Andy Garcia: The Conscience of a Conservative

Reluctant movie star Andy Garcia explains why he doesn't like to be on magazine covers, defends his decision to let his daughters act and reaffirms his commitment never to do nude sex scenes.

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I'm all alone in an enormous hotel suite at the Sheraton in Universal Studios. And I mean enormous: bedroom, living room, three bath-rooms, kitchenette and a full dining room. Room service has already delivered enough bagels and cream cheese to feed a Miami Beach family for a month. Andy Garcia has refused to meet me in my own hotel in Hollywood so I'm forced to go to Universal City where Savoy Pictures, for whom Garcia made the Andy Davis-written-and-directed Steal Big/Steal Little, has rented this suite for interviews. When the doorbell rings, I answer it to find Garcia smiling like a canary.

"Remember me?" he asks.

"Of course I do," I say. "I've interviewed you before."

"Yes," says Garcia. "And we also met another time, at a premiere." I remember it well: Garcia seemed even more ill at ease than I felt.

If there is such a thing as a reluctant movie star (do you really think stardom happens by accident?), Andy Garcia is it. Every director who works with him seems to feel he will be the one to bring Garcia to superstardom, but for the most part Garcia has chosen roles that don't make for super-stardom. He lives in L.A., yes; but he keeps a low profile and lives in the unfashionable San Fernando Valley. He's sexy, yes; but he plays against it. He's never denied his Cuban roots: but he refuses to be the spokesman for Latinos everywhere.

Garcia eyes the breakfast tray and goes straight to the phone. "Can I have scrambled egg whites with herbs?" he asks sweetly. "No butter, please, and dry toast with jam."

"Cholesterol?" I ask.

"Just trying to take care of myself," he says.

"I watched all your movies this week," I tell him. "In reverse. Starting with When a Man Loves a Woman and going all the way back to 8 Million Ways to Die."

He looks at me with a slight grimace.

"It was cool," I assure him. "Except that you keep getting younger. And crazier!"

"In the beginning of my career." he says, referring to the mid-'80s, "I was offered every psycho role out there. After 8 Million Ways to Die, it was like they couldn't imagine anyone else playing a druglord."

"It's because you were so perfect as Angel Maldonado," I say, referring to the cocaine-sniffing. Gaudí-loving menace he played in Hal Ashby's folly.

In fact, it was Ashby who first told me what a huge star Garcia would become. "This movie is going to gel him onto everyone's A-list," Ashby said before the release of 8 Million Ways to Die. Francis Coppola fell the same way during the shooting of The Godfather, Part III. "Andy's gonna be huge." he told me at the time. Geena Davis felt that Hero would be the movie that propelled Garcia into the stratosphere. "After people see Andy in Hero," she told me, "they'll begin to see that he can do just about anything." Andy Davis, his director on Steal Big/Steal Little, agrees. "After this film," he told me, "Andy is going to be a huge star."

But if all this talk about hugeness, or the general inaccuracy of the prophecies so far, has any effect on Garcia, he doesn't show it. "I've done some great films and worked with some great directors," he says. "The rest is just filler and gossip."

"Remember the last time we met?" he asks. "And we discovered that we both lived in the same neighborhood in Miami Beach?"

"Same block! You said I reminded you of all the wild Jewish girls you used to know. And I said you reminded me of all the conservative Cuban guys I used to know."

He laughs.

"I have to thank you, though." I tell him. "You saved me from Hurricane Andrew." "How'd I do that?"

"You were dicking me around about an interview--I was supposed to go to Miami, and then I wasn't, and then it was on again and I made reservations, but you canceled. The hurricane hit the night I was supposed to arrive."

"But I wasn't personally dicking you around..."

"No, nothing like that. I know you don't like to do these things," I say, waving to include the tape recorder and notes.

"Well, it's just that you want to pick the right time. You want it to support the movie. But I remember once, someone from a magazine came on the set, and then we got a call from so-and-so and they said, "If you do a fashion layout for us this month, we'll promise you a cover in December.' And I said, 'Tell them, What makes them think I want a cover in December?' I'd rather not be on the cover if I can help it. The last thing I want is to see my face on a newsstand. And I've done them, and I'm sure I'll do them again, but they'll be few and far between. One image per year on a cover is enough for me to handle, really. I mean, isn't it kind of disconcerting to see your face on a news stand?"

"Well, it's never happened to me," I remind him.

"Trust me," he says. "You get off a plane and you're rushing through the airport and--bam!-- you're staring back at yourself. It's so bizarre."

"Looking back at all your movies, like The Untouchables, 8 Million Ways to Die, Black Rain, The Godfather, Part III, Internal Affairs, it's like they were all boy movies..."

"No," he says testily, "women liked them, too."

"That's not what I mean. All of them were stories about you and the guys. You were either a cop or a scumbag. And even when you had a wife or a girlfriend in those stories, she was secondary to the plot."

"That's not true of When a Man Loves a Woman." he says, about the movie he starred in last year with Meg Ryan, that concerned a woman with an out-of-control drinking habit that her husband (Garcia) is only dimly aware of.

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