year for 20 years and now he's passed away and, you know, I still haven't been able to go because of the embargo. But I will stand there on the shores of that and put myself between the two and say to whoever wants to get violent, "Stop." And they won't be able to dismiss me. They won't be able to say, "You came here before. Get out of our way 'cause we'll take you out first. You have no idea what you're getting involved in." They're not gonna be able to say that to me. What they are gonna say to me is "Get out of the way, Eddie." And I'm gonna say to them, "Okay, I will. I'm not trying to get in front of you. But let 176:00me tell you, you're not gonna do this in a violent way. You're not going to hurt anyone to get back what you believe is yours. That has nothing to do with this anymore. You'll do this in a legal way. You'll go over and get the judges. You get the legality of what's happening and you get your stuff. All the stuff you want you get it all back. And if you can tell them legally this is ours and get it back, go get it man. I'll be the first one, I'll be there to help you clean the room." But... [INT: So you see yourself more as a peacemaker before you...] In this case. I made that decision in 1983 to be ready to be able to do it. [INT: But have you seen [CLEARS THROAT] like Cuban films that you've liked, Eddie?] Of course. [INT: I mean which ones, not only Cuban but, you know, from the '80's on there were some wonderful films...] [CLEARS THROAT] Great film. [INT: ...that...] We've had 'em all. [INT: I know.] The Latino International Film Festival... [INT: And you brought...] ...I can't even begin to tell you, 177:00we've brought more Cuban films and we've brought more... [INT: Directors to Hollywood.] ...directors to Hollywood. Directors from all over Latin America and Spain and Portugal. We brought them. And even Latinos that are in Germany. Latinos that are in Russia. Latinos that are making films in different parts of the world that are Latinos that have shown their, 'cause we want that point of view. We want the Latino point of view in the usage of this art form. This art form is way too important. This art form is the strongest art form ever created in the history of humankind, bar none. There's no painting. There's no book, there's no poet. There's no dancer. There's no music. There's nothing that attacks the subconscious mind as much as the audio visual event when it's projected on the big screen. It's the most impactive of any art form. It encompasses audio and visual. It encompasses movement. It encompasses word. It encompasses everything. So when you ask me do I remember, I've seen so many films that are brilliant pieces of work out of Cuba, out of Central America, out 178:00of South America, that's just been amazing. I find their reason for making film is completely different than here in the United States or in first world countries period. [INT: Okay. I want you to tell me about this.] Yeah. [INT: What's so different? But do you feel that we have [CLEARS THROAT] made, as Chicanos, as Latinos in the U.S., made links with Latin America? Do you think that we have retro kind of fed each other ideas or approaches in cinema?] I think that that's been the biggest asset. We have been connected. And I know that we've been doing, let's see, and we started in 1998, I guess, '97, '97, 1997 I think that was the very first Latino International Film Festival, Los Angeles Latino Film Festival, '97, 2007, yeah, 17 years, yeah, 1997 I think is when we started. Since then we've literally brought, from Latin America, not 179:00only the United States, but especially from Latin America, South, Central, Mexico, Caribbean, Spain, Portugal, more film to the United States than any other Latin Film Festival in the world. Because we are strictly a Latin International Film Festival. There are some that are Latino Film Festivals, like Chicago, that's older than we are. They've been doing it for like 30 years. But they don't bring in the amount of film that we bring in. And they also don't bring in the kind of artistry that we bring in because it's very expensive, very difficult. It's [LAUGH] made me very, very poor, [LAUGH] holding up the Latino International Film Festival. [INT: And do you see the results of this kind of, 180:00you know, [CLEARS THROAT] meeting between the north and the south?] The very first time... [INT: Do you see, I mean could you tell [CLEARS THROAT] me...] I'll tell you a story. [INT: ...some specifics?] I'll tell you a story, specific story. Very first Latino International Film Fest. Who did we bring? We brought Guillermo del Toro, Cuarón, Iñárritu. The three caballeros that have gone on, the very first time that they ever met, or went into the studios was with us back in 1997. [INT: Tell me about it.] It was incredible. MGM, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney, 20th Century Fox, they all had lunches, breakfast or lunches or dinners with all the executives, top film executives in those companies with our filmmakers. It went on for decades. And every time we'd bring 'em we'd have lunches at [LAUGH], you went. [LAUGH] That's right. It was fantastic. [INT: It was.] It was fantastic. And what it did, it gave the opportunity for these 181:00people to get to know each other and just talk to each other. And of course Cuarón and Iñárritu and, of course, Guillermo del Toro went on to become A players in the Hollywood scene. They're all three making topnotch Hollywood movies. And Cuarón has probably been the most successful now of anyone. Well he did the most extraordinary Harry Potter, I, no, Lord of the Rings was it? [INT: No, it was Harry Potter.] Harry Potter. Harry Potter, yeah. Yeah, it was number three I think, third one. He did it, he directed it. Amazing, amazing job he 182:00did. And, of course, his latest film won so many Academy Awards it was incredible, you know? Gravity. "INT: And do you think that someday, somehow a Latino or a Chicano from the U.S. could get an Oscar that actually was based on something to do with our experience as a Chicano Latino? EJO: I think so. I think it's... [INT: You do?] ...we're getting closer and closer. Yeah. I think that the quality of the art form is growing because we have now in Latino International Film Festival and the Latino International Film [CLEARS THROAT] LALIFF, which is a non-profit foundation, have been breeding since 1998 [CLEARS THROAT] writers, producers, directors, filmmakers. We do filmmaking courses in inner city schools. We just branched off and we're branching off into Pasadena now. We've been in Los Angeles and the Long Beach area. Now we're going into 183:00Pasadena, into Orange County, into Oxnard and San Bernardino. They all want us to bring our program over there. And what we do is we allow third and fourth, third, fourth graders and fifth graders to use cameras, write their own stories, work the whole year on developing stories, story boards, all pre-production, production and post-production, marketing and distribution of their films. And they make 'em and they go through the whole process so they know the whole process by the time they get out of the fifth grade and they're ready for junior high. They, the kids that have gone through our program, all of 'em graduated from high school. " "INT: Okay, Eddie. Now as a, [CLEARS THROAT] I mean you're a 184:00highly regarded, you know, person in the society in Hollywood. Did you ever feel that you were discriminated against? EJO: Yeah, I felt discrimination almost every day. It's really difficult to, not to feel it. The only way you wouldn't feel discrimination is if we were represented in high levels of the art form. In theater we have a chance 'cause basically we've been able to create our own theater. We have not been able to create our own film companies. So the film industry is not adverse to us at all. Matter of fact, they're against the storytelling of Latinos by Latinos. [INT: Why?] Because it doesn't sell. It's not economically viable for them. We just finished doing a film called Cesar Chavez, which is the number one, one of the great heroes of, Mexican-American heroes in the United States of America and one of the great human beings of the 185:00plant, alongside of Gandhi and Martin Luther King and some of the great non-violent, you know, people that's ever lived in the history of the planet. Alongside of Mother Theresa. This guy was amazing. And as is Dolores Huerta, which, her, his co-founder of the union, the Migrant Workers Union. We have not been able to hit a homerun with those pictures. And therefore our need to make these kind of movies is great but they don't make money. And that's what this is. It's the entertainment business and not the entertainment socially relevant business. You know, [LAUGH] it doesn't work that way. So what we've got to do and what we've been doing over the last 40 years, at least since I've been in it, is to continue to move forward without letting the discrimination of lack of 186:00funding stop you. And we've been able to create, continue to create. I think that we are way beyond their wildest nightmare. We are too many and we dominate too much. More than 35 percent, 37 percent, right now, in 2014, every single film that comes out, we are at least 37 percent of the population that goes in to see it on opening day, opening weekend. I don't care what blockbuster it is, whether it be Spiderman, whether it be Fast and Furious, whether it be, whatever it is. [COUGH] Our problem is that they do take our stories ...our story of Tony Mendez. Tony Mendez was a CIA agent, probably the most significant CIA agent, Latino CIA agent ever, tremendous human being. And the story was very simple. He 187:00saved the life of eight people in, they were caught in Iraq during the time of the war. And Tony's story was told. It was called Argo. And it's a beautiful story. It won best picture of the year when it came out. And Ben Affleck played Tony Mendez. The issue was that never once was Tony's culture ever brought to light. Never once was the Latino experience given the understanding that this was a Latino story, not just an American story. It was a Latino cultured story and nobody knew. To this day nobody knows. You know, I think he, you know, I think that the way that Ben justified it was that Tony didn't consider himself to be a Mexican-American. That he was, his father left him and his mother was 188:00not Mexican and they went and lived in Albuquerque and as far as he was concerned, you know, he was not Mexican. He was an American, Caucasian American. And so I say to that, I said, ""Well that's understandable. You know, I know a lot of people that are like that."" But when you're doing a movie like this, give the character the depth of that understanding. What would it have taken for him to say, you know, ""Here man, hey Tony, you want a burrito?"" ""Get out of here. I hate burritos."" You know, in other words, I hate myself. I hate being, you know, a burrito eating Mexican-American, you know? And without even saying it, you didn't have to even say Mexican-American. Just give the influential 189:00understand... [INT: Why is this happening? I mean no one would dare do that to anybody else.] Well... [INT: Why does it happen to us that these stories are taken away, the names are taken away, the identities are taken away?] You know, they're done because they want to make money. It's a business. And they can make more money if they don't get into the cultural dynamic of the character. They did it also with a thing called Incredible. [INT: The Incredibles?] No. No, no. A story about the tsunami that hit the island and Ewan McGregor, I think his name is, played the lead. And it was a, Incredible I think it's called. [CLEARS THROAT] It's a story about the tsunami hitting the island and the family, there's three children and a mother and the father and they get caught in the 190:00tsunami and it's about their life trying to get, true story. And it was Spaniards that it happened to. They could have gotten, you know, Penelope Cruz and her husband, Javier Bardem and three children, Latino children, and done the same movie and gotten as much fun financial reward for doing it that way than doing it with a European based cultured family. There was no, but they chose not to. They chose to go European based. And the ones who did it were the Spaniards, that actually the story was about. They produced it and they were the ones who okayed for them to do it that way. So Spaniards also said, ""Well financially let's just go with Ewan."" And it would have been a better movie had Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz done that story, rather than Ewan McGregor and the 191:00woman who actually performed it. I think it was called The Incredible. Do you remember?" EJO: The film was called The Impossible, not Incredible but The Impossible. That was the name of the movie. [INT: Year?] Yeah. It was, Ewan McGregor and what was the woman's name? [INT: Naomi Watts.] Naomi Watts played the lead role. [INT: Around what year?] It was 2013 I think the movie came out. [INT: 2012.] 2012 is when it came out. "INT: What is the most important thing about being an actor? EJO: Oh, I think it's a privilege more than importance. It's important to do the things you love to do. You know, it's just important for you to live a life that you feel complete in. And it's not always, it's very hard to do that. And so when you do become an actor and you do become able to support yourself in the art form and you get, you know, enough to make a living and support your family, [CLEARS THROAT] then it's a privilege. And so it's a real strong understanding of what this world has to offer. it's a great life. Acting is storytelling at the highest level. Even though, you know, a writer is the most, the key because they're the ones who set up the structure. Without the written word we have very little to go on. You can improvise, you can do spontaneous, yes. But I mean to really do it well you're gonna have to have it written down so you can repeat it and do different, you know, angles and different takes over and over and over again. So to me the actor becomes in the storytelling process of film, television and even theater, the central part of 192:00what brings about the realities and how the, you know, the emotion is understood. [INT: Okay. Thank you. Are there qualities that are essential to being an actor? Does one learn these qualities or acquire them?] Well learn, acquire I think almost are the same. But you learn every day. We start off with no discipline, no determination, no perseverance and no patience. As a child you have none of those ingredients. And those are the key ingredients for becoming an artist. You must have discipline. You must have determination. You must have perseverance and you must be patient. Without those ingredients there's no way you can become an artist in this world. You won't give yourself a chance. You won't be able to discipline yourself to do the things you love to do when you don't feel like doing 'em and more than that you won't have the patience to wait 193:00[LAUGH] for the outcome. You'll be wanting it too fast, the results, you're wanting the results. So it's more than, we all start off the same. There's no stopping a true artist. Once you've locked into what it is you love to do, just do it. And if you, if it's acting or if it's directing or if it's, you know, being a piano player or if it's being a doctor or an engineer or aircraft pilot or, you know, whatever it is that you, baseball player, whatever it is. Just apply yourself and go for it. [INT: Thank you. How do you deal with rejection? How do you get through the tough times when acting work is slow?] Creating your own work is my, been my salvation. You know, I'm always working on something . And I know it's gonna take me a long time to write a script, to find the story, to get the rights to produce it, to make it a reality and then to go through the 194:00process of actually making the film. That's all a long term process. Now there've been times when I won't work for years. And I have to do anything I can to survive. And I do it. And, but all the time that I'm surviving, I'm still working on my craft, moving forward on the situations and the ideas and stories that I like to do. So it's like I said, I worked on American Me for 18 years, Stand and Deliver five years, [MAKES NOISE] Caught, Bob worked on Caught for 27 years. That's how long it took him to do that one. And it's like anything else, it just, lock in and work while you're not working on what it is you love to do. 195:00And, you know, going to take classes, if you're an actor then you can always go on stage and go take classes, you know, or find a troupe and work in theater. But to make money and survive while acting, is the key. How do you do that? What do you do, you know? We're best known for the odd jobs, you know? I've had quite a few. And I continue to support myself when I'm not in front of the camera or on stage. [INT: Thank you. How do you pick a script or a part?] I pick a, by way of story. What the story elements are. What the, what is the story trying to say. And I just finished a short of seven minute, seven pages so about seven minutes of a movie that I play Lucy, Mr. Lucy. And the character's Mr. Lucifer 196:00but they call him Mr. Lucy. And it's a faith based story, very simple. About a Mr. Lucy who comes into towns and takes over. If the sheriff's gone he takes over the protection of the people in that town. And when the sheriff comes back, if he's gone for any length of time, the people get rid of him. They, you know, hang him or shoot him, whatever. So when the story starts I'm taking over another town and you see how the sheriff and the people turn and go back to being against Mr. Lucifer, Mr. Lucy. It's a very simple story, you know, good and evil. And that story, we did this year. We've done in 2014, we did well 2013, Go for Sisters by John Sayles, a wonderful story in which I play a 197:00detective. And we did Filly Brown, that my son directed and helped write. And we've done, right now we're finishing up, right now in 2015, in January of 2015, we'll have the first co-production, Mexico and the United States, on animation ever done. So it'll be called Americano, The Movie. It's an animated film that will be coming out soon." "INT: This was a question I had before, right? [LAUGH] Tell me a little bit more about Americano. EJO: Americano is a film to do with the values and hopes of each person and how we have to look inside for the hero and not go looking for the hero outside and see the true person that's gonna 198:00help us, you know, get through this problem. Where's our hero? Let's find our hero? And they go all the way from Mexico to the United States. They're birds and they fly [CLEARS THROAT] to try to get to the United States. And once they get here they find Americano and he's an actor, [LAUGH] he, yes, old guy now. And he says, ""I can't, you know, I'm not a hero I'm just, in the movies I am but..."", you know, so they finally realize that it's within himself that the strength of the hero is. And so he goes back to his town and helps the family. So it's a very simple story but it's very wonderfully done. And the artistry, the animation's wonderful and the story's really good. I did it with Phil Roman, Roman the great animator. Also he did quite a few things in his life. And both 199:00of our companies did it with a company in Mexico. So we're all working together. [INT: Okay. Thank you.]" "INT: Let's see, I think I asked you this, but I'm gonna ask it again. Do you feel that being a Chicano has impeded your career in any way? What is it like for you now, have, things have evolved for you? EJO: Being Chicano's been my biggest asset [CLEARS THROAT] and also my biggest [LAUGH] problem because it's hard to find movies in which I get to play who I am. So when I get a chance to do that I'm very grateful. They're far and few between and I usually have to create 'em. I think out of the, 80 percent of the stuff that I've done over the last 20 years I've helped create. And if it wasn't for that I don't think I would have been able to do 'em. No one would have done 200:00American Me. Nobody would have done The Ballad. Nobody would have done Stand and Deliver. Those films would not have been made, Walkout, just, you know, they're not commercially viable but they're very strong stories and they become stories that people are very happy that they see once they see them. Being Chicano's been my strength. Mexican-American's been my strength. And that's been the reason why I am the way I am and I've been, you know, like what I learned with Paul Muni, he was a Jewish-American actor from Russia [CLEARS THROAT] and he could play anything. He could play anything. And he taught me that I could play anything. And I have. I've played Asian. I've played indigenous. I've played Caucasian and I've played African and I've played Latino, played it all. [LAUGH] 201:00'Cause that's who I am. I am all those things so it's for, easy for me to play any one of 'em. [INT: Thank you.] " "INT: Let's see, what have you learned about directing from directors you've worked with? You've answered that really plentifully. Do you intend to direct more films? EJO: Yeah, I plan on directing more. I'm working right now with, Bob and I are co-directing a piece that's very difficult to make and we're in the process of doing that and I have other pieces that I will be directing also. Yeah. Directing is the only way I'm gonna be able to stay inside of this. In some of the pictures I will act but I will always be directing. Because if I don't then I don't, I won't be getting hired that much. I'm getting to the point now where my age takes over. So I'm still good for 202:00directing but as far as leading pictures, there's nothing in my age range. [LAUGH] " "INT: Okay, When and why did you become an Academy member? EJO: I became an Academy member when I received the Academy Award nomination for best actor, 1988. So that been a long journey but been a wonderful one. And I'm very grateful that I was allowed to get in. I really feel a great honor of being in the industry and being a part of the Academy. [INT: Thank you.]" "INT: How do you view the historical value of your films and the need for their preservation? EJO: The stories that we've been able to create, I think, are stories that speak to the humanness of all us, no matter the culture. It resonates inside of humanity. So I think that they're pictures that have been well received and will be better received in the future. And if we can keep them, you know, pristine so 203:00that people can see them, and people take care of them and they archive them, I think in a hundred years the films that I've made will be more poignant than they are today. [INT: Thank you.]" "INT: Do, have other professional organizations or unions been important in your career? EJO: All of 'em. All of the unions that I've been a part of have been very important in my career. From the Musicians Union to, you know, SAG, AFTRA, Directors Guild, Producers Guild, all of these guilds, these unions, really help keep a balance on us as human beings and on keeping our strength. And the fact that we're all one helps us be able to move as a whole. And it's, I, for me it's the best thing. I love unions. I'm a union person a thousand percent. That doesn't mean I don't criticize it 'cause I've been very vocal on the critique of the union leaders, just like our political leaders. We're compromised at the highest levels and the sadness is 204:00that the people who suffer are the rank and file. They're the ones who suffer the most. So I've criticized our unions immensely for their lack of understanding of the humanity that they deal with every day that may give them the strength. Everything has to move towards that humanity. [INT: That's great.]" "INT: I have one big question and then I have a lot of little ones on reflections. EJO: Mm-hmm. [INT: We're almost done.] Go ahead. [INT: Okay? How did you, what was your idea of Hollywood when you were a kid? How did it live in your imaginary Hollywood? What was Hollywood? You know, think of yourself as a kid.] I thought Hollywood was, you know, the people who I saw on the screen. You 205:00know, that was Hollywood to me. That was the beauty of that world. They were stars. And I remember walking down the Walk of Fame in Hollywood Boulevard with my father and my brother and my sister when we'd go see our movies and looking at the names on the stars and recognizing some but most of 'em I didn't know who they were. But knowing that whoever that was, my God, they were somebody because they wouldn't have their star there on the Walk of Fame. And it was quite an, it was a true understanding of what the word meant to be a Hollywood star. And to me there were, I had [CLEARS THROAT] Anthony Quinn but I didn't really know Anthony Quinn was Latino until towards my adult life, when I read his book. And then I found out where he was from and where he, you know, all about him. But I didn't know too much about him. I thought he was Greek, like I guess, everybody, 206:00or Italian, you know, Quinn. Who knew what, that name had to have been European based. So, you know, I appreciated him immensely as a great actor and I'd seen him in so many great things, including his Academy Award nominated films, the ones he got the Academy Award for. But, you know, did he wear his Latino-ness like I do or other people that have come after him? No, not even close. He wasn't ashamed of it. He was very proud but it was not a, he was not, never cultural that way. He was, he loved his, as he got older he got more, especially after his book, you know. After he finished his book then he did embrace it, you know. And he, everybody knew. It wasn't that he was hiding it in any way it just that, it wasn't, for the people outside of the industry, you know, we'd never even thought about it. Anthony Quinn was not a Latino name so why would we even 207:00think about it that way? But then when I found out I was very grateful. He was raised five blocks from where I was born, you know? On Hubbard, [LAUGH] which, right down the street. [INT: That's great. Okay. Thank you.] " "INT: What are the greatest lessons you've learned in your career? EJO: [SIGH] Listen has been probably the biggest thing I've learned to do. Is to really listen, sit back and listen to people. It's real hard, especially when you're young. You know, you're just so opinionated. You're so vibrant. You're so wanting to express yourself and see if you're right or wrong and make your point and leave your mark that listening is the key. Sit back and listen. You'll learn a lot. [LAUGH] [INT: Thank you. What would you describe as your proudest achievement?] My six 208:00kids, you know, just having the ability to, my family. But [CLEARS THROAT] and again, artistically I think the greatest achievement has been sustaining, being able to sustain the amount of years that I've been able to continue to work inside of this industry and continue to survive. It's hard. I don't have a face that really lends itself to this medium. So basically I'm very grateful that I've been allowed to continue to, you know, work. And it's all because I create my own things. You know, I have been invited to do some films but very far and few between. [INT: What were your most difficult and challenging times or experiences in your career?] The most difficult has always been the lack of 209:00sustainability of financial ability to survive. That's the hardest. That's really difficult on the family and on everybody when you start to try to do this work and you're doing it for nothing and you had a family and you gotta work, at the same time you gotta try to continue to do this and, you know, that's really where the balance of understanding takes shape the strongest. And that's where I learned, you know, for me I've learned how to deal with it. It's, and I'm 67 now. I know I look good, but I'm 67. [LAUGH] I gotta tell you but in essence actually I'm still doing it, you know. And I still have the same problem. Don't have enough money to survive so you keep on, you know. People say, ""Oh, you've made so much money."" I said, ""Yeah, I made a lot of money and I've given a lot 210:00of it away."" And, ""Oh well, you shouldn't have spent it all."" I didn't. My family did. [LAUGH] My mother, my brother, my sisters, my nieces, my nephews, everybody needed, needs help, you know? People need help. " "INT: What are your hopes for the future of the industry? EJO: [SIGH] May the stories that deserve to be told be told. And may the stories that are not blockbusters, that are independent, be held with the reverence they were, it was given to them when they were barely starting to make independent film in this country. And then it took a strong hold and it became the balance. Balance came between the commercialized film and the artistic film. And the art film is the, really the one that has been able to hold the integrity of the whole industry. It places 211:00itself in such a position that inevitably they had to make it [CLEARS THROAT] 10 best pictures of the year. Because if they had kept it to five, only artistic films would get the nod for the Academy. You couldn't get Spiderman. You couldn't get, you know, anything in there [LAUGH] that wasn't a really great artistic film. Those are the only ones that would get the Academy Award nomination. And so they had to open it up and turn around and say let's give 10 awards and then we'll pick one out of the 10 because we have to open this up a little bit. It's too centered on the artistic side and not enough on, not only artistic but commercial too. So sometimes they're all one and one, you know. 212:00[MAKES NOISE] But most of the time it's artistic films that carry the integrity of the art form. [INT: Interesting.]" "INT: Who of the actors today do you consider to be the most talented? EJO: Hm, there's a lot of 'em. Talent is growing because a lot of 'em are taking and understanding the power of study, education. So a lot of 'em are going to college and a lot of, come out of college and go straight into major acting classes and continue to move towards a, so I think that the art form has grown immensely and it's getting stronger. It's difficult because you get to see, you know, a Meryl Streep and you wonder, will there ever be anyone that can get close to that? And you say to yourself, you know, maybe not for the next 50 to 100 years. There never was one before her. There won't be after her for a very long time. But there will be other 213:00people, like there was a Katharine Hepburns before there was, you know, Meryl Streeps. There was major, major artists that were just amazing, you know, in the ability to create moment to moment realities that just permeate the soul and the heart of humanity and everybody looks at it goes, ""Oh my God, I understand this totally. You know, this emotion is just so pure, I, so true, so honest, my God, thank you."" And so that's what this art form's about. So I think that today that kids are studying as hard if not harder than before. And they have a lot more to be able to observe and to be able to consume then we did back, you know, 50 years ago. [INT: Do you see any actors that you think might be that kind of 214:00legendary actor?] Sure. Yeah. I think that we have one that did Filly Brown, Gina Rodriguez. She's really, really, really strong and very good artist. You know, just finished working with Nicholas Gonzalez, who did Water and Power. Very, very strong artist and very honest, you know, they're just learning that. They're really moving along well. The [INAUDIBLE], who I just saw yesterday. [LAUGH] He's a young, he's not young in age, but young in working inside of the American, in the United States, and he won the Academy Award for The Gardener back two years ago, won the Academy Award nomination for The Gardener. And he's a, him and his brothers are stupendous artists. But they're from Mexico and, you know, but they're young and they're good. [INT: Okay.] " "INT: Have your 215:00aspirations changed over the years? EJO: Yeah. My aspirations have changed, yeah, big time. It's like anything else, they go more towards now trying to get the distribution of our films out there where I used to aspire to just be an actor, then I aspired to be a filmmaker. Now I aspire to really make sure that our films get out there. So I've been helping films to launch themselves and get into the public eye. And that, to me, is very important to help young artists get out there. [INT: Thank you. If you were to attribute your success to something or someone, what or who would that be?] My aesthetic, like I've talked all about, it'd be Robert Young, Robert M. Young has been the biggest influence 216:00artistically. As an actor, I said that too, it's Paul Muni, truly the gift of gifts. And until you study him, I mean really study him, to see what that man can do, you really don't understand it. As well as there's some contemporary artists like, you know, Meryl Streep, we talked about her. She's genius, you know, just brilliant. So, you know, but the biggest influences I've had have been Robert and the art forms of what I do, you know. And that's, because his aesthetic stands true to not only working in film and television, motion picture and theater, but it holds true in life, you know? So his aesthetic plays very strongly in who you are and what you are in reality. So it's been good. He's my 217:00biggest influence. [INT: Okay. If you weren't an actor, what would you be?] [SIGH] Unhappy. [LAUGH] You know, I think I'm happiest just doing what I'm doing but I might be a [CLEARS THROAT], anthropologist is probably something that I would have really appreciated exploring. That, to me is a really incredible way of understanding your life, this life, is by finding the understandings of what got us here. So I think an anthropologist. [INT: How would you like to be remembered?] Well, I'd like to be remembered as a person who really believed that there was only one race, that's the human race, period. That there's no Caucasian race or African race or Latino race or indigenous race or Asian race. There's one race and that's the human race. And inside of the human race there's culture, Caucasian cultures, African cultures, Latino cultures, indigenous cultures, Asian. But one race. I'd just like to be known, that's a fact that there's only one race, the human race. [INT: Thank you so much.] You're welcome. " 218:00
This transcript is not verbatim. For any quotation or usage needs, contact firstname.lastname@example.org