'Overboard' star Eugenio Derbez: 'I like to break stereotypes'
Funnyman Eugenio Derbez is undeniably famous in the United States. But among Hispanic audiences and fans in Latin America, the guy is a bonafide megastar.
How so? Well, he's starred in several hugely popular TV shows in his native Mexico. Trade publication Variety named him the most influential Hispanic man in the entertainment industry. The 2013 film "Instructions Not Included," which he directed, wrote and starred in, stands as the highest-grossing Spanish-language film in the States. And let's not even discuss the nearly 10 million people who follow his every move on Twitter.
Derbez will try to bring together Hispanic and mainstream audiences with "Overboard," a bright remake of the 1987 comedy that featured Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Genders are swapped this time around, as a wealthy, ill-mannered playboy (Derbez) loses his memory and is fooled into believing he's married to a low-income single mom (Anna Faris).
Charming and dapper, Derbez, 56, visited Phoenix during a promotional tour to talk about "Overboard" and his career, which shows no signs of slowing.
Question: Was remaking "Overboard" your idea?
Answer: When I went to MGM, they told me, "We have a few remakes that would be great for you," and they mentioned "Overboard." I was like, "I love 'Overboard!' Goldie Hawn was my movie-star crush!" We started working on the script three years ago, and they gave me the chance to co-produce and give my input to make it more appealing to my audience, so we could navigate between Americans and Latinos.
Q: Were the genders always reversed in the remake?
A: That was something we brought in at the very last minute. Actually, when we mentioned that to MGM, they really freaked out: "It's a classic! You're going too far!" But they read the first draft and loved it.
Q: Why switch the genders?
A: For two essential reasons. First because I like to break stereotypes. I was tired of playing the gardener, the poor guy. In the original, Kurt Russell was a carpenter. I thought, let's make the Latino a rich guy and the American girl is cleaning the floors. Secondly, that way we avoid direct comparisons with Goldie Hawn or Kurt Russell.
Q: Also, in this #MeToo age, the original concept seems kind of mean.
A: Exactly! (Laughing) We thought about that, too. It would be mean and dangerous. Reversing the roles, you feel more connected to this single woman with three kids. It’s a much more modern story now.
Q: Was it your idea to cast Anna Faris?
A: That was one of the writer-directors, and they said Anna would be amazing, especially because she looks so much like Goldie Hawn. I remember shooting the film and constantly looking through the monitor and saying, "Wow, she looks exactly like Goldie Hawn!" It was freaky. She has the sense of humor we needed, and she’s beautiful. It was perfect.
Q: Your dog, Fiona, is in the film. Is that a perk of producing?
A: (Laughing) Thank you for bringing this to the table. This is the first time I’m going to talk about this. The writers (Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg) wanted to direct the movie, which they did, finally. In the beginning, they were trying to seduce me and my business partner. I'm always with my dog, Fiona, in the office. She comes every single day. When they came to pitch the story, they said, "Oh, and there's a dog called Fiona in it." Immediately, I bit: "These are the guys I want to direct!"
Q: You also work with kids in this movie, which is like a trend for you.
A: (Laughing): I swear, it's just mere coincidence. I probably have a hidden issue, because before "La Misma Luna" in 2007, I hated working with kids. But after that, I learned so much about how to handle a kid that I liked it. And then came "Instructions Not Included," and it was like, "OK, now I think I've got it." Life just kept bringing me projects with kids.
Q: Does the mainstream U.S. movie audience laugh at the same things as Mexican audiences?
A: I think it’s a big difference. Drama is more universal. We all cry about the same stuff. But comedy is very specific: It depends on where you were born, how old you are, your social-economic status. It’s very complicated to make people laugh. In Mexico and Latin America, everything is big: Bigger emotions, bigger reactions. Here in the U.S., everything is more natural, more grounded and down to earth. It's been really hard trying to make a movie that can connect with both worlds, but I think we finally did it. I think this movie works for the U.S. and Mexico perfectly.
Q: Did "How to Be a Latin Lover" work for both audiences?
A: I feel that "Latin Lover" was lacking a heart for us Latinos. I remember all the Anglos that watched said, "Oh, it's nice, it's touching." Latinos wanted more emotion, like "Instructions Not Included." I heard from them, "I thought I was going to cry at the end and nothing happened!" "Latin Lover" was not a perfect example for my audience.
Q: You direct in Spanish, but said you were waiting until the right time to direct in English. Is that time soon?
A: I'm still learning a lot, and I have discovered that my own sense of humor is completely different and unique, so that's probably going to feel fresh and different (to a U.S. audience). I think I'm ready to bring my style to a comedic movie as a director. (Laughing) I have a lot of confidence. Well, not that much, but some.
Q: So what's next for you?
A: I have two options. One is "A Chinese Tale," or "Un Cuento Chino." It's an Argentinian remake, but we're changing it like 80 percent, so it's more than a remake, it's like another movie. It's the story of a Chinese and a Mexican, linked together by a cow who fell from the sky. And it's based on a true story. (Long pause) I know, right?!