Andy Garcia Talks New L.A. Play and Why "I Owe Everything to Cher"

Jeff Lorch/Geffen Playhouse

As a stage adaptation of 'Key Largo' (which he co-wrote and stars in) premieres Nov. 6 at the Geffen Playhouse, the 'Godfather' star recalls past mobster roles, pays tribute to his 'Mamma Mia!' sequel co-star and shares his hopes of doing something on Broadway.

About 80 miles south of Miami Beach, where Andy García grew up as the son of Cuban exiles, sits Key Largo. The largest of the Florida Keys, it was immortalized in the 1948 Warner Bros. film Key Largo, in which Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall find themselves stranded in a hotel during a hurricane when — to make a bad situation worse — they're taken hostage by a ruthless mobster, played by Edward G. Robinson. The John Huston picture is one of García's favorites. "The first time I saw it, I noticed the credits said it was based on a play," he says. "I thought, 'Wow, it would be great to mount that. It's all in one place. You have the storm, these great characters. …' "

A late-night inspiration several decades ago is at last about to become a reality: García, 63, has co-written a new stage adaptation of Key Largo, which receives its world premiere Nov. 6 at the Geffen Playhouse. He also stars as the mobster Johnny Rocco, "but he's even worse than in the movie," García notes. "A real malignant narcissist."

Reclining backstage, García appears to have settled comfortably into his elder statesman status — but is no less suave than the young heartthrob who broke out in such gangster epics as 1987's The Untouchables and 1990's The Godfather Part III. His appeal is certainly not lost on Cher, who played his love interest in 2018's Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. "She picked me, you know," García jokes. "She said, 'I want him.' So I owe everything to Cher."

Not quite everything. García credits much of his success to his "second father," Frank Mancuso, the 86-year-old former Paramount Pictures chairman who was an early champion (and who serves as a producer on Key Largo). It was at Mancuso's urging that Francis Ford Coppola cast García in the role of Sonny Corleone's illegitimate son, which earned him an Oscar nomination. García remembers the chaotic first day of the Rome shoot in which Winona Ryder, who'd been cast as the daughter of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), abruptly left. "In the morning she was in makeup," García recalls. "Next thing we know, we're being told she 'wasn't fit to work.' " A scramble resulted in Coppola's then-18-year-old daughter, Sofia, stepping in. "I thought she was treated very harshly by the critics," García says of the future filmmaker. "I think if people revisit her performance now, you realize it was for no reason."

García, married since 1982 to college sweetheart Marivi Lorido with four children, hints at the possibility of doing something on Broadway. There's a decent chance that Key Largo, directed by Tony Award winner Doug Hughes, could be the play to get him there. In the meantime, his movie dance card is full. He recently wrapped Big Gold Brick, a darkly comic indie — executive produced by close friend Oscar Isaac —about a father who hires a younger man to pen his biography. "But I'm the old man in the room," García says of Isaac. "I like to consider myself the godfather."

This story first appeared in the Nov. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.