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The Reluctant Star

Actor Andy Garcia chooses roles that rouse his passions and cement his reputation as one of Hollywood's most likable nonconformists.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Andy Garcia, Mar/April 2004

(continued from page 2)

Independent cinema, however, has been the lifeblood of Garcia's more than 20-year career. He enjoys donning a producer's cap for many of the independent films he makes and he finds it fulfilling to collaborate with directors.

"I want the movie to exist and then see what happens," Garcia says. "Real success, as William Saroyan says, is that it exists. The real success is that you've been able to create the film."

As he talks about his personal projects, Garcia's speech picks up speed. His voice becomes charged and he stares intently across the table. "I'm not trying to be in the Forbes 500. I've made a comfortable living. I'm financially secure. I don't need to go to work for cash…sometimes the movies that you are the most proud of are the least commercial of the films you do."

There's another element, too, even more personal perhaps. His devotion to the independent film world, and his desire to do more directing and producing, has meant that he can control his commitments and limit the time away from his family. "I can fit it around my schedule…you're more on your own time."

It's not just lip service to hear Garcia talk about how his life revolves around his family. He's been married to Marivi Lorido Garcia since 1982. The couple has three daughters, Dominik, Daniella and Alessandra, and a little boy, Andrés, who turned two in January. Only twice in the last 20 years has he been away from them for longer than five days. Once was for Black Rain, when Maria was pregnant with their second daughter and he spent four weeks in Japan filming the thriller with Michael Douglas; the other time was last summer, when he shot a film about Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani in Romania. The family had actually planned to join him there after Alessandra's elementary school graduation, but his eldest daughter caught mononucleosis. By then, Garcia had shot one week of the film, returned to the United States for the graduation, and realized that Romania wasn't going to be a great place for the family.

"Generally, we all go or I pass," Garcia says. "Certain movies deserve packing everybody up and going, and other movies it's just not worth it. Life is what happens while you're making movies, and the life is your children."

His personal projects also reflect an abiding bond with the land of his birth. He was born Andrés Arturo García Meñendez in Havana, Cuba, on April 12, 1956, and fled with his family to Miami in 1961 with not much more than the clothes on their backs. "We had to borrow a dime when we got there to make a phone call at the airport to call a relative living in Miami," Garcia says. That link to Cuba has involved Garcia in one of his most passionate pursuits, Cuban music, and led to his collaboration with the world-famous Cuban bass player Cachao. Garcia has filmed two documentaries about and released several CDs with the musician, who is 85. One recording won a Grammy award in 1994 and a second was nominated for a Grammy in 1995. Garcia recently finished the second film about the making of a new Cachao CD, which was composed and recorded in 36 hours—three days of 12-hour sessions. Garcia even played conga drums on some of the tracks. The film is scheduled to be released in April.

Those Cuba-related projects are Garcia's way of keeping the memory of Cuba alive. "I'm a Cuban, or more specifically, I'm Cuban American, and I'm proud of it. I have the benefit of two great cultures and I love both of them," Garcia says. But that reality of his dual roots doesn't diminish his feelings toward Cuba. "The tragedy of exile is exile. We didn't come as immigrants. We came as political exiles. You are always at a loss for the one thing you most cherish, the country you were born in."

Cuba's political system and particularly Fidel Castro receive nothing but scorn from Garcia. Although not a radical activist in the Cuban-American community, Garcia nevertheless holds very sharply defined beliefs about the Cuban leader. "The great hypocrisy of the Cuban regime is that the Cuban revolution has never fulfilled its promise. The Cuban revolution was not a Marxist-Leninist revolution. It was motivated and financed by the middle and upper class, the intellectuals, the people who were embarrassed by the lack of pluralism in the [Fulgencio] Batista regime, his corrupt government and his abolishing to a great degree of the Cuban constitution," Garcia says.

He argues that Castro betrayed the 26 July Movement's basic principles, including the restoration of the constitution, democracy, elections and the understanding that its members would not seek political office. He says that within a year Castro had imposed his personal agenda on the revolution, and then quickly consolidated power by eliminating or imprisoning his rivals. "There's been a huge betrayal of humanity there. There have been a lot of atrocities against human beings and human rights in Cuba for 40 years," Garcia says.

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