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“I call him The Dream,” he said of his The Way of the Gun co-star, who died this week at age 82. “When I met him, I walked up to him and I said ‘Mr Caan, it’s an honor to be here working with you.’ He said, ‘You can call me The Dream.’ And I said ‘Why?’ ‘Cos it’s a dream to work with me.’”
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Del Toro remembers Caan as “a great, funny guy. I had the opportunity to spend time with him, to work with him, to be with him; we went to Cuba together. I’m very sad and I pass my condolences to his family. Wow — what a career, what an influence, one of the greats.”
Del Toro was in the Czech Republic to receive the KVIFF President’s Award and for special screenings of The Usual Suspects and Traffic.
Asked if roles for Spanish-speaking actors had changed since 2000’s Traffic, he said: “I think there’s more opportunity now than when I first started. There’s a lot more chance for actors and I think at the same time Latin actors. When I first decided to be an actor, and I told people I was going to be an actor, they laughed, they really feel like you’re crazy. I think when a kid now says he wants to be an actor, no one laughs.”
He said he had “done my fair share of swimming against a current” during his career, and was typecast in the early days as the bad guy, partly due to “the shape of my eyes.”
Del Toro praised fellow Puerto Rican actor Rita Moreno, who appeared in both the 1961 and 2021 versions of West Side Story, declaring: “Because of her, it was a little bit easier for me. She must have had it really hard. America has evolved a little bit, become more politically correct over the last 50 or 60 years — a big leap, not only for Latinos but for many other minorities.”
And yet, it could have all gone very differently, as casting director Bonnie Timmermann reportedly considered the young actor for the lead role in Dirty Dancing. “I didn’t audition but what I understand is that she suggested me,” he said. “Who knows where my career would be?” Instead of that, I’ve probably got the James Bond movie where I’m stabbing everybody.”
He also praised The French Dispatch director Wes Anderson. “I’ve worked with a lot of directors where the camera follows the actor. His filmmaking is maybe the other way around. You work for his point of view. I was feeling like, ‘How is this gonna jell?’ and it was amazing how much fun it was. I hope we do something together again. His movies are on a separate channel.”
The actor also name-checked Karlovy Vary’s Grandhotel Pupp, which is said to have been an inspiration for The Grand Budapest Hotel. “I don’t know this from him,” he said. “I hear he used the hotel as a model, which is pretty funny.”
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