Interview: Eva Longoria
Posted: Tuesday, April 11th 2006 2:44PM
Author: Paul Fischer
Location: Los Angeles, CA
In less than two years, it took a little known TV show to turn an ex-Texan model into an iconic superstar. The show is Desperate Housewives and the actress is the petite but sexy Eva Longoria, now enjoying her first starring role on the big screen, as a gun-toting Secret Service agent in The Sentinel, opposite Michael Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland. Not one to shy away from her obvious sex appeal, actress Eva Longoria has thrived on playing seductive Latinas throughout her career.
Born in Corpus Christi, Texas--an area she has frequently returned to over the years--Longoria was the youngest of four daughters growing up on the family ranch. Though stunning in her adult years, she has described herself as the proverbial ugly duckling as a kid--her family nicknamed her prieta fea--or 'ugly dark one'--because she was the only daughter with dark hair, dark eyes and dark skin. After blossoming into a fetching young woman, Longoria attended Texas A&M University-Kingsville, where she earned her Baccalaureate in Kinesiology--the study of body movement. When she wasn't studying, Longoria appeared on stage in university theater productions.
After graduation, Longoria won an Infinity Model Search contest, which led to her discovery by a theatrical agent. She soon found herself in bit parts on television, including an episode of "Beverly Hills, 90210" and eventually was cast as Isabella Brana on the long-running daytime soap opera, "The Young and the Restless" Longoria was honored with an ALMA Award for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama in 2002 for her work on the soap. Meanwhile, she hosted "The Talent Agency" (2003), a syndicated talent show that came and went without so much as a whimper. In "Hot Tamales Live", a Pay-Per-View comedy special hosted by Kiki Melendez, Longoria got the chance to display her comic talents. But despite growing exposure, Longoria failed to make herself a household name. That would soon change.
Longoria landed her first regular series role as Detective Vanessa Cruz on "L.A. Dragnet" (ABC, 2002-2004). Joining the cast after a major restructuring in 2003, Longoria enjoyed the role for only one season--the series was canceled in April 2004. But her luck changed when she signed on to "Desperate Housewives" a run-away hit that took many in Hollywood by surprise. A dark comedy about the lives of five housewives in the same cul-de-sac as told by a friend who committed suicide, "Desperate Housewives" went from an unwanted spec script written by Chuck Pratt ("Melrose Place") and Marc Cherry ("The Golden Girls") to the hottest show on television.
The show was honored when the Hollywood Foreign Press announced its Golden Globe nominations--it received five, including Best Television Series-Comedy. Four of the five lead actresses also received nominations, but Longoria's name was missing from the list. Meanwhile, she ventured into feature films with "Harsh Times" (2005), a drama starring Christian Bale as a soldier returning from Iraq, which premiered at last year's Toronto Film Festival, before her latest big screen outing in the new thriller, The Sentinel.
In a Los Angeles hotel room, Longoria is draped in a blanket, sipping a vanilla latte. Admitting she is the opposite of her Gabriela character in 'Housewives', as Paul Fischer discovered when he sat with the actress, she is quiet, smart with a dry sense of humor. The pair talked sex, housewives, guns and her boyfriend, basketballer Tony Parker of The San Antonio Spurs.
Question: So have you been asked any really banal questions today?
Longoria: I've been asked everything today.
Question: Everything? Oh, God.
Longoria: Everything from, from where I live - [laughter] - what supermarket I shop at?
Question: You've been asked those questions?
Longoria: Interesting stuff.
Question: So when the opportunity comes for you to star in your first movie, what to you were the criteria that you were looking for?
Longoria: Well I really wanted to pick something opposite of Desperate Housewives and different. And I get to play a lot of colours with Gabrielle and she's really funny and she's really dramatic and she's really big, so it was really hard to pick a script that actually challenged me in the way that Desperate Housewives didn't; because I'm really lucky with the Desperate Housewives. Then when I read The Sentinel I thought it was really clever; it keeps you on the edge of your seat, it has Michael Douglas, Keifer Sutherland and Kim Basinger and so I said that's the role that's going to be this summer. And Jill Marin is a lot closer to who I am as a person.
Question: Why is that?
Longoria: I grew up a tomboy and so the whole action and athleticism to the whole role is more me, as I've been shooting guns since I was five with my dad - we used to go target shooting all the time so for me it was easy to do. I could, really relate to Jill a lot more than I would ever relate to Gabrielle.
Question: Is this a movie where you were you required to do any kind of research or do you just rely on your imagination?
Longoria: No, no, especially a movie like this, you have to be very specific with everything because, you want it to be authentic for the audience to believe you are the Secret Service. So they sent us documentaries on the Secret Service before we started the movie, which was really fascinating - where it originated, what the purpose is. Then, we went to Secret Service training with Secret Service retirees and did tactical training, we did classroom training, and firearms training. And, Michael got the brunt of it though because he was actually on presidential detail in the movie where Keifer and I never really had to do that. We were investigative.
Question: It seems very extreme, though, when you think about it, that this is what you go through for what, 8, 9 weeks of your life. Do you ever look at yourself and say I'm doing this for a living and it's all a little bit weird and I'm sort of shooting guns and they pay me lots of money to do it all?
Longoria: Ye. I think that every day. I always think that's why I don't take anything seriously - critics, reviews, paparazzi, public, people. I'm like, you guys, we're not curing cancer, but we're acting. [Laughter]. It's a simple process, believe me. So, I always think that what we do is silly. We're playing make-believe everyday and getting paid.
Question: Is that why you wanted to be an actress?
Longoria: I think I love pretending to be something else. I think it's fun to put yourself in someone else's shoes and make up all the choices that you think this person would make in these circumstances. I find that fun and that's why we do it when we're kids. It's a game so I love the fact that I play. It's just like my boyfriend Tony. I think what Tony does is silly too. He plays basketball, as a form of entertainment so he's basically playing a game.
Question: Yean but I mean that's a very specialised kind of .....
Longoria: Talent. Just like singers. I think singers have a very special talent, you're singing. Athletes have a very special talent.
Question: But why does a kid from Texas want to be an actor?
Longoria: It just kind of happened. I didn't grow up wanting to be it didn't happen until after college. I didn't come here until I was 23 and even when I came here I was like, oh, I think I'm going to try the acting thing. So it wasn't a childhood dream and I didn't long for it. We didn't grow up with movies because we couldn't really afford it and we grew up with network television, whatever was on ABC we watched -, Three's Company, and The Jeffersons. So for me I didn't really grow up with magazines and looking at people going 'I want to be that'. The role models in my life were my mom, my aunts, my sisters - it was the actual people in my life.
Question: It's a tough business in Hollywood and you're very beautiful and all that kind of thing. Did you ever find it difficult for casting people to go beyond the exterior and look at what you have to offer as an actress?
Longoria: I think casting is hard period. I worked my butt off auditioning in this town. I've been to every casting director. I've walked many miles in those shoes of auditioning. Just the other day there was a movie I really, really liked with a great ensemble, and they said everybody's going to audition. They're not going to give it to anybody, with big stars big stars auditioning. And, it was funny because I was like, oh, my God, I remember this feeling; parking, practicing your lines, hoping you're going to get it. And I just did it last week.
Question: How was that experience going back?
Longoria: Oh, it was it was great. Obviously I have confidence now.
Question: That would kind of re-ground you in a way wouldn't it?
Longoria: Oh, yeah, you're not above anything. And it also teachers you, that you do have to fight for the roles and really, really work at your craft. It's not going to be given to you. , it's not everyday Michael Douglas is going to call you and offer you a role. So for me, everything re-grounds me everyday. . I grew up with my sister who is mentally retarded and so if I think I had a rough day I can just imagine the day she had. So for me I'm very, very centred in that.
Question: How involved are you in the Latino community? Are your roots important to you?
Longoria: Oh, yes. Absolutely. It defines everything that I am, it defines what I do, how I do it, how I present myself, the role model that I am to young Latinas - everything I do. All my charity work is Latin oriented because I think growing up I didn't have a Latin role model so I want to make sure that I expose myself to those children who can see themselves in me and aspire, dream to be successful like me. I'm hosting and producing the Alma Awards.
Question: What is that?
Longoria: They're put on by the NCLR, which is the National Council of La Raza and they are an awards show that it's basically the Grammys, the Emmys and the Oscars rolled into one, because we recognise television, music and film. And, we're honouring Andy Garcia, this year for his career achievement in acting, and Marc Anthony in music and, so they asked me to host. I'm not big on hosting and, I'm like - okay, but only if I can produce, and I was hoping that would that would make them say no
Question: And they didn't
Longoria: And they said yes. [Laughter]. But, I also wanted to put my stamp on the award show in the sense of I think I'm pretty in touch with what's happening, in the Latino culture, and sometimes when you just give an award show to award show people they just, think it's another award show and this not, it's definitely catered to the Latino community and very inclusive of other ethnicities as well. I think the media portrayal, which is often negative, of Latinos in television, but this recognises the positive images of Latinos in entertainment, and so that's why I wanted to be a part of it.
Question: Was Gabrielle also meant as a Latino character?
Longoria: Yeah. Marc Cherry grew up with a guy named Gabriel Solis, who lived down the street from him and they had the biggest house in the block and they were richer than him but he never noticed there was a difference between them because they lived on the same block, and then found out like later, wow, they were richer than we were. So he knew he wanted a Latin family that was the same as everybody else on the block and their ethnicity never is really in question.
Question: Desperate Housewives has done wonders for women in general on television. Is that one of the gratifying things about it?
Longoria: Absolutely. I think, for women in general that there's a show that there's with four women leads, is kudos itself because you're always as a woman you're always the girlfriend of or the wife of the lead or the partner of the guy that's the lead. So this shows that women can carry a show, and it's also raised the expiration date to a later time where women over 40 can be fun and sexy and entertaining.
Question: Were you surprised the show became a hit?
Longoria: Yeah, absolutely. I was probably the most surprised because I was just really na�ve. Teri and Nicolette and Felicity and Marcia had all experienced hit shows and they'd all been around. Marcia kept telling me, 'Get ready, it's going to be big, get ready.' And I'm like, 'Ready for what? What are you talking about? What do you mean?' Then it did, it hit, I'm like, 'Oh my God, this is what you're talking about.' It was great though. It was fun. Our first year, even our second year I couldn't keep up with the good news. It was just good news after good news after good news.
Question: What about the craziness that brings to your life?
Longoria: Yeah, it brings a lot of craziness. For me, I consider myself really lucky and really blessed to have the show and I'm also lucky to have a great family and great friends around me who are very grounding. Tony as well is really grounding. So for me, I think the craziness comes when you start to believe your own hype and you just kinda get caught up in all of the superficiality of our business. Felicity gave me the best advice and she's like, 'It's all about the work. Just always make it about the work and good things will come.' That's what we've been doing.
Question: How are you picking those scripts now?
Longoria: I would love to do a romantic comedy just because that's the kind of movie I love. But probably 80% of the scripts I get are dramatic.
Question: Why, because Gabrielle is so sexually comic?
Longoria: I think that's why. I think people see something else. I think I haven't been pigeonholed at all. I've gotten very little sexy offers to a point I'm getting annoys going, 'Hey, where's the sexy stuff?'
Question: Are you glad about that?
Longoria: Of course. I'm not really adamant about going against sexy though. I'm going with sexy as long as it'll take me, as long as I can do it because you know women have an expiration date in this business, so for me I'm not adamant about that. I'm really lucky that I haven't seen a pattern of any script I've gotten. I haven't seen like always the cop, always the detective, always this, always the girl. I've seen everything, a big range of things that are pretty exciting. I'm having a really difficult time picking a script this summer because there are so many good ones.
Question: Do you see Desperate Housewives going all seven years?
Longoria: Well, we haven't slowed down. Critics always go, 'Ratings slump for Desperate Housewives.' We're like, 25 million? Even if we slowed down by half it's still a highly rated show. If we were doing 14 million a week, that's better than 90 percent of the shows on television. If we ever- - I don't think we're going anywhere soon. I keep hoping we'll go seven years and that's it.
Question: Will motherhood slow Gabrielle down?
Longoria: No, I think it's a lot of opportunities for more comedic things. She's still going to be Gabrielle. She still ain't gonna change diapers. I think this Sunday's episode- - do we have an episode tonight? No? It makes me so mad, reruns. Well, the next episode, I actually forget the baby at home. So I think she'll still be Gabrielle and it'll be- - she's still going to be her.
Question: What about the show makes it such a popular sensation?
Longoria: I think it's the first show that actually exercises the voice of the modern woman. It's not Leave it to Beaver, it's not The Brady Bunch, and it's not The Cosby Show. It really reflects the current status of women in today's society. You can be married, you can be divorced, you can have children, you can not have children, you can go to work, you can stay home, you have so many choices and because of that, I think women identify with one or all of us, of the four women. So I think that's really truly the success of the show and I think that's also why it's universally successful because every country deals with those issues.
Question: But men too?
Longoria: I've talked to a lot of men too because I'm like Oh God, it's not just me. And they said because they see their wives in the women. So it's funny.
Question: Is it difficult to deal with the interest in your life?
Longoria: It's hard to protect yourself from the prying media pertaining to personal things just because if you don't give them what they want, they're still going to make it up anyway. I did a wonderful, beautiful article in Allure magazine about The Sentinel and the movie, and then they talked about personal stuff and I said, talking about Tony and me, I said, 'Well, I'm the experienced one. I'm the one that's been married, divorced, engaged, and broken up, together so I'm the experienced one in the relationship. He's been in one serious relationship.' And it just got torn apart by tabloids saying I was the teacher of sex and I'm the experienced one in sex and Tony's only been with one person sexually. I was like, 'Where do you get that from? You got that from this beautiful article?' So you can't ever win. You will never win with them and I dated somebody before Tony that I was very private about, so they were like, 'Trouble in Paradise: Eva Doesn't Speak.' With Tony I've been open about it and saying, 'We're great, we're in love.' 'Trouble in Paradise: Eva Speaks Out.' You cannot win.
Question: What's the weirdest rumor you read?
Longoria: here was one time it was in a magazine that I was like, 'I can't believe somebody just sat and wrote this.' It was: Eva Longoria was seen fleeing Frederick's of Hollywood - it was very specific - in a purple panties and bra out in the street. She yelled at the valet to pull her silver BMW around - which I don't drive a silver BMW - because her golden retriever Razzles - I don't have a golden retriever - Razzles was going to emergency surgery and she got a phone call from the vet saying she needed to come. And she ran out as the people chased her and gets in the car and throws money in the street and peels out. First of all, Frederick's doesn't have a valet nor have I ever been to Frederick's of Hollywood.
Question: So what is the fascination?
Longoria: It's getting worse. I think it's the bounty that's put upon us for pictures and gossip because of the demand with all of the new magazines. I mean, there's a new magazine every week. Every week. I don't understand how they stay afloat but then I'll see somebody reading it and then I go, 'Well, there's the demand.' And the internet is insane. If it's printed in one site, it is then factual. It's like just because it's written doesn't mean it's factual.
The Sentinel is a crackling good thriller because everyone involved is working at the top of their game. Pete Garrison (Douglas) is on the presidential protection detail when another agent is murdered. A creepy informer tells Garrison about an elaborate assassination conspiracy that's related and well underway. Garrison also happens to be having an affair with the First Lady (Kim Basinger), the stress of which causes him to flunk a lie detector test when word of the plot to kill the president becomes more than just paranoia. Garrison is soon on the run, being hunted by his protege David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland, whose 24 experience gives his performance an extra edge). But Garrison is the best, using all his secret service wiles (and there are plenty, the details of which give added tension and authenticity to the taut script) to evade his former comrades as the clock ticks. You can often see the plot thickening a mile away, and as much as the movie wants to keep us guessing, the real bad guy is an easy mark for the audience. But the energy and kinetic skill which propel the action are always spot on and enough to keep us from caring about the giveaways. Co-star Eva Longoria is miles away from her Desperate Housewives role and miles away from any real import of character in the movie. But the rest of the cast and the whooshing forward momentum of style and anxiety are plenty to keep The Sentinel in full-tilt suspense mode from beginning to end.
Interview: Antonio Banderas
"Take the Lead"
Posted: Thursday, April 6th 2006 12:11PM
Author: Paul Fischer
Location: Los Angeles, CA
He's as suave and smooth as the characters he plays. Antonio Banderas is perfectly cast as the passionate ballroom dance teacher who teaches inner city New York adolescents some fine moves. But there's more to Banderas than meets the eye, as his first Spanish-language film as director is about ready, not to mention a return to Broadway and Puss 'n' Boots territory. Mr Banderas is nothing if not diverse. He talked to PAUL FISCHER.
Question: So, you were in the middle of shooting Zorro 2 when this script first made its appearance. Why did you decide you wanted to go from what must have been the most hellish shoot on earth when you did Zorro to dancing?
Banderas: Actually at the beginning I was not very much into the story. In fact I looked at the script and as soon as I saw that it was about ballroom dancing I put it aside and said, nah, I don't want to do this. But then the producers called me and said could you please give us 20 minutes and we'll explain to you what we're trying to do. So they came and they started talking to me about the figure of Pierre Dulaine and then they showed me a documentary that they had on him and, I loved it. Then when I met him everything changes. I found a guy that was doing things for nothing in return and I thought that it was a very rare animal in our days and, the guy was getting very successful with his program of dancing, and I started getting interested.
Question: Now you're a dancer in some ways ---
Banderas: Yeah, but I am not a dancer. I'm an actor who pretends - as I pretend that I swordfight. I pretend I ride horses - but I am not that. [Laughter].
Question: But how much harder was it for you then to get into the mindset of a ballroom dancer?
Banderas: Well it took I think the right amount of time because I can tell you I'm not a dancer, but at the same time I may tell you that I am good with physicality. I can move and can learn fast. Also because of Zorro or Desperado, though you see those movies and say an action movie, they are choreographies too and you have to pick up those choreographies in order to do the movie. So we started rehearsing here in Los Angeles first, with two choreographers. And at the beginning it's hard just to pass that kind of discipline moment, but once you cross that discipline moment you fly - really. I discovered in ballroom dancing a world that I didn't even know that existed. So I understand now why people are going back to that; kind of feeling on television - Spain too, not only here. It's a very popular program now in Spain of famous people, celebrities, that they bring for charity purposes and stuff like that is incredible. They've got the biggest ratings. So I understand. And it's because there is something that you share with somebody else. I've been saying this in but it's true, the beginning of the 80's the battle between melody and rhythm was won by rhythm, and ever since we have been just caught by this type of music - you know, hip hop and rap and everything that came after that - but at the same time we lost something. I remember in 1978, I was 18 years old and I used to go to discos in Malaga, and there was fast music and there was slow music, and the slow music was what we really love because you've got the opportunity of telling that girl who was in the corner could you dance with me, and that is something that you do with somebody else that you don't do by yourself. But ever since that change you go to a disco and it's almost like a show-off; it's about me, me, me, to look at me. Look at what I can do...
[Laughter] And when you dance with somebody else and you have to hold the person and do something together it changes totally, because you have to be actually more aware of the person that is dancing with you than yourself, and that is what I think is probably the principle, the essence of why dancing - and specifically ballroom dancing - may be very good for therapy, and for educational systems, because it's about trust and coordination. It's also about giving and sharing. And it changes a little bit the perspective of what dancing is all about.
Question: The first time I met you, you spoke hardly a word of English.
Banderas: That's right.
Question: listening to you now it's clearly not the same Antonio Banderas I met on that first junket.
Banderas: [Laughter]. But it's 16 years, my friend. [Laughter]. Sixteen years. Time goes by just too fast.
Question: Well how important was it for you to return to Spain and direct your first film in Spanish?
Banderas: Very. I need it. I went away from my homeland 26 years ago and I never spend more than two months in Malaga ever since. I wanted to go back there and tell stories that happened to me at that time. So I didn't only go back to Malaga I went back to 1978 - which is the year approximately in which I left - and go back to those uncertainties that I had at the time. The fears, emptiness, vertigo that produced the jump from adolescence to be an adult person. but my movie versus Take the Lead is also a coming of age movie in a way; it's way darker, more sexual and harder.
Question: Sexual in a very European way?
Banderas: Yes, in a very European way. It's tough. The movie is very visual, very poetic and very hypnotic; but it doesn't have anything to do with this. But it allows me to explore in myself what I am and what I was and the part in the middle, and I think I put my guts in the movie and I think that you can see that. It may be received in a way or another but part of my heart is in that movie. I enjoy the last 7 or 8 months of my life like very little things I enjoy in my life.
Question: Was Melanie and the family with you?
Banderas: No, unfortunately no. We plan it like that at the beginning when I was going there, even we had the school for the kids already picked and everything was ready to go, but Melanie had this offer from WB to do this Twins TV series - and she wanted so bad to be in front of a camera that I couldn't say, no, don't do it, come with me to Spain. I have to understand her and say that is your decision, I will support you whatever decision you take. And she said at the end, well, I'm going to have to do this, Antonio. So I came here a couple of times, she went to Spain like three times - Christmas together there - but it was hard. That's the hardest part, you know with the kids...
Question: Well family is very important to you...
Banderas: Oh, yes. Family - work and family, those are my main things in my life, definitely.
Question: What's going on with Broadway? You're supposed to be doing this, Don Juan DeMarcos. Is that still going on? What's happening?
Banderas: We are still working on it. There's just a little problem with the rights. They are owned by New Line, by the way.
Banderas: So we're going to have big conversations in New York now when I go there to do the promotion because some of the people that are responsible for the rights are going to be there. Ah, but, yes, it's certainly a possibility. I finished the movie that I directed, I got a week shooting in London, and David Leveaux actually was just directing there this new show about Sinatra - Sinatra - I don't know if you've heard about it, but they take images of Sinatra and actually they play with a real orchestra but it's Sinatra singing. So it's a very beautiful show. I didn't see it but I saw the concept and I saw some rehearsals and it's very unbelievable. But, anyway, I talked to him there in London and he says I am still going ahead, so in an ideal world we will start rehearsals in January next year.
Question: And what kind of run are you looking at?
Banderas: Oh, probably a year.
Question: When you do a play for a year, what does that do to your movie career?
Banderas: I don't care really. I'm caring less and less about my career everyday. I care about what I do in the moment that I do it. But I don't know. I find it a kind of a narcissist way of handling your life. I mean I think that your agents may say to you sometimes, oh, you shouldn't do this because the perception of the people of you is this - and if you do this you are going to just make a mistake. No, I don't care about that. I'm an actor in the most raw way of the word and I do what comes. That's probably why I became such an eclectic actor...
Question: You're doing Shrek as well...
Banderas: Yeah, yeah. Monday I go back to do the third recording of the third part.
Question: That must be lots of fun for you.
Banderas: Yes, it is.
The sensuous thrill of ballroom dancing collides with the hip-hop world of self-expression in Take the Lead. Antonio Banderas (Desperado, The Mask of Zorro) stars as Pierre Dulaine, a dance teacher who--perhaps to fill a void in his own life--decides to teach the foxtrot and the tango to a group of inner-city high school students who've been put in detention. The kids sullenly resist this intruder with his silly box-steps, but gradually succumb to the allure of passion channeled into physical grace. It's a lot of hooey, of course--the stories about the individual kids are shallow melodrama--but a movie like this isn't so much about plot as about dancing, and the dancing bewitches. The main problem of Take the Lead is that there isn't enough dancing; at least half of the personal struggle of the students could be jettisoned and happily be replaced by fifteen minutes of a sleek and sexy rhumba. Still, Banderas has a warm, ingratiating presence and can spout platitudes about dance with conviction; Alfre Woodard (Crooklyn, Desperate Housewives) has her usual charismatic authority as the school's hard-nosed principal; and the dance competition at the movie's end gives the movie the lift it's wanted for the previous hour and a half.