Andy Garcia: The Conscience of a Conservative
Pants down, huh? When Garcia had a love scene with Bridget Fonda in The Godfather, Part III, he kept on his V-necked T-shirt!
"If they make The Godfather, Part IV, you'd be the star, right?" I ask.
"Yes, At least in the abstract. It depends how Coppola structures it. He might go back in time. Who knows. There have been a lot of rumors. I know there was an idea for doing a double story, of De Niro playing the Godfather in the '30s or '40s, what they call the happy years. And then Vincent in the '90s, with both of them intertwined."
"Would you do it again?"
"Oh yes, absolutely. I'd work with Francis at the drop of a hat. The Godfather is like a soap opera, just one long ongoing saga. It's a movie people want to see. It's the one question I get asked every day of my life--people scream out to me, 'Hey, Andy, when's Godfather IV coming out?' They just can't wait to see it."
"You just did Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, and that's about the mob, too..."
"Different, though. It's a black comedy about this protagonist, his name is Jimmy the Saint, who's the character I play. He's been out of the mob business for a number of years. He was in jail for a while and then he came out and started a business, which is called After Life Videos. And what he does is he puts people on tape just before they die, and they talk about all the different subjects that they would like their family and friends to ask them about later on for guidance. This is his concept, but it's not doing too well. Christopher Walken plays a quadriplegic mob boss from Denver. All he can move is his head."
"Sounds like a boy movie to me," I say.
Garcia rolls his eyes. "This is a very funny movie, a very smart script. You're gonna eat your words."
I'd rather eat my bagel, so I switch so another topic. "You fled Cuba when you were five. Did you speak English when you came to Miami?"
"No. My mother was an English teacher, my father a lawyer and farmer. I remember when we were here for a few months, my brother and I were at the beach and these lit¬tle kids, same as my brother and me, were playing with each other. And I got really upset and said to my broth¬er, 'How come they know how to speak English'?' But my father always told this story that after we were in Miami for a year or so, he passed the park on his way home and he saw me fighting with some kids. He stopped and watched, and then he went home and told my mother, 'Don't worry about your son. He's going to do just fine.' Because I was fighting in English."
"Did you feel happy to come to America'?"
"I had the greatest childhood I could ever want. The only one I would change it for was to have grown up in Cuba. That would have been heaven on earth. But not Castro's Cuba. And hopefully it wouldn't have been Batista's Cuba, but a democratic Cuba. That would have been paradise, for me anyway."
"Your wife, Marivi, emigrated about the same time you did. You've been married for 15 years or so..."
He nods and smiles.
"...So, when you're alone, what language do you speak?"
He looks thoughtful. "We speak Spanish and English. I talk to the kids in Spanish but they prefer English. I guess when my wife and I are alone. I probably talk to her in Spanish. It's funny, I never thought about it."
"Didn't you have a part in Dangerous Minds?"
"I don't know what's going on with that movie. I'm no longer involved with it."
"They cut you out of it, right?"
"I really don't know."
"Well, you filmed some scenes, and those scenes are no longer in the film. Isn't that what they mean when they say you were cut out of a film?"
Garcia smiles, but it's a little tighter than normal. "I did this as a favor for Michelle [Pfeiffer]. She asked me to come in, and then we were gonna try to create this thing for her character, a love interest. There was nothing in the script. It was basically an improvisation. We did a bunch of scenes, danced and a lot of other stuff. Then they didn't use it. Michelle said that she kept telling them to get me back in to do some more scenes, to make the movie about their relationship. I have no comment, because to me it was a favor and I was very happy with what we did together, and I was also very happy to know that everybody else was happy with it, But they decided to go and tell the story about the kids and that's fine. I do movies for the process. I don't do movies for the box office or to see myself on the screen or anything like that. If the process is great and you're collaborating with the right people, you're ahead of the game."
"In your new film, Steal Big/Steal Little, you play twin brothers. Someone told me you are a twin.."
Garcia looks distrustful. "Who told you that?" he demands.
"I don't remember..."
"Because I almost had a twin in real life," he says. "I was born with a cyst on my shoulder. My mother told me this story, and she has this tendency to exaggerate, but she said it had little arms and legs and hair and everything. Now, this could be completely medically untrue, but she told me it was a twin that never developed. I always envisioned that if he had lived, we would have been attached, like that movie, How to Get Ahead in Advertising, where he just got an extra head. My mother said it was quite large, the size of a Softball. They just snipped it off."
We let that sink in while we sip our juice.
"Steal Big/Steal Link was the most effervescent film I ever worked on." Garcia offers. "This is Andy Davis's first film since The Fugitive. As Alan Arkin said, 'Nobody should be allowed to have this much fun.' It was one long improvisation on a theme, and the theme is about greed and the importance of community and family and sharing, and how greed tampers with that. It's structured around identical twin brothers. They grow up on the same farm, but one becomes a developer, a greedy guy, and the other wants to work the land, grow avocados."
"Which one did you relate to?"
"Oh, no contest, the avocado guy. It's a very involved story, with these twin brothers impersonating each other, a big. happy mess of a story. And my daughter in the movie is played by my oldest daughter, Dominik..."
"Has she ever done any acting?"
"No. She's 12. She's acted in school plays and has taken classes and stuff. Then Andy Davis saw her and said he wanted her in the film, and I asked her, and of course she said yes. She did a beautiful job."
"Do I have to remind you that this is the hardest, most upsetting, cutthroat business in the world? Why in hell would you let your daughter do that?"
Garcia's eyes flash. "She's not in the business, she just did this one movie."
"I know, but you know what'll happen now..."
"No, Martha, I don't know what will happen now. I'm certainly not gonna get in the way of her own desires. Why would I? Then she'll do things for the wrong reasons. She's no dummy, and anyway, it's her life, not mine. My other daughters had little bits in the movie, too. And it was a joy to work with them."
I am properly chastised. "Okay, one last thing. You always look so good in clothes. I was wondering, who dresses you?"
"Who dresses me?" he asks, his voice rising. "I think I'm old enough to dress myself."
"No, I mean who picks out your clothes. Do you just have a good sense of style?"
"I don't shop for clothes, I just keep my wardrobe from the films I do. This coat I'm wearing is from Jennifer 8, I designed it."
"'It's like an old pea coat, right?"'
"Yeah, but we did it from scratch. It's an actor's thing, you know. Basically, it was a coat that I wanted to be able to button all the way to my neck. Because I knew it was going to be cold and I wanted a military look to it. So we designed it from scratch."
He gets up to show me the coat buttons. And it looks great. But I can't help thinking-- Andy Garcia would look great in anything. Or in nothing! But we aren't about to see that anytime soon.
Martha Frankel interviewed Jennifer Beals for the August Movieline.