Cannes: Diego Luna Is Having a Very Good Year (Q&A)

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He produced the Un Certain Regard entry 'The Chosen Ones,' wrote and directed a comedy starring Maya Rudolph and is teaming up withJonas Cuaron (son of Alfonso): "I’m not one to relax."

Mexican actor Diego Luna has been immersed in the world of entertainment nearly his entire life. He started acting at the age of 7 and later appeared in various telenovelas, but he wanted something more than a career on steamy soaps. So he turned to film, breaking out in 2001 with Y Tu Mama Tambien, a road movie by Oscar winner Alfonso Cuaron, and went on to work with some of Hollywood’s top directors, including Steven Spielberg on The Terminal and Gus Van Sant on Milk.

In 2005, he co-founded production and distribution company Canana with Y Tu Mama co-star Gael Garcia Bernal and producer Pablo Cruz. Luna, 35, calls Cruz, who handles Canana’s day-to-day business, “the brains” behind the operation. But Luna, who has two children with ex-wife Camila Sodi and lives in Mexico City, remains very much involved in Canana, which has become a major international player in Latin American cinema thanks in part to production and sales partnerships with Participant Media and IM Global.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with the actor-director-producer, who recently landed the lead role in a new Amazon TV series about 18th century womanizer Giacomo Casanova, about the Canana titles at Cannes, his third feature as a director (Mr. Pig) and what he thinks about Latin America’s production boom.

Many people probably don’t know David Pablos, the Mexican director whose The Chosen Ones is in the Un Certain Regard lineup. What can you tell us about him and your decision to produce his film?

It was with that very spirit that we formed Canana years ago, to work with young talent that deserves to be heard. David is unquestionably a very gifted director with a unique vision, which was very clear after his first film [2013’s The Life After]. My partner Pablo Cruz has been working on this project for a long time. It’s based on a book by Jorge Volpi, and it’s a love story that touches on a subject that we don’t think about very often. It requires us to think about how we live among [child prostitution] rings and how we allow them to exist. 

You produced and directed the road movie Mr. Pig, starring Danny Glover and Maya Rudolph. Any good tales from the road?

It’s a Mexico road trip that we did in a van with a 330-pound pig, which is twice what I weigh. (Laughs.) It was very beautiful to see how the animal adapted to this life that had nothing to do with his own. And that’s kind of what the film is about, too. It was shot in sequence and the characters undergo a discovery process along the way. Many unexpected things happened and fortunately we were able to incorporate some of them into the story. It was beautiful because you find yourself transforming on the road. As a director, it was the best experience I’ve ever had.

Canana also is co-producing Forsaken, an immigrant thriller directed by Jonas Cuaron. After having worked with his father, Alfonso, on Y Tu Mama Tambien, do you see any similarities in their filmmaking styles?

I’ve known the [Cuarons] for a long time, and I love Jonas; he’s like family. His first film, [2007’s] Year of the Nail, shows that he is a very special filmmaker. It was original and risky, and he’s forming his own path, which I think is very commendable. I’m very happy that he’s been able to do that.

What do you think about the production boom in Latin America?

It’s great that there’s so much diversity now, but the problem is that we don’t share our films, so we don’t connect with one another as a common market. In terms of industry, we don’t live off­ the tickets we sell and we are still dependent on subsidies and fiscal incentives. What we have in Mexico and Latin America is a wide diversity of voices, but in Mexico, for example, we haven’t been able to get a lot of the movies into theaters. You see Mexican cinema in festivals throughout the world and you see Mexican directors getting recognized at Cannes, at the Oscars, in Berlin, but the question is: What is the end result of that in terms of the market? That’s where it’s lacking. Because if you go to a theater in Mexico, it’s very diffi‘cult to find a Mexican film playing, and if there is a Mexican movie, it usually has a very short run. In Latin America, we need to find the right conditions to form a common block.

Does Canana have any new projects in the pipeline?

No, the truth is, we’re doing less projects nowadays but of better quality. It has to do with the fact that we grow with each project, and when we began, we wanted to do everything, so now we just want to finish the two films we have before moving on to the next project.

Between acting, directing, producing and writing, does it ever feel like too much?

No, because now I am more focused on the things I want to do. Maybe the big di­fference is that I have kids now, but I’ve never been one to just relax. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but right now I’m really focusing on film and I’ll be traveling later this year with a play. So I still work a lot, but when you have kids, your priorities change