Venezuelan-born actor Edgar Ramirez (“Joy,” “Carlos”) spoke to Variety at IFF Panama about his role as Panamanian boxer, Roberto Duran, in Jonathan Jakubowicz’s soon to be released “Hands of Stone,” also starring Robert de Niro, as his trainer, Usher as Sugar Ray Leonard, and Ellen Barkin, Ana de Armas, and Panamanian cult salsa singer, Ruben Blades.
Ramirez says that it was an honor to play Duran, who was nicknamed “Hands of Stone” because his hard hits led him to 103 wins in 119 fights. He considers Duran to be the greatest-ever Latin American boxer and one of the top ten all-time greats.
The pic is produced by Jay Weisleder, Carlos Garcia de Paredes, Claudine Jakubowicz and Jakubowicz of La Piedra Films and the executive producers include Ben Silverman, Max Keller, George Edee, Ricardo del Rio and Roberto Duran’s son, Robin Duran.
Robert de Niro championed the film for a long time, even before becoming involved as an actor in the pic. Ramirez says that he worked with helmer Jonathan Jakubowicz right from the beginning of the project and helped put the different partners together.
The Panamanian government put up significant funding for the pic, which lensed for four months in Panama in 2014, as well as a one-week shoot in New York. The production involved 15,000 Panamanian extras.
The pic is primarily Spanish-language with some English.
At Cannes in 2015, The Weinstein Company outbid Relativity to secure U.S. distribution rights, with a commitment to release on 2,000 screens. According to Ramirez, the pic will bow on 2,600 screens on August 26, which he says will make it the biggest ever U.S. opening for a Latin American film.
“I think it’s a great movie,” says Ramirez. “It not only tells the tale of a legendary Latin American boxer, it also tells the story of a man who became a hero in his country and his region. Panama has somehow always been a country under foreign control, so there’s always been a question of identity. Roberto Duran in many moments, including in some of the most difficult moments in the country’s history, has served as an instrument of unification and celebration of the pride of the country, and that’s is very beautiful.”
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