Oversexed, underfed, overgrown adolescents.
That's how Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal appeared when they hit the road together in "Y Tu Mama Tambien," the 2002 coming-of-age story that gave the young Mexican actors a following in global cinema and remains possibly their best-known work.
In the seven years since, they've moved beyond the puppy-dog cute, hormonally hyperactive characters they played in Alfonso Cuaron's film, tackling such career-stretching roles as a legendary South American revolutionary (Garcia Bernal in "The Motorcycle Diaries") and a gay-rights activist's lover (Luna in "Milk"). They've also formed a film production company, Canana Films, with their partner Pancho Cruz, and a traveling documentary film festival, Ambulante, selections from which will screen in June as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival.
But what may be most surprising about their career trajectories is that, until now, they'd resisted numerous pitches to reteam on screen.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, June 14, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
"Rudo y Cursi": A May 10 Calendar article about the film "Rudo y Cursi" and its stars, Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, misidentified their Canana Films partner, Pablo Cruz, as Pancho Cruz.
" 'Y Tu Mama Tambien' was very special, and we were quite wary, or let's say careful, of what we were going to do next together," Garcia Bernal said recently during a lunch interview, with Luna, at a Beverly Hills hotel. "Of course we had a lot of propositions of acting together in films that were sort of, kind of in a way perverted remakes of 'Y Tu Mama Tambien.' And even more perverted than 'Y Tu Mama Tambien' -- that's tough to beat, no?"
Finally, the actors found a project that tempted them to reunite that didn't feel like "Y Tu Mama Tambien" redux. "Rudo y Cursi" (Tough and Corny), which opened Friday in Los Angeles and New York, tells the fictional tale of two soccer-loving brothers from poor, rural Mexico who, through a rare stroke of luck and a quasi-Faustian pact with the a mysterious talent scout, become star players. Yet overnight success proves to be a mixed blessing for the siblings, and a threat to their brotherly bond.
"Rudo y Cursi" was written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron's younger brother, Carlos, who also wrote "Y Tu Mama Tambien." Both Cuaron brothers, as well as Luna and Garcia Bernal, belong to a kind of extended filmic fraternity that also includes directors Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth") and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Amores Perros"). As a group, they've known and collaborated with one another for years, contributing in no small measure to one another's success as well as to the continuing resurgence of Mexican cinema over the last several years.
Reflecting those long-standing personal ties, "Rudo y Cursi" will be the first movie put out by Cha Cha Cha Films, a new production company formed by Gonzalez Inarritu, Del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron (often referred to as the Three Amigos) that has a distribution and marketing deal with Universal Pictures. Not coincidentally, the filmmakers say, brotherly love and brotherly competition have been constant themes, both on and off the "Rudo y Cursi" set, from the moment the project was conceived.
"I wanted to explore the theme of brotherhood and sibling rivalry," said Carlos Cuaron, 42. "When we were kids, yeah, [Alfonso] decided that he wanted to be a film director when he was like 12, and so I became his prop, his stunt man, whatever that inflicted pain on me was good, you know. So that part of the two brothers, you know, Rudo and Cursi picking each other and nagging each other and bothering each other, yeah, that's me and Alfonso. But that's also like every sibling relationship I know."
Alfonso Cuaron, 47, said the fraternal themes of "Rudo y Cursi" made the film a perfect choice for Cha Cha Cha's debut. He thinks the movie also marks an acting milestone of sorts for its two leads.
"Until 'Rudo y Cursi,' pretty much they were performing young adults in the films that they've been doing," he said. "And [this is] the first time that you see like a manly Diego, you know, a guy who's a man, not the sensitive young adult. I think he gives his best performance."
Garcia Bernal and Luna agree that they're in quite a different place than they were when they made "Y Tu Mama." No longer itinerant bachelors, they've recently become family men and fathers, businessmen as well as performing artists. Garcia Bernal already has turned 30; Luna will get there later this year.