Hollywood films shot in Bolivia are extremely rare, but "Our Brand Is Crisis" from Warner Bros. studio, is one of those rare exceptions. The new satirical comedy about politics in Latin America starring Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton takes them to Bolivia as political strategists to try win the presidency for their respective clients.
One of the co-stars and the beating heart of the film, Reynaldo Pacheco, a native of Bolivia who has worked in the acclaimed "Beginners" with Ewan McGregor, talked to us about what the significance of Bolivia in the film meant to him, his cell phone audition that got him the part and how extremely real Sandra Bullock is off camera.
Jack Rico: One of the first things that immediately caught my attention about 'Our Brand Is Crisis' was that I couldn't believe that Warner Bros did a movie in Bolivia - with a Bolivian sub-plot - with two Academy Award winning stars. Could you?
Reynaldo Pacheco: I know. It’s crazy. At first, honestly, there was a lot of resistance in Bolivia because this is such an important time in history for us... People were worried if this was propaganda from some political party or if they were going to take positions - actually, it’s the opposite. Everybody’s extremely excited. All the newspapers are publishing everthing that's happening, from the Toronto Festival to whatever Sandra says, to whatever Warner Bros says, and the premiere.
Jack: How do you process being a native Bolivian and acting in a Hollywood studio film with so many Bolivian themes?
Reynaldo: I have no words, honestly. I started doing theater on the streets of my city. Back when I was starting this journey, I didn’t have a place to go in Bolivia where I could actually study acting. So, the streets, the bars, the coffee shops, the black boxes, the very bohemian life was honestly where I was doing my training. And being able to come back, years later, with such a huge production and Warner Bros and Sandra Bullock, and be on the same streets, literally – because we shot in the center of La Paz – and doing some of those takes, it was magical.
Jack: How were you selected for this?
Reynaldo: The casting process was very intense. They had auditions. Every Latino actor, from famous to unknown, auditioned for this part, and I didn’t have strong credits to even step in the room, so my agents got me a self-tape – I did it at home, with my cellphone.
Jack: Wait... your cellphone?
Reynaldo: Yeah, and then the tape went to New York. I didn’t even know what this was for. I only knew that they wanted somebody ethnic, so I painted my face brown. I was so dark in the tape, and then the tape got me the call back. I went to the audition, and the day before I was going to the call, I found out that this was for Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Warner Bros and all the rest of the incredible cast. It was very intimidating. And then, finally, I got it. I got the role. And I think that one of the reasons, as well, that they liked my part so much is because I understood from the get-go that Eddie [my character] was very pure, Eddie was a very transparent, innocent, open, idealistic person, which is very hard to find in the world, in general. It helps a lot that I understand the culture. I knew that Eddie had an Aymara accent, so I had to study the musicality, the sounds of the language and apply it to English and Spanish. It really separated me from the rest, in that sense.
Jack: I heard that the whole film wasn't filmed in Bolivia, but that parts were also filmed in Puerto Rico and New Orleans. What scenes were filmed in Bolivia and which ones were done in Puerto Rico?
Reynaldo: I’m like one of the few actors that is in the whole film, from the beginning till the end of the shoot. We shot probably 50 percent of the movie in New Orleans and we shot I would say, 30 percent in Puerto Rico and then 10 percent in Bolivia and 10 percent at Warner Bros. And, man, for me, every day was so, so, so special because to see these big sets reconstructing and building my country, and seeing my flag and seeing international actresses dressing up as cholitas - which is the indigenous people from Bolivia - it was great. Just being part of that was very, very, very special.
Jack: You had several pivotal one-on-one scenes with Sandra Bullock. Was she approachable? Did you learn anything from her?
Reynaldo: She’s such a wonderful woman. And aside from being a very professional actress that works very hard, she’s extremely real, extremely aware that nothing matters. It’s just an experience and you don’t have to take the good and the bad - just enjoying the little things or the big things as an experience. She’s very, very, very connected to everybody, she sees people, she’s wonderful. And it’s not a surprise that everybody in the world loves her because that translates on screen, as well.
Jack: After this great experience for you, what does the future hold next?
Reynaldo: Well, right now I'm doing my music. I'm a singer. I made a song called “The Fall,” which is going to be presented internationally in two weeks. The whole thing started because my character was rated very high in the screen tests at Warner Bros. by the audience. And there was this thing of like, “Hey, you should sing.” And we actually had a song that was inspired by the film and we have a music video now, and it’s like an homage to everybody who’s fighting on the streets right now, for their rights – people in Venezuela, the LGBT community in Russia, the African-Americans in certain parts of the States and etc. This song, specifically, is linked to my non-profit, which is called “Change Your Stories,” where we try to give voice those who are [hurt].
Our Brand Is Crisis opens in theaters nationwide October 30.