Exclusive Interview: Yul Vasquez Talks about the Family Environment on 'The Infiltrator'
Yul Vasquez is one of the mos respected character actors currently working in the business and this year he is giving life to Javier Ospina, one of Pablo Escobar's hechnman in Brad Furman's "The Infiltrator."
Vasquez work ranges from roles in "Traffic," "Captain Phillips," "Runner, Runner" and "Kill the Messenger."
Latin Post had a chance to speak to Vasquez about his work on the film and reuniting with his director and castmates.
Latin Post: How did you get involved with this project?
Yul Vasquez: Brad Furman, the director, is a guy who I've done two previous films with and when he was cooking this movie, he called me and said, "I have this part and you're the only guy that could do this." He sort of explained this part to me and I said, "That sounds like me." And we figured it out and all the dates lined up and then we went and did it.
LP: Since you've worked with Brad Furman before, can you tell me how the experience was different from the other times that you worked with him?
YV: The first movie that I did with Brad was a very small film. Then the next film was bigger and then this film was the biggest yet. It was a movie where Brad was really able to flex his muscles in a way that had not been possible before because he was starting out. This film is more in the line of the kind of films that we will be seeing from Brad in the future.
LP: This film is based on a real life events. How much research did you have to do and what knowledge did you have prior to it?
YV: I had a pretty good knowledge base about Pablo Escobar and the cartel. There are quite a number of documentaries that I watched. The thing about [my] character is that he was a very mysterious person. He had a tremendous amount of influence. His grandfather was Colombian. So he was a guy who was able to move in very high circles freely. In actuality he actually gets away. This guy is never apprehended. [SPOILER ALERT] In the film he does but you know films take liberties. This guy is almost a phantom. If you google this guy you'll find a couple of things but that's it.
LP: What are the challenges of playing a character where there is little known of but he is a real character?
YV: We had Bob Mazur who had dealt with him. So we had Bob's firsthand knowledge of him. So that was the greatest source of information. So that limited you to Bob's personal experiences which is great for the movie. But for the actors if you wanted a history of his childhood it was very hard to find. And then we created and took Bob's ideas and we embellished with that. Because that is what we do as actors. We have to have fun.
LP: What was it like to work with Bryan Cranston and the rest of the cast?
YV: What can we say about Bryan Cranston that he hasn't already shown? He's shown the world he's a master of his craft. He is an absolute joy and we became friends. He is one of the most stand-up gentlemen. Benjamin Bratt is a guy I've known for ages. We've worked on a film called "Traffic" years ago. He's always been a friend of mine and we've been close. With John and I, we've done five films together. And after this film we actually ended up together on the last season of "Bloodline." So these are guys that I know and hang out with. So to go to work with them is a treat. There is an automatic ease that we don't have to fake.
LP: So it's like a family environment on set?
YV: It's a family environment in many ways. Plus it's my third movie with Brad and Brad's mother wrote the script. So it's really a family movie like I've never seen before. I was expecting someone to show up with baked cookies or something but that didn't happen.
LP: So do have any fond moments on set given the family environment that was created?
YV: There are so many. There was an incredible day where we shot this Paris café and that was one of those moments where had total freedom. Everything was flowing, something that doesn't always happen on sets.
LP: Why do think Pablo Escobar is such an essential touchstone for cinema these days?
YV: I mean because it is the story tremendous power and mystery and he is incredibly appealing that you see a guy who has all the money and it's never enough. His ultimate undoing was that he wanted to run for political office. If he does not do that, this would have been a different story. Escobar wanted to be loved and feared and seen as a man of the people. Those people are always fascinating for others who are mere mortals. It's a very cinematic and it's very compelling to watch and it's also compelling to see someone take down those guys.
LP: What do you hope audiences take away from this film?
YV: I think audiences see the struggle of this man dealing with this incredible situation that he's found himself in. Balancing his family life and passionate about what he does. The character who Bryan Cranston plays, Bob Mazur, you can't do for money because every day can be your last day. So every day is a thrill. You watch a guy struggling with his personal life with no artifice. He is a human being and that is interesting to see.