“Are You Ready To Move Mountains?” Interview with Eduardo Verastegui, Mexican Actor and Hollywood Producer
From a little town in Northern Mexico, Eduardo Verastegui has made the American dream a reality: he became a Hollywood star, rich, famous and successful. Then one day he realized he didn’t want to be part of the negative stereotype of Latinos any more. He rediscovered his faith; he became a producer and a pro-life activist.
He was in Rome in mid-April for the Vatican screening of his latest film, organized by Manuel de Teffé, the Italian film director and producer, thanks to the collaboration of Claudia Di Giovanni of the Vatican film library, in the screening room of the Vatican, next door to Domus Santa Marta, home of Pope Francis.
It’s not the first time you’re screening a film in the Eternal City…
Eduardo Verastegui: It is the second time and I am very grateful for this incredible opportunity… As a Catholic filmmaker, to be able to show our latest movie in the screening room of the Vatican is a dream… Little Boy is a very special movie… We are independent filmmakers and we put more than five years of our lives into an hour and 40 minutes of your time… The film is intended not only to entertain, but also to make a difference. Its purpose is to wake up the “little boy” we all have in our hearts. What I mean by that is the innocence, the purity, the capacity to love big, to forgive big, to dream big, to do great things, and all those things we had perfectly when we were children. Then we grew up and that is when the problems started!
Have you had a chance to meet Pope Francis?
Thanks to be God, I had the opportunity to meet him with the Papal Foundation… This has been my 5th or 6th time meeting him. The first time was at the end of an audience when he told me: “Don’t forget about the youth!” And this was something that really touched my heart in a very profound way… I saw him in Mexico, just a couple of weeks ago when he was there… I said: “You know, what you said a long time ago, ‘Don’t forget about the youth!’ inspired me to start a movement called ‘Let’s Be Heroes.’ It is a very simple movement meant to inspire young people to work hard to become the best of themselves so that they can use their talent to serve God and others…”
The film was released last year. What impact has it had?
I believe art has a healing power. It has the power to change people’s lives forever, for the better or for the worst. I believe that art can transform life for the better.
Why did you give the title Little Boy to the film?
This movie is a fairy tale for adults through the eyes of a little kid. It takes place in a forest, in a little town in Northern California during World War II. It’s about a little kid, who is 7 or 8 years old but he looks like 4. He is very short, that is why they call him “Little Boy.” This kid is very special; he has no friends. Actually, his only friend is his father… The problem is that it is World War II… So the father has to go to war. When Little Boy finds out that his father for the first time is leaving him, his heart is broken into a thousand pieces… The movie starts right there: what this kid needs to do to achieve the impossible. What is it? To end World War II so he can bring his father back alive… This movie has so many beautiful messages and one of the main themes is faith. If we have faith, we can move a mountain. Are you ready to move mountains? Because we all have our own mountains…
A film is such a challenge… Why was this film important for you personally?
I grew up in Northern Mexico in a very small town. When I moved to Mexico City, I was only 18 years old. My dream was to work in the entertainment business. I wanted to be an actor, a singer, so I started to sing in a boy band for three and a half years. Then I began to work in television in Mexico for four years. Then I moved to Miami and I recorded my first solo album in Spanish. After that I moved to Los Angeles, to Hollywood, to be involved in movies. I did a few.
Then after working really, really hard for 10 years to achieve all the things that our society tells you: if you have fame, success, money, you are going to be very happy — I got confused… My heart was empty and was very confused because I was asking myself: what do I need to do to achieve that happiness and peace I am looking for? That was the time when I met a wonderful lady, who was helping me with my English accent… She uses a method in which she asks a lot of questions: What is the purpose of life, Eduardo? How are you using your talents? Are you part of the problem or of the solution?
There were many questions like these, and because of her I realized I was not assuming the responsibilities I had to assume. I forgot that whatever project you are involved in, whether you like it or not, you affect how people think, live and behave, especially young people who have the tendency and inclination to imitate what they see in film or television.
I realized a sad thing about my Latino community in the USA: the negative stereotype of Latinos. So I understood that I was part of that negative stereotype and then I made a promise to God that I would never ever use my talents again to do anything that will offend my faith, my family or my Latino culture.
After making this promise, I ended up not working for four years. So be careful what you promise! (laughs)
It was not because there were no jobs… I had to say no and no again, until I lost everything… Strangely enough, though, when I lost everything, I found what really matters in life: true freedom, which doesn’t mean to do whatever you want but to do the right thing.
So I was tired of waiting for a role that would portray a man as a real man because I didn’t want to be part of that negative stereotype of Latinos any more, the bandito, the Latin lover, Casanova, playboy, drug dealer, etc. I wanted to be involved in movies that elevate human dignity, which will portray man as a real man, a real hero.
So what I did after four years of not working and losing everything, I said, I am going to leave Hollywood and go to the jungle in Brazil to become a missionary.
This was the moment when I met Fr. Juan, who asked me: “Where are you going?” I said: “To the jungle.” Then he responded: “Eduardo, Hollywood is a bigger jungle and this is where you need to be, not to judge the darkness but to be a light in the darkness.” I said: “But Father, I don’t have the power to control the message, I am just an actor.”
“Become a producer,” he said, “so you can have the power to control the message.” …he inspired me to open a production company and that is what I did.
I met Leo Severino and Alejandro Monteverde and the three of us started Metanoia Films with the mission of making movies that will have the potential not only to entertain but hopefully to make a difference in people’s lives.
The first fruit of that mission was a little movie that has changed the life of so many people, including my own life, called Bella…
What are your plans after Little Boy?
We are working on a few projects but the one that is the most powerful, and the biggest one, doesn’t have a title yet. It is about the massacre of the innocents.
One of the most powerful men back in the days two thousand years ago, Herod, tried to kill one of the most humble families in the world: Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus.
The film is about how the Holy Family escapes from this crazy guy and gets to Egypt. It’s going to be very artistic and beautiful, the cinematography is going to be amazing.
We are in the middle of pre-production so I can’t reveal much but I hope I can come back to Rome and present this movie in the screening room of the Vatican.