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MOVIES: Eugenio Derbez on positive portrayal of Latinos in 'Dora'

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Dora the Explorer becomes the latest animated character to get the live action treatment this week, as Dora and the Lost City of Gold opens in theaters everywhere. The goofy, light-hearted adventure is a delightful and enjoyable family film, and earlier this week we had a chance to speak with star Eugenio Derbez about bringing Dora to the big screen.

Not only are you an actor in the film, you’re also one of the producers. Were you attached as an actor first, or did you come on as a producer and demand to be in the movie?

Eugenio Derbez: [laughs] No, it came almost at the same time—when I heard about Dora, I told my agents "I want to be part of this." I was always complaining that in Hollywood, they’re always portraying Latinos in a negative way. Every single movie, we’re the criminals, the drug lords, the narcos; and I wanted to change that in Hollywood as much as I could. And that’s why I started producing my own films., because every time they call me, it’s for the same kind of roles. The only way to change this is to start producing my own stuff.

When I was aware that this movie was in development, I told my agents I want to be part of this, because it’s a good way to portray Latinos on screen. And I know I can bring a lot of things to the table, because I was born and raised in Mexico—I’m a real Mexican. Five years ago, I was living in Mexico for my entire life. So I can help them with the Latino culture, about not making mistakes, about the Spanish, about many things. That way, my agents were able to put me in the project not only as an actor, but also as a producer. So basically I was in charge of supervising anything related to the Latino culture, and I also did the adaptation of the script into Spanish with one of my writers.

One of my favorite things about the movie is that Dora’s sort of an anti-Indiana Jones: instead of taking things from other cultures and bringing them to the West, she learns about them and keeps them where they should be. What do you think that’ll mean to kids growing up now, that their first adventurer is someone who learns from other cultures and doesn’t steal from them?

Eugenio Derbez: I think it’s one of the great lessons of the movie, to teach kids not to destroy things. For example, I have a five-year-old kid—a baby girl—and every time she goes near a flower, she wants to grab it. And one day I told her, “You can’t do this. She’s gonna die. And she has a family—look, this is her mother, her father, her cousins—she has a family! Just leave it there. Just watch her, talk to her, admire her; but you have to leave it here. Because if not, you’re gonna lose everything, and in the future, there’s not going to be any more flowers here.”

She understood that so well, and that’s what we need to teach kids. It’s the same thing that Dora’s parents are telling her: we don’t have to steal, we’re not treasure hunters, we’re explorers. We’re here to see, and to document, and to tell the world about this amazingness in nature—not to destroy it. I think this is very important for the newer generations, especially in this time where there’s global warming and the environment needs so much help from us.

I also appreciated how much physical comedy there was in the film. Was this an area you already had experience in, and did you perform most of your own stunts?

Eugenio Derbez: Yes, I have a lot of experience in that. For some reason, in Latin America we like to do comedy in a broader way. Everything is big, big, big, and it's kind of hard for me to go down and make everything grounded. So for me, it was easy, and I love doing my own stunts, so I was always fighting: "let me do that!" So everything you see, and also with the kids, I think we were all the same. We did our own stuns, so that was a lot of fun.

Franchises are a big thing in Hollywood right now. With that in mind, especially being a producer of this film, have you already started talking about ideas for a Dora sequel?

Eugenio Derbez: Yes! I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this, but I’m going to. You know, everything depends on box office. But I asked like three months ago if there was gonna be a Dora sequel, and they said it depends on the box office for sure, but the score—they do screenings for focus groups, and the numbers were really high. They were ninety-something. So they said they’re gonna start developing the script of Dora 2, of the second part, pretty soon. So from what I’ve heard, they’re already developing something.

We've seen a lot of live-action adaptations over the past few years. For audiences that might be fatigued by this trend, what would you say to encourage them to see this film in particular?

Eugenio Derbez: The storyline in the cartoon is quite simple, honestly, so if someone tells you, “let’s go watch Dora the Explorer,” it’s like, “Really? It’s gonna be boring!” But I think this movie is different. They really did a great job with the script, they made a more three-dimensional character; it has humor for everyone.

The director is an amazing comedy director—James Bobin, he directed Flight of the Conchords, and that TV series was amazing! So he was constantly bringing jokes and jokes and jokes. Honestly, they cut at least thirty minutes of good jokes. But there’s jokes for everyone, so if you go with your kids, or your abuelitas, or toddlers, or teenagers, whoever, they’re gonna enjoy the movie.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold is now in theaters. Read our review here.

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