Andy Garcia has been in some of the most legendary film franchises of all time, from The Godfather to the Ocean’s 11 films, and with a resume like his, he could easily coast along at this point in his career. But his latest proves that’s the last thing on his mind. Big Gold Brick, from director Brian Petsos, known for acclaimed short films with current Hollywood It Boy Oscar Isaac, is an odd film—less gold than marble, with swirling tones and textures that sometimes go nowhere. The stellar cast includes the dark beauty double whammy of Megan Fox and Lucy Hale, plus Issac himself in a bizarre turn near the end. But its Garcia as Floyd Devereax who steals the show, even from the film’s main character Samuel (Emory Coden), a writer hired to complete Floyd’s autobiography. Reviews have been mixed, but Garcia’s portrayal of the charismatic and enigmatic Floyd is undeniably absorbing.
During a recent phone interview, we talked with the actor about his approach to his latest role, and acting in general, as well as the re-release of The Godfather (he earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in Part 3). We also discussed Latino presentation in the movie business and the path that the Cuban actor (birth name: Andrés Arturo García Menéndez) laid out for others, like his friend Issac, who is Cuban-Guatemalan (birth name: Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada). To that end, Garcia’s next project is an exciting one: as patriarch for the HBO’s Latin family take on classic Father of the Bride films.
LINA LECARO: Big Gold Brick is such an unusual movie. What attracted you to the role when you first read the script?
ANDY GARCIA: Well, it was something that you have to decipher. You know, there was an attraction there obviously, because of the originality of it. And it was something that you had to kind of address several times. I had several conversations about it and talked with Oscar Isaac, who was the one who sent me the script, and was an old friend. We had worked together before so I know he is not only a wonderful actor, but we share similar tastes. He had worked with the director. So talking to him I got a sense of okay, I think I know how to attack this situation with this character. Then you put yourself in and you go, wow, this is a crazy ride.
It definitely is a ride. Your character Floyd sort of changed throughout the film, too. Obviously, you learn more about him, especially at the end with the scene with Oscar. Was that an intentional approach– to unpeel his layers? What’s the process for a role like this?
Once you’ve come to a determination within yourself of who you are, what your essence is, then you’re at the mercy of the narrative of the piece and the situations you are thrust into with your fellow actors. And then you take in how your fellow actors are throwing things your way and you as the character have to begin to deal with those things, and achieve those objectives from seeing them move the story. And you try to stay in the moment and deal with those things as they come along. How would Floyd deal with this stuff?
I would say that I’m not one to want to really describe my character or my process that way, you know, was I doing this intentionally and not intentionally, later? All those things come across in your mind. As you’re preparing a part you can close your eyes and see it one way, but on the day those things can change. Because another actor could be throwing things your way another way and then you have to deal with that. Describing Floyd, I had to obviously understand him before starting, but then discover him also as I went along. Floyd is a character that has been –in his backstory and in his present story– light on his feet. He has to always be inventing things in the moment in order to survive.
The movie has a lot of pretty surrealist scenes. There’s some David Lynch vibes there. On one hand you watch a film like this and ask, what’s the message here? On the other you think, maybe there isn’t one? I saw themes of destiny versus coincidence, and how we make judgments about people and situations based on little knowledge, but there’s always kind of more underneath the surface. Am I on track there at all?
I think with the movie, like any movie, you create your own track, you know? And it’s not for me to correct it or steer in a direction. What’s been presented to you in a film form is an amalgamation of the original writing of the material, the vision of the director, the execution of the material by the actors, designers and everything. Improvisations off the material that were explored in the process. All that raw material goes into the cutting room with the director and he continues to shape his initial idea of this film. So how one deals with that when you watch it, it’s really up to each individual. Some people go, ‘I don’t know what this movie is about,’ other people go ‘wow, that’s the most intense day I’ve ever seen.’ Whatever it is, there’s really no wrong about it. People want to know what my opinions are but I’m really more interested in what your opinions are. Who do you think Floyd is? People relate to things differently. You walk up to a painting, and you go, ‘that’s amazing.’ And the person next to him goes, ‘piece of shit.’
That’s totally true. But if I ask you like what the takeaway for viewers of the film might be, can you answer that?
No, I would say what I’m what interested in in my work, and for any film I’m involved in, is for it to have resonance. I’m not here to tell you what kind of resonance it should have for you. Or what my intention is, or to say ‘you must feel this.’ It’s impossible. I throw myself into it. I try to live fully, emotionally and truthfully, within these imaginary circumstances that I’m thrown into. I try to give you a living and breathing Floyd inside the story that hopefully when the story’s over, you have your sense of the journey you went on with him and the movie.
The cast is so stellar. Oscar and Megan Fox are obviously hot right now. And Emory is promising. What was it like to work with them?
Fantastic. It was, obviously, the bulk of my work was with Emory. And it was great because he came in with a very specific character he developed with the director and energy in that character. I wasn’t really a part of that. I was just a recipient of his energy. And that was the beauty– that’s the nature of the discovery. You know, when you work with an actor and ping ponging back and forth. There’s no judgment.
Yeah, you do that so well, I’ve been a fan of yours since The Untouchables and loved you in the Oceans movies, both really good examples of great presence and chemistry between all the players. I bet those were really fun to do.
The Oceans films, I wasn’t really part of that main group that much, only occasionally was I in contact with them. But there’s a thing that happens sometimes, and it’s unspoken. The best work is done with mutual respect and generosity. If you feel that way in the relationship with your fellow actors and the whole creative team, then things work well.
Also, wanted to mention The Godfather. You are great in part of the saga, of course, The original is getting re-released. Do you have any comment on that for the 50th anniversary?
They’re actually naming a street at Paramount after Francis [Ford Copolla]. It’s a living and breathing masterpiece, that movie. To be the number one movie ever made, and no one would argue if you say that. Godfather 2 is an incredible film too. I always have the privilege of being involved in that trilogy so that movie was very important in my life. It really changed my life and ignited my dreams. So it’s a very special movie for me.
As a Latin person, I have to say it’s always nice when you see that representation on the big screen. You’ve really brought that to the entertainment industry for so long. Do you think that since you started Hollywood’s doing better with this?
I think there are more opportunities than when I started, that’s for sure. In all aspects of casting. Could there be more statistically, probably yes. But in terms of, you know, less stereotyping going on and giving opportunities to actors of different ethnic backgrounds, I think, it is. Hire the best actor for the part I say. If you were only able to play the parts that are of your ethnic background, well, first of all, there wouldn’t be that many parts. Aside from that, we would have missed out on some of the greatest performances in history. You could start with Jose Ferrer in Cyrano de Bergerac—he won the Oscar for that. You can talk about Marlon Brando in The Godfather, he’s not Italian. So we have to understand that this is an art form… don’t look at the last name, look at the actor.
You’re Cuban but you’ve played so many different ethnicities so you really embody that idea. So what’s next for you?
We’re just in post-production on a movie I did for Warner Brothers, HBO Max called Father of the Bride. And that’ll come out June 16. I play the father. It’s about a Cuban family. Gloria Estefan plays my wife and Adria Arjona plays my daughter. The groom’s side of the family are from Mexico City. Shenanigans ensue.