Vadhir Derbezthe journey of joining the cast of White elephant was par for the course for any actor. As he recalled in our interview before the film’s release, it involved a standard audition tape and then having lunch with the film’s director and co-writer, Jesse V. Johnson. During their meeting, Derbez says he and Johnson talked about his character, Carlo Garcia, and what White elephant was eventually going to be around. Derbez also admits Johnson’s English accent made it a bit difficult to gauge where he was at to land the role — “Some things I could understand, and some things I couldn’t.” — so much so that he had to ask his manager to later confirm with Johnson whether he was going to be in the movie or not. “He was already talking to me as if I [was] in, but I [didn’t] know if I was in it. However, there was one unequivocal name Johnson dropped that was crystal clear to Derbez: Bruce Willis.
With the announcement earlier this year of the diagnosis of Willis’ aphasia, a neurological disorder that affects the ability to communicate, White elephant is sadly one of the beloved actor’s last films. By Variety, Willis’s most recent directors were already concerned about his safety and memory before the announcement. Johnson in particular, who had been a long-time colleague of Willis since his early days as a stunt coordinator, had noticed a change in Willis when meeting before filming. White elephantnarrative Los Angeles Times that “it was clear he wasn’t the Bruce I remembered”. That being said, Derbez, who shared some pivotal scenes with Willis, had nothing but praise for the veteran actor in our interview, saying, “He did so well. He was amazing. He’s a such a legend.”
White elephant tells the story of the mob Gabriel Tancredi (Michael Rooker) who experiences a sort of moral crisis when his longtime friend and crime boss Arnold Soloman (Willis) orders the beating of two police officers (one of whom is played by Olga Kurylenko ) for accidentally witnessing an assassination committed by future enforcer Carlo Garcia. “[Carlo] is this character that’s about to take over, and he knows it, but he’s still trying to earn that respect,” Derbez says of his character. [his] world, one of the most important things is that [the] the people who are going to follow you respect you, so he also has a ‘young blood’ energy in him, where he just wants to go and get the job done.”
Vadhir Derbez’s best scenes are opposite Michael Rooker
What makes Carlo’s character all the way through White elephant so intriguing is how the film positions its character opposite Rooker’s Gabriel in the gang. As evidenced by the film’s trailer, Gabriel, a former Marine, is no stranger to using violent means, especially to achieve his or Arnold’s goals. However, faced with a moral dilemma spurred by the dead wife’s birthday, which had always encouraged him to use his fighting skills to help others, Gabriel switches sides in the middle of training Carlo to replace him. “I like the twist where [Carlo] must now face [Gabriel]”, says Derbez. “It’s very interesting because at the end of the day, they’re not really friends. They built this relationship because they hang out and learn from each other, but they’re not the best of friends. As a viewer, you see that [confrontation] and [wondering]’Will they respect each other, or will they [going to do what needs to be done?]'”
The intensity of the relationship between Carlo and Gabriel in White elephant unfolds largely thanks to Rooker, who, as an actor playing both hero and villain, brings the emotional stakes to the action. Indeed, for Derbez, Rooker proved to be the perfect stage partner. “I liked it so much because he was joking all the time. He has a sense of humor and [this] energy, so it was a lot of fun for me and the rest of the crew to have him on set and do [these] crazy decisions [as an actor] and improvisation,” he says. “It gave me a good opportunity to do the same. Even during [filming]the director [would get the scene and then allow us] another take to do what we wanted.”
As with Carlo, Derbez talks about his work and his career with eagerness and enthusiasm, especially as someone who has made a name for himself in Mexico and is on his way to the top of American cinema. Although he started acting at the age of six, Derbez says he is constantly learning from those around him. It was notably his father, Eugenio Derbez, an accomplished actor in Mexico who recently appeared in this year’s Best Picture Oscar. CODA – which proved to be the most influential for him. “I think the best advice he gave me was to always be ready – no matter what, always keep learning and taking classes – because you never know when that golden opportunity is going to come. to present.”
Working opposite Rooker and Willis and the rest of the cast of White elephantDerbez says “it was sure it was school,” given the way they portray their characters and, more importantly, “the energy that the other actor gives you [and] just taking that.” When asked about his career plans and what his dream Hollywood collaborations would be, Derbez said, “There are so many amazing actors and directors, but I always been a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio. It would be great to make a movie with him.”
White elephant is available now in select theaters and streaming on AMC+.