“Cantinflas” is the untold story of Mexico’s greatest and most beloved comedy film star of all time, Mario Moreno, who became famous around the world one joke at a time. The movie comes out on Aug. 29. Óscar Jaenada (“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”) plays Cantinflas/Moreno, and EXTRA talked to him about his aspirations and playing this controversial character.
EXTRA: What was your reaction when you found out you would play this huge legend?
Óscar Jaenada: It was a big surprise because it is huge for all Spanish speakers, not only for Mexicans. I had to work a lot because there were two characters in the same role – Cantinflas on one side and Mario Moreno on the other, and they were truly different. Cantinflas was a pure imitation. I saw all of his movies. I even hired a dance teacher to be able to move like him but Mario Moreno was a very secretive man. Cantinflas was his unique character and he was bigger than him and maybe he wanted that. I had to reach his personal circle—social and political people. I had a lot of questions, uncomfortable questions.
What did you learn about Cantinflas and Mario Moreno after you did the role?
The weight of a character. When you give your life to the people, you are not in your home. He had a tough personal life and that was because he gave all of his life to the people. That’s a sacrifice.
Do you see yourself doing what he did in your acting career?
I have been doing movies for more than 20 years. Success is complicated. I’d rather be respectful than successful. I used to make movies not for success, but to be a respectable actor. Maybe I learned from Mario Moreno that being successful is not always the best way to live.
What can you tell us about the relationship between Mario Moreno and Charlie Chaplin?
When Mario Moreno was thinking about his character and wanted to remove Cantinflas from his life, Charlie Chaplin told him that he is the best comedian in the world. It must be really weird for an actor to be a part of such a moment in your life.
What about the relationship between Moreno and his [Russian] wife [Valentina Ivanova]?
I was talking a lot with the actress who plays Valentina, about what they talk about in their home. We thought she knew everything about him and his infidelities and understood him. He did everything for her, I think, but not as good because the huge character he played consumed him.
Why do you think such a controversial character like Cantinflas made it so big on the international scene?
He was able to be with the richest and the poorest guys. He was able to be like them always.
How did you feel about filming in Mexico being that you are originally from Spain?
The first time I was there was for the audition. Mario Moreno always said that Cantinflas is Mexico. It was truly important for me to be in Mexico and to breathe his air. Now I think part of my blood is Mexican.
What do you like best about Mexico?
The cinema! I love the Mexican cinema.