Ana de la Reguera is a huge TV star in her native Mexico, while in the US she’s established herself as a talented comic actress with roles in Nacho Libre, Cop Out and the much-loved Eastbound and Down. Her latest role sees her appear alongside Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig in Cowboys & Aliens, in which she plays a saloon keeper kidnapped by extraterrestrials. “I had the best time!” she tells Matt McAllister.
Cowboys & Aliens is the biggest movie you’ve done in terms of budget and effects. How did you find the shoot?
It took much more time than other shoots I’ve worked on. And there were so many cameras! Normally a movie is shot in one or two months, but it took over four months to shoot Cowboys & Aliens. But you’re not needed the whole of that time. It can be kind of weird to do a lot of work for two weeks, then not work for another two weeks, and then maybe go to work one night to film one little scene. It can be really difficult to maintain [the momentum].
Also, with all the special effects, you have to imagine a lot of things that you never see. For example, I never saw the aliens! Until the last day I had no idea of who I was acting with or how they looked. But that makes it an interesting process – you have to use your imagination and trust that the director knows what he’s doing. Jon Favreau is great – the fact he has been an actor gives you a lot of security.
How does Jon Favreau’s approach differ from other directors you’ve worked with?
I was surprised at how calm he was on such a huge production. He would always take time to talk through everything with you and he listened to everyone. I remember there was one scene in particular that was great on paper, but didn’t work when we started to rehearse it. Jon listened to everything that we told him, and agreed that we needed to re-write and change the scene. So it was a very organic shoot and Jon was very open about changing things. I’ve never really had that experience with other directors.
Cowboys & Aliens has a fantastic cast, including Harrison Ford, Sam Rockwell and Daniel Craig. How did you find working alongside them?
Oh, it was great. I’ve been a huge fan of Daniel Craig for a long time, and I couldn’t believe I was going to work with him. And I never expected to work with Harrison Ford! I never got used to it to tell you the truth. It was weird to say, “I’m going on set with these guys I grew up watching!”
As for Sam Rockwell, who plays my husband in the movie, he’s the most amazing actor. He tried new things in every single take; he never stopped and always surprised me. He was always looking for more. It was very challenging to be at his side and to match him. He took care of me and I had the best time working with him.
Did you go back and watch any cowboy or alien movies for inspiration, or did you undertake any particular research for the role?
I did research into my character’s background – I wanted to know how women acted at that moment in time. She’s working in a saloon and dealing with drunk guys all the time, and I wanted to know why she’d be working there and what else she could be doing. Most of my research was centred around the situation in the country at the time, which helped with my character’s background, even if you don’t see everything in the movie.
You’re probably best in the UK and US for Nacho Libre, Cop Out and Eastbound and Down. You obviously enjoy comic roles…
I do, I love comedy! I always think that because English isn’t my first language, I somehow feel more free to just go for it – because I don’t hear my myself in the same way [as when speaking in Spanish].
I also understand the American sense of humour, because I grew up watching American films and TV shows, which weren’t subtitled or dubbed. So even though I’m Mexican, I have the same frame of reference that [Cop Out director] Kevin Smith has. He was very surprised – he never thought I would connect with him that much! So for me it is really easy to understand what [comedy directors] want. I do a lot of drama in Mexico, but comedy is fun for me, though I find it more challenging than drama.
You move back and forth between Mexican and American productions. Is that something you’d like to continue doing?
Well, our TV industry is huge in Mexico, so you can have a good career in television. I think the best or biggest roles are in my language and in my country – I recently got to play the lead role in HBO’s first production shot in Mexico [Capadocia]. Mexican TV has changed in a good way over the years, which I’m very happy about.
But there are great opportunities in the US too, so I don’t want to miss anything!
What are the big differences between the US and Mexican film industries?
The process of making a movie and the talent involved are exactly the same. The only real difference is the budget, and the preparation and organisation that comes with more money. The publicity they have in the US to put a movie out is great – when they want you to see a movie they know how to do it!
I think other countries can suffer because of pirate DVDs, which we have a lot of in Mexico. We don’t make so much money from movie theatres or DVD sales, and the industry isn’t able to grow that much, which is sad. That’s why TV here works so well.
Cowboys & Aliens is released in UK cinemas on 17 August 2011.