Mauricio Kuri talks For Greater Glory
For Greater Glory, the story of the 1920s Cristero War, will be available to watch on BluRay and DVD on Tuesday, September 11, 2012. For Greater Glory tells the story of the violent civil war in Mexico following President Plutarco Elias Calles’ anti-Catholic provisions in the 1917 Constitution of Mexico.
A 13-year-old boy named Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio decides to take part in the Cristero War after watching the Mexican police execute his priest. The movie stars Peter O’Toole, Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, Catalina Sandino Moreno, and Ruben Blades. Newcomer Mauricio Kuri plays Jose Luis, and he talks about the history of his country and what it was like working with a legend like Peter O’Toole.
AG: Can you start with telling the readers a little bit about your character in this movie and if there was any sort of personal connection between you and your character?
MK: I think there was a lot of personal connection, because my character was 14 years old, and when I was filming, I was 13. The movie has a lapse of three years, so at the beginning of the movie, I’m 12, and when it ends, I’m 14. Being 13 was just perfect, because I was between those two ages. I felt connected, because I think that being the same age, we could think similarly, and I’m Catholic. So being involved in this story that was known in Mexico and all over the world was amazing. I wanted to transmit to all of the people what actually happened in my country. We know history about the Chinese, the British, but we don’t know much Mexican history. It was a huge opportunity. It was amazing, because I always wanted to be an actor. My main purpose is to be a movie director, but it was amazing because I love cinema. I think cinema is just a great way to express yourself and transmit emotions. It was a really challenging experience, but it was beautiful.
AG: How did you get started acting?
MK: In my regular school, we have theater class. My teacher, Laura Belmas, she said, “Mauricio, can you come here for a second?” I said, “Yeah,” and she said, “I see some talent in you for theater, so I suggest you stay involved here in theater.” Theater is beautiful, and she taught me a lot of personal stuff about acting, so I got this passion for theater because of her. That passion for theater became a passion for cinema. Once I got this script for a movie called La Leyenda del Tesoro, it was produced by the same producer of For Greater Glory. It was a Mexican movie. It was a really small role, but I got that role, my first in a film. I was like, “Oh my god!” So one year later, the For Greater Glory script came, and I was just amazed that all of these things that I was reading in the script, I didn’t know a lot of it. I got so sad, because most of these things that I was reading actually happened. The whole movie is based on true events. I mean, not even my teachers knew about this, so I thought, “Something is wrong here.” That was also an inspiration to tell the people what happened. Not even Mexican people knew about this.
AG: Being a Mexican-American myself, I had no idea about the Cristiada, so this is a very informative movie. What kind of research did you do after reading the script and realizing, “Oh, there are a lot of things I didn’t even know about this?”
MK: I read the biography of my character, Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, which was written by his uncle. It’s in Spanish, but I read the whole biography. It had real documents and photographs. I also read a little bit of this book called La Cristiada. It was written by John Mayer. Not the singer! (laughs) He’s a French investigator here in Mexico that is really famous. It was so weird, too, that the guy that wrote the story for the script, well, not the script, but the book the script was based on, was French! He’s not even Mexican! There was clearly something bad in this, because someone didn’t want people to know about this process. It’s something cruel that happened in our country, but it’s true. It’s really sad, but I’m glad that now that the DVD is coming out, people will be able to see some part of Mexican history in their house.
AG: What was it like working alongside such great actors like Andy Garcia, Peter O’Toole, and Catalina Sandino Moreno?
MK: It was just great. When I saw Peter O’Toole, I was just speechless. I love Lawrence of Arabia. It’s one of my personal favorite movies. When I saw him, I was kind of scared, too. These wonderful actors, they were so good that I didn’t want to disappoint them. I’m just starting, and I didn’t want to screw up (laughs). So I had to prepare myself more when I noticed that these huge actors were going to be in the movie. It was such a great experience, too, because they were all nice to me. I have this really cool relationship now with Peter O’Toole. He told me about his personal life and this school I should go to when I grow up. He went to the this school called the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. I want to go to that school, and it’s in London. He told me that it’s a wonderful school, that it exposes you to acting. There were a lot of personal experiences between us and between Andy Garcia and me. The relationship on film, it was pretty much the same kind of relationship outside of the film. It was awesome, because I consider him my friend. We were talking about a new project that he’s going to do, about Hemingway, he’s going to direct the movie. We were just talking about working together again, but it’s not official yet. I’m just glad that I have this relationship with him, because he’s such a wonderful person and such a wonderful actor, too. I admire him so much in the Godfather, because he’s just a person who knows how to get into character perfectly. Outside the film, he asked me to call him General. Not even during the movie, just there on set, I called him General. It was pretty cool and really fun.
AG: Now that this movie is nominated for so many ALMA Awards, what is it like for you being a part of this movie?
MK: Well, I’m really excited, because I know it got five nominations. I know that’s a lot. I’m excited, because I think the people that got nominated really deserve it, like Andy Garcia. I think he deserves that award, because he got so involved in the character. You could actually see the General through his eyes. I’m feeling so lucky to be in such a big movie for Mexico, because it was the most successful in the box office here in Mexico, the most watched movie in the history of Mexican cinema. It was just a great experience. I learned so much. It was my best school of acting, because Andy Garcia and Peter O’Toole taught me personal experiences and gave me personal tips. It was just great.
AG: With all of the controversy surrounding Mexico, how important do you think it is for a movie like this to come out? What misconceptions of Mexico are there in Hollywood that would love to be set straight?
MK: In Hollywood, mostly there are not a lot of Mexican movies. This movie wasn’t that successful in the United States, but I think it’s one of those movies that leaves a mark in people’s hearts. It has a really strong message. I think it’s one of those movies you don’t see a lot anymore, because you have something behind that is a lot of message and a lot of story behind it. It actually happened. It was just so great, the experience of filming it, so I’m really glad the DVD is finally coming out. People can see this story over and over again, and I can watch it at my house, too (laughs). It was just amazing, the whole experience, since I got the casting call all that way up until now.
AG: Any last words for the readers about yourself or the movie?
MK: There is actually something funny that happened on set, and the scene got cut from the movie. They’re probably going to put it on the DVD. Andy Garcia throws me a gun in a scene, and I needed to catch it. I was looking the other way when he threw me the gun, so when I look up, the gun lands on my nose. It was so heavy! It was made of metal, so my nose cracked open. It was really cool, though, because now I have a scar on my nose that I can say Andy Garcia gave to me!