Following his Academy Award nominated role in last year's heartfelt drama A Better Life, Demian Bichir joins the ensemble of Oliver Stone's accurately titled Savages. In this dramatic film, an Iraq/Afghanistan vet Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and his marijuana growing partner Ben (Aaron Johnson) get into a drug war with the Mexican cartel run by Elena (Salma Hayek). Elena's figurehead in charge of her finances is Alex (Bichir.) Alex is the first bad guy Ben and Chon meet, and later in the movie they set him up to be tortured graphically by Elena.
Bichir was smooth and sharp when we met him for an interview, in a slick suit like Alex wears when he intimidates the competition.
Interview with Demian Bichir
Oliver Stone uses so many different film stocks and techniques. Did the scenes look like you imagined when you were shooting?
"It’s hard to tell when you’re shooting until you see the film. That’s exactly why me, as Demian Bichir, wherever I am in the world, if I see a new Oliver Stone film, I just go and pay my ticket because I want to be amazed."Can you talk about the negotiation scene with Ben and Chon?
"That’s a really cool scene and that was actually my first day of work with Oliver. Even though it looks like an easy day of work, that was intense too. It has to be that intensity and you need to be that passionate about it too. Oliver Stone is one of those filmmakers that doesn’t discard any scene just because it seems to be an easy kind of transit scene. He puts everything in it and he expects you to do the same thing, and that’s the way I like to play."
Was there a lot of rehearsal or a lot of takes?
"There’s some rehearsals, yeah. He doesn’t shoot too many takes. As many as you need. As many as we all need. If we feel that it’s not there, we have to do it again."
How complicated were the special effects for the torture scene?
"Crazy. That was exhausting and really great to shoot. It was one of those scenes that requires full concentration from every single person that is on set at that point. And if you’re lucky enough to have Benicio Del Toro as your fellow peer right there in the same scene, then he helps you to go home safely, with the same passion and the same hardcore type of game that we like to play."
How complicated was the prosthetic?
"It takes time. Those things always take time. I think we took about three to four hours."
Are you blind while that's on?
"It is hard to see because one of your eyes is canceled. But it only lasted one day, so that’s good."
Were you looking for a really violent character after being so sympathetic in A Better Life?
"Well, he’s not the violent arm of the group. He is the well educated person in this organization. He went to Harvard. He is a lawyer. He’s a high class lawyer and he’s very good at what he does. He’s very smart. But we agreed that he hasn’t killed anybody. He is not only well educated but really well dressed and many other things that were really, really opposite to Carlos Galindo."
Did you shoot any scenes from the book that got cut, that we might see on the DVD?
"Yeah, the version that we shot is very close to the book. Of course there are certain things that are new, things that you wouldn’t read in the book that are in the film and vice versa."
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Savages hits theaters on July 6, 2012.