RT Talks With Babel's Adriana Barraza

by | January 17, 2007 | Comments

We talked to Golden Globe-nominated actress Adriana Barraza about her work in the Oscar-contending “Babel“and working with the infamous “Three Amigos” of Mexican cinema.

So Adriana Barraza didn’t win a Golden Globe for best supporting actress on Monday night. The Mexican actress has turned a lot of heads with her work in “Babel,” playing a nanny braving the desert along the U.S.-Mexican border to save the children in her care.

“Babel” took home best picture at the Globes, and Barraza is up for a Screen Actors’ Guild award for best supporting actress and as part of the “Babel” ensemble. With the help of a translator, Barraza spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about awards season, working with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and the new wave in Mexican filmmaking.

Rotten Tomatoes: First of all, congratulations on the Golden Globes and the SAG nominations.

Adriana Barraza: Thank you, thank you very much!

RT: Have you ever been nominated for anything before?

AB: No, no. It was my first nomination. My first prize was a Hollywood Life Breakthrough. And I said on this occasion, “Well, I have 36 years as an actress and this is my first prize!”

RT: That’s not bad at all.

AB: Yes, I am so, so fortunate.

RT: The Golden Globes have often been called a dress rehearsal for the Oscars. An Academy Award is a possibility now, right?

AB: Well, I hope that the rule, pueda ser conmigo tambien, no?

Translator: I hope the rule holds true for me, too.

Adriana Barraza braves the desert in “Babel”

RT: “Babel” was a pretty tough role for you, huh?

AB: Yes, it was so hard. Not only physically, but emotionally, so, so hard. To create this character was so difficult because Amelia [is] nothing [like] Adriana Barraza. The weight, the look, the skin, and the character is not Adriana Barraza.

RT: I heard you had some trouble in the desert dealing with the heat.

AB: Yes, of course. Because it was 122 degrees. You can imagine this situation. With five pounds more on my weight, and the heels and the stockings and the sand, and the “Please, cut!” again and again and again in the scene and so forth and so forth and so forth. It was so, so hard, but it was so fun because I love acting.

RT: Since this was your first English-language role, was that also a challenge?

AB: Yes, because I have to try to hear me. Honestly, lo que yo decia, tengo que sonar verdadero en Ingles.

Translator: I had to try to sound real, sound convincing in English.

RT: The thing about “Babel” that’s interesting is it’s almost like three separate movies. Were you ever concerned about how your character fit in, or did you trust director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu to make it all work?

AB: I was with Alejandro in “Amores Perros,” with Alejandro and Guillermo Arriaga, the writer. Obviously, when I worked for the first time in “Amores Perros” it was a great script. When I was directed by Alejandro, I knew that he was an incredible director, and when I saw for the first time “Amores Perros” and I saw me, I didn’t believe it. Really, I didn’t believe it, because when I saw me, my acting and my character in “Amores Perros” I don’t recognize me. And therefore, the second time, yo fui con los ojos cerrados. [I took it without thinking about it.]

RT: Why is that?

AB: Because I work with Alejandro again, I work with a script for Guillermo Arriaga, and I work with Gael [Garcia Bernal] and I work with my Mexican friends, the same friends from “Amores Perros.”

Barraza was nominated for a Golden Globe for best supporting actress.

RT: This has been a very big year for Mexican filmmakers internationally. Obviously it’s got to be kind of a thrill to be part of that.

AB: Yes, of course. I’m very, very proud because I am part of this group of Mexicans. Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo Del Toro, I love Guillermo Del Toro. I don’t know Alfonso Cuaron yet. I hope to know him. But I know Guillermo Del Toro, and I love Guillermo Del Toro. He looks like a beautiful kid, I love his pictures. Obviously, I love Alejandro. And there are many, many Mexican creators in this occasion and I am very proud to be a part of this group.

RT: Is it a tight-knit community?

AB: I think the Latin people have a family every time, and every work is like my family. Mexican people are the same, in this occasion, no creo que solamente los mexicanos.

Translator: Not just Mexicans.

AB: Pero en este momento, creo que cuando nos vemos los mexicanos, nos queremos mucho, mucho y queremos triunfar, y que triunfen todos.

Translator: When we Mexicans see each other, we adore each other and we want all of us to triumph.

AB: Cuando yo voy a Mexico, yo siempre digo, “por favor publico, vengan a ver las peliculas de todos, aunque no les gusten, para que el cine Mexican tenga dinero para seguir haciendose.”

Translator: When I go to Mexico, I tell people, “go see all of the Mexican movies, even if you don’t like them, so that the Mexican film industry will have the resources to keep making movies.”

Adriana Barraza with Elle Fanning in “Babel”

RT: Obviously this is a breakout performance for you on the international stage. Has this led to any more work? What are you doing next?

AB: I have many offers, but…I shoot in March with a new director from the Sundance Festival. [The film, “Don’t Let Me Drown,” will be directed by Cruz Angeles.]

RT: What is it about?

AB: It’s [about] Latin American people who live in New York. It’s a beautiful love story. I’ll do, again, a Mexican woman, Mexican mother, I’ll try to do a different Mexican woman. I’ll try to change myself physically and to change my inside.

RT: Immigration has been a really big issue in the United States recently, and your character is sort of interesting in that she is a good person who technically did something wrong. Is that what you were thinking when you were playing that character?

AB: Yes. Alejandro thought it was so important that the audience put its feet into the shoes of Amelia, that the audience thinks, “It doesn’t matter if Amelia is an immigrant, Mexican, or Ecuadorian or Peruvian, it doesn’t matter. She is a human being.” There are many, many immigrants in this country. Alejandro wants the audience to have compassion for the human being, not for the immigrant, not for the Mexican, only for the human being, and I am very proud that I think we made it.