You’ve seen him as Gianni Versace, criminal Carlos the Jackal, boxer Robert Durán, Cuban guerrilla fighter Ciro Redondo, and now in HBO’s ‘The Undoing.’ Now, get to know the actor behind these roles, Édgar Ramírez.
A report by Fabia Di Drusco for L’Officiel.
Playing the revolutionary Ciro Redondo Garcia in Steven Soderbergh’s Che skyrocketed Édgar Ramírez to fame. Since then, he’s played criminal Carlos the Jackal in Olivier Assaya’s titular miniseries (for which he earned a Golden Globesnomination), Bodhi in the remake of Point Break, the supportive ex-husband of Jennifer Lawrence in David O. Russel’s Joy, and starred as Gianni Versacein American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace which brought him his second Golden Globes nomination. In addition to his on-screen career, the 43-year-old Venezuelan actor is also a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador and has committed himself to Amnesty International as well as to fighting for gender equality, promoting the #heforshe movement. Here, L’OFFICIEL speaks with Ramírez about his career.
L’OFFICIEL: How did you become an actor?
ÉDGAR RAMIREZ: I was a journalist. I’ve always liked cinema but I didn’t grow up dreaming of acting. In the last year of university I participated in an experimental film by a friend who ended up winning a festival: among the judges there was a Mexican professor, the then-unknown Guillermo Arriaga, who asked me to participate in a film he was writing. I said no, only to find out two years later that the film in question was Amores Perros, the 2000 film by Alejandro González Iñárritu, which was a sensation at Cannes and won the Grand Prix. Basically, it was the film that introduced Latin cinema to the international map.
L’O: What have been the key roles in your career?
ER: Obviously, Carlos. The year 2010 was the beginning of the era of high-quality television series, which allow you to explore a character in a more complete way than the short duration a film allows you. Then Hands of Stone, where I had to become a boxer (the legend Roberto Durán, ed.). My body changed, and I moved to Panama. For me, who is very emotional and very rational at the same time, playing a man totally dominated by his emotions was very challenging. It was interesting to explore a disruptor like Gianni Versace and the intertwining of his family relationships, especially in the relationship with his sister, made up of loyalty, love, and devotion. I discovered Gianni in the eyes of Donatella and Penélope Cruzwho played her. I am also very attached to a film I made with Juliette Binoche, A coeur ouvert by Marion Lane, the story of a married couple where [I played] an alcoholic. It’s a relationship of codependency that explores the nature of love.
L’O: How do you choose a movie?
ER: The director is fundamental. If he doesn’t have a very precise, very strong point of view, the film doesn’t work. Because the art of telling a story comes from an emotional urgency that you have to rationally resolve. Then of course, the story is also important, even if sometimes I just choose to have fun with action movies.
L’O: Which directors have you worked with best? And who would you dream of working with?
ER: With [Olivier] Assayas there is a very special relationship, a real telepathy. I would like to work with Paolo Sorrentino, with David Fincher, Wong Kar Wai, the Mexican director Michel Franco who has just won the Silver Lion in Venice with Nuevo Orden, Alfonso Cuarón…Many, many others.
L’O: Have you thought about being a director?
ER: It might happen that you become a director, but I don’t get up in the morning feeling bad because I’m not. Instead, I started producing as a natural direction for an actor.
L’O: Do you have a method to immerse yourself in a character?
ER: Acting is empathy and also a form of meta-journalism, preparing for a role is like investigating someone. And then there is the physical preparation: building the character’s body allows you to transcend your personal limits.
L’O: What can we look forward to seing you in next?
ER: At the end of October, The Undoing, the HBO series (written by David E. Kelley, the author of Big Little Lies, ed.) begins, directed by Susanne Bier, with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, where I play a detective. It is a drama for adults, like the great thrillers of the ’80s and ’90s with a very strong erotic charge, in an atypical way for an American project. The central point is the human contradictions, all the characters are contradictory. It is an investigation of a betrayal that demonstrates the power of manipulation, of jealousy, and it can be uncomfortable for the viewer. Next year, 355 will be released, a spy story with Jessica Chastain (and Fan Bing Bing, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, and Penélope Cruz, ed.), The comedy Yes Day with Jennifer Garner, Jungle Cruise by Disney with Emily Blunt and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And I’ll be shooting Losing Clementine with Jessica Chastain, directed by Argentine director Lucia Puenzo. Jessica plays a bipolar character who is determined to commit suicide but who wants to fix some things first, including the relationship with her ex-husband, played by me.
L’O: Besides film, you are particularly committed to gender equality.
ER: The #heforshe campaign was created to combat gender stereotypes: it is not just for women. We need to change the cultural paradigm that celebrates toxic masculinity, which pushes men to unload their violence on their partners, instead of learning to manage their emotions. The speech I gave on this four years ago at the United Nations is the proudest moment of my life.
L’O: What do you do when you are not working?
ER: I read, I train, I try to meditate. I don’t have an extraordinary life, but an extraordinary job. I like having coffee with friends—I believe that conversation is an art form. When I arrive in a city I don’t know, instead of being a tourist, I get advice on where to stop for a coffee, and I can spend hours sitting reading or people watching. I am a coffee addict, in Venezuela the Italian community is so strong that there is a Gaia espresso machine even in the smallest bar in the most remote village.
L’O: Are you interested in fashion?
ER: I like fashion because I like history, and fashion is an expression of time. In 50 years, it will be enough to look at our clothes to realize how our society was. I don’t think fashion is a superficial phenomenon, rather it is a form of anthropology.