Edgar Ramirez talks about how The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story exposes homophobia in the U.S. that allowed five murders to go unchecked 20 years ago and discovering he looks like the famous fashion designer’s doppelgänger.
The Venezuelan actor transformed himself into an elf working as a government agent in David Ayer’s contemporary fantasy thriller “Bright,” which opened in theaters and on Netflx on Friday. He also plays fashion icon Gianni Versace in the Ryan Murphy-produced limited series “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” which premieres on FX in January.
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Over the course of his career, the 40-year-old Ramirez has played everything from a Greek god to legendary boxer Roberto Durán, but these two roles required something else entirely.
For “Bright,” which costars Will Smith, Ramirez asked the Italian sartorial house Kiton to craft his character Kandomere’s suits, while makeup artists gave him prosthetic ears, special teeth and a wig that was purposefully stranded together to look intentionally unnatural. Portraying Versace was actually more intense. Ramírez wore not only prosthetics but also a wig cap that made him nervous.
Ramirez recalls, “The first day, I told Ryan, ‘I’m ready to take this off and shave my head and put the wig on my shaved head.’ He said, ‘Edgar, trust me. You don’t need to do it. It looks great already.’ I had a little freaking out moment with the prosthetic, but I think that every actor using it for the first time can relate.”
The action fantasy Bright takes place in an alternate universe where humans, orcs and elves all co-exist but don’t handle the differences any better than the different races and religions do here on planet earth. The discord is exacerbated when rumors begin flying that a magic wand has somehow made its way into their world.
The result is that human police officer Ward (Will Smith) and his orc partner Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), who thought they were heading out on an ordinary night of patrol, have to take a young woman into their protection and battle all the various factions who want to get their hands on the ancient artifcat.
“Basically, it’s a great and very interesting metaphor of the world we’re living in, where there’s so much intolerance, prejudice, and stereotypes,” say Edgar Ramirez, who plays an elf named Kandomere who works in the FBI’s magic division. “What was so appealing to me was to explore a subject that is so close to us in our daily lives in such a fantastical, new, and intriguing world.”
The dissension among the various sects — human, elves and orcs — brings to mind Rodney King‘s plea: Can we all just get along? And Ramirez agrees, also pointing out that the film reminds him of blockbuster movies he watched in the ’70s and ’80s that were so impactful, like E.T., which, in addition to being fantastical, dealt with how hurtful divorce is.
“Bright comes along in the tradition of big, entertaining movies that always touch upon greater subjects going on in society, such as the issue of identity, the issue of empathy, how to understand the other, how the other lives, and how do we, as you said, get along,” he says.
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“I do movies for personal reasons,” Édgar Ramírez tells us. Before he was in Hollywood movies, the Venezuelan actor was a journalist, and spent much of his life traveling the globe with his father, a soldier. He even considered becoming a diplomat. When he started appearing in films, like “Domino,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Joy” and especially “Carlos,” he always did so because he connected with them on a deep level.
As such, he sees a lot in “The Girl in the Train,” the splashy film version of Paula Hawkins’ mega-bestseller about a lonely woman (Emily Blunt) who gets involved in the case of a missing woman (Haley Bennett). Ramírez, 39, only has a small role in the film: He plays the therapist to the AWOL girl, who becomes one of the possible suspects. But that doesn’t stop him from waxing on what it says about society, the dangers of technology and, of course, Trump.
What was your big connection to “The Girl on the Train”?
It’s been a long time since Hollywood did a movie like this. We’ve seen strong and complex adult dramas in the independent world and overseas, but this movie reminds me of the great adult dramas from the ’80s and early ’90s: “Basic Instinct,” “Fatal Attraction” — films with messiness and complexity.
I’m old enough to remember that era.
They were the movies our parents didn’t want us to see. You would watch it on Betamax. [Laughs] I’m very excited because I think Hollywood tells those stories very well. American cinema is fantastic. If this movie performs the way we expect, it could open the doors to these types of films coming back on a big scale. Then we have options other than horror films and superhero films. We’ll that collective experience of moviegoing.
“The Girl on the Train” is a very empathetic portrayal of a troubled woman who’s been cast out of society — someone we’d probably ignore if we ran into her.
The movie holds a mirror for us to recognize ourselves in the brokenness, so to speak, of the three main, female characters. That’s very refreshing. Because female complexity is so interesting to watch onscreen. We all deal with burdens and guilt and unfinished business. We all want to move on from something. We all want to detach from something that causes us pain.
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