An Interview With Eduardo Verastegui, Lead Actor and Co-Producer Of The Highly Anticipated Film Bella.
Editorís Note This interview was conducted over two one one hour sessions. The first interview took place in person on February 21, 2007, and by phone on September 28, 2007. After the February conversation, following my talk at Family Theater in Hollywood, Eduardo invited me to his home to preview Bella, which I had the privilege of viewing the following day. My review will soon be posted but trust me it is a film you won't want to miss.
Dave Hartline Eduardo, Bellaís release is upon us after all the hard work and traveling how does it feel as the filmís release approaches?
Eduardo Verastegui It is so exciting. I have been preparing for this moment for five years. This movie of hope required so much sacrifice and yet here we are, the labor of love so many have worked on is about to be released.
Dave Hartline What do you want people to take from this movie?
Eduardo Verastegui I would like everyone to feel hopeful after this movie. Bella gives us all something to think about. It would be great if after seeing this movie people would love more, show true compassion, complain less and become better people overall. I also hope the movie causes people to use their God-given talents to help those whom they know and donít know.
Dave Hartline There are so many subtleties to this movie. I found it fascinating because it gave me hope and caused me to think. What are some of the other characteristics about the movie that you would like to discuss.
Eduardo Verastegui You know one of the things I wanted to emphasize was admirable Latin men. Ever since the 1940s and 1950 Latino men are portrayed in films as either "Don Juan-Latin lovers" or criminals. I think Bella shows us something different and better. I feel grateful along with many other Latinos for the opportunities this country has provided me. I think you see that in Bella.
Dave Hartline You bring up an interesting point. I have heard so many labels for this movie, a family movie, a love story, a different kind of love story, a pro-life film, a movie of faith and hope. Yet, these themes are so subtle and people of faith or no faith at all have given this movie some excellent reviews.
Eduardo Verastegui This movie is about hope. It is for people of faith or no faith at all. It shows us average men and women doing great things. Sinners arenít being condemned but shown a better way. I canít help but think of what Jesus said [Luke 15:1-7] concerning the rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner. We are all sinners yet we are called to show others the way, not through condemnation but through Christís example. This hope I speak of I first encountered in Scott Hahnís book, Rome Sweet Rome. It had a great impact on me and its influences can be seen in a lot of what I do.
Dave Hartline I know when I decided to speak and write full-time some people thought I was a little crazy. Even after my book, The Tide Is Turning Toward Catholicism, came out some people said who wants to read a positive book about the Catholic Church? They must have really thought you were crazy for turning down the millions that you could have made after being dubbed the ďBrad Pitt of Latin filmsĒ
Eduardo Verastegui You wouldnít believe it. So many people, even some close to me, said I was crazy. They pleaded with me to continue to do what I was doing but I knew God had other plans for me. People can criticize your positive book, The Tide Is Turning Toward Catholicism, or my change of heart. However, if we live to be 80 years old and people constantly call us crazy that may seem like a long time, but heaven is forever and that is my goal. I realized that I didnít want to be a part of anything where the Blessed Virgin Mary or my mother would have to cover their eyes. When people see passionate scenes in the movies they have to remember that even though that is only a three of four minute scene, it could have taken all day to film. When I let it be known that I was not going to do anything like that anymore, I remember so many people telling me, ďEduardo whatís the problem, a little kissing for a few minutes, thereís nothing wrong with that.Ē There is more to it than that and it can play with your mind, especially your thoughts, since the woman in the passionate scene could be married or in a serious relationship. I made up my mind that I was going to work on projects that the Blessed Mother and my mother would be proud of, projects that would produce fruit for the world not filth. You have to be commited to faith daily. I have a spiritual structure to the day, Mass, Bible reading, praying the rosary and Confession at least once a week. We have structure for less important things, why not for our faith life?
Dave Hartline I canít help but think of Father Patrick Peyton, the Rosary priest, who had a vision of Hollywood being a center of evangelization of faith through the medium of film. I think a lot of people thought he was crazy for making such a statement but people forget about the many miracles in his life and he is now being considered for canonization. You may be part of what he was envisioning.
Eduardo Verastegui You know Hollywood not only influences Americans but people all over the world, people of different cultures and religions. It is so sad that much of what comes out of Hollywood has no redeeming value, it produces no fruit and gives the world a bad picture of Hollywood, the film industry and America. If I am a small part in fulfilling Father Peytonís message then I feel humbled. Mother Teresa told the world that we are called to use our talents for fulfilling Christís message of building up the Kingdom, not to build up our bank accounts or add to our mansions. It is sad that so many people use their talents the wrong way or donít use them at all. God has so many great things planned for each and every one of us. It is my hope that Bella gives those who watch it the spark to do those things.
Dave Hartline Whatís next for Metanoia Films and Eduardo Versategui?
Eduardo Verastegui I donít know. We are taking this one step at a time. Right now all of our efforts and energies are focused on Bella. I have been traveling all over the world to tell people about this film. I will continue to as long as it requires. Afterwards, Alejandro [Monteverde] and the many others involved in Metanoia will figure out whatís next. I will wait and see and most importantly pray over what God wants me to do. He may have me making more movies, spending time in quiet contemplation or going back to Mexico and serving tacos to the needy. I donít know but I do know whatever God wants me to do, I will find out in prayer.
Editorís Note I have interviewed enough celebrities to know that you only get 10, 15 or maybe 30 minutes with them. You have to get a lot done in a short amount of time. However, in my conversations with Eduardo Verastegui, time was not important to him. Each of our conversations lasted over an hour. What was important to him was to convey his passionate beliefs about the movie Bella, his ideas about filmmaking and his religious faith. After talking with Eduardo, you canít help but feel better about life and truly believe that the tide is turning.
Eduardo & Me Shortly After My Talk At Family Theater In Hollywood. He's Holding Up His Copy Of The Tide Is Turning Toward Catholicism
Here's Some Bella Early Publicity Materials Shown To Me While I Was At Eduardo's Home
Steve McEveety And Yours Truly. Steve Is The Executive Producer Of Bella. He Also Produced The Passion Of The Christ, Braveheart, What Women Want & Many Other Films.