Gael García Bernal is nursing a slight cold. He thinks he may have caught a bug during a flight to Los Angeles. But he theorizes it could have also come from the Academy Museum Gala, held in the museum’s open-air atrium, which he attended two nights before I meet him for breakfast at Chateau Marmont.
“Everyone was so cold there,” Bernal says, before cracking, “I don’t know if there have been any cases of pneumonia afterwards. I had fun listening to all the speeches but it was difficult to enjoy because we were all super freezing and trying to stay warm.”
I sit down with Bernal early Tuesday morning while he enjoys a cup of coffee and a plate of huevos rancheros because he is finally — post-actors strike — able to talk about “Cassandro,” his Amazon Prime Video film about lucha libre’s most celebrated exótico. Bernal stars as the titular wrestler, who smashed the lavender ceiling of the sport in the 1990s by being openly gay.
“It’s the only sport where there are openly gay athletes competing at the very high level,” Bernal says.
Cassandro – whose real name is Saúl Armendáriz – is credited for elevating lucha libre exóticos from being flamboyant sidekicks often taunted with the most horrific homophobic slurs to celebrated and revered champions of the ring.
“Him and a few other exóticos, because it was not only him, they were the first ones to openly come out,” Bernal explains. “When we were making the film we were very clear that we were not making it a coming out story, but then looking at it, we realized that there actually is a character that comes out in the film – and that is society.”
Bernal spent months training at the gym and with famed wrestlers to become Cassandro. “I was doing a lot of exercising and eating a lot,” he says. “And this I don’t say often because it’s like a secret kind of thing, but I always like to take dance lessons for each character I play in order to internalize something. It helps me feel that I have a little bit of propriety of what I am doing.”
In the film, Bernal shares a kiss with co-star Bad Bunny. When I mention that the actor “gets” to locks lip with the music superstar, Bernal smiles: “You know, he got to kiss me also. I just want to mention that to put that out there.”
The scene, Bernal says, came “easy” to both men. “It’s about trust,” he says. “We just talked about it. It was fun and no problem.”
It was recently reported that Bernal and Diego Luna will produce a Spanish language spinoff of “The Boys.” The Mexico-set series is currently in development at Amazon with “Blue Beetle” scripter Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer attached to write. Bernal can’t say much about the project but offers, “I’m very excited about what we can do, because we can do something very interesting in Latin America.”