It’s always refreshing to see a well-seasoned actor continually make a variety of mainstream and independent movies. Andy Garcia is one of those talented actors who strives to be part of a number of impressive, creative films that really stand out for him. Adam Rodgers‘ feature film debut At Middleton is definitely one of those films for the accomplished actor.
At Middleton is the touching and comical love story of two strangers who meet when their children go on a college campus tour. We recently spoke with Andy Garcia about At Middleton as well as his upcoming directorial project, Hemingway & Fuentes.
How did you end up signing on for At Middleton?
Andy Garcia: The script, as you saw in the movie, the story was beautifully constructed and beautifully written, not only the dialogue but the structure. I fell in love with not only the story but the character and I wanted to be a part of it. The writer and the director, one of them writes but one of them also directs, they talked to me if I wanted to get involved as a producer. I liked the writing but I also loved them as people. It was easy to support them.
What was it about Adam Rodgers as a director that you admired?
Andy Garcia: Anybody who can write like that obviously has the sensibility and the sensitivity to make a film. I saw a short film that he did based on the regional transcripts for some of the trials at Guantanamo, some of the terrorists trials. It was beautifully done, it was edited in a very sensitive manner and it was on the short list for an Oscar nomination as a short film. It wasn’t short, it was a half hour long. And so I saw him as a filmmaker. It was more than evident to me. You go on instinct. You’ve got to use your instinct on things like that.
I talked to Vera Farmiga and she described you as very debonair, she spoke very highly of you.
Andy Garcia: Well that’s sweet of her. She’s an extraordinary lady, extraordinary actress and a great partner to have. We were blessed that she jumped onboard to do the movie. I knew that the script would attract a great actress because, as actors you can recognize potentially what’s a great part on the page. So we struck gold with Vera. She really understood that character. Initially, in the first half of the movie, she kind of pulls George along into her vortex. He makes her laugh and she gets him out of his shell. And that’s where their bond is. I think when people bond together, when they laugh together, there’s an extraordinary thing that can happen, in terms of chemistry, an immediate bonding and I think that’s what George and Edith have. They had an ability to laugh deeply with one another.
Was there a lot of improvisation that happened, especially in the middle of the film especially when they crashed the acting class?
Andy Garcia: There was some. The script was so beautiful, we really didn’t have to. There’s always some, and a lot of it has to do with not only so much dialogue improvisation but physical improvisation. Behavior and things we were playing off each other or playing off situations we were in, it went in a certain direction and Adam, the director, gave us a lot of space for that. Occasionally there would be a couple of things that we would say, but mostly it was more in the behavior, exploring the dance between these two characters. For example, if you remember when we come into the acting class, we wanted to come into the second floor and we enter this prop room and we’re watching them downstairs. Vera started to dance and she pulls me in and I end up joining her in and dancing. All of that was improvisation, none of that was scripted obviously, but you’re just living through the circumstances that you find yourself in, in character.
I also wanted to talk about the dynamic of working with your daughter. Do you just let her do your own thing, stand back and let her work?
Andy Garcia: My daughter is a professional actress. We’re just colleagues. I mean obviously it’s great to be in a scene with your own daughter and making a movie. You’re proud to see your children leading their dreams and fulfilling themselves creatively in what they’ve always wanted to do and have studied their whole life to do, so that’s part of it. Also when she’s in a scene, she’s my scene partner, she’s my colleague. If you have something to say to one another, we say it as actor to actor in that scenario, not as a father to daughter or daughter to father. Also, obviously that’s not something you ignore, but really we’re there to do the work so we have our actors hats on.
Speaking of projects, it seems like you’re in how many movies coming out this year? It’s a lot.
Andy Garcia: There are some coming out [Rio 2, Rob the Mob]. I still have tuition to pay.
I want to bring up one of your upcoming films, Hemingway & Fuentes.
Andy Garcia: Well we haven’t made it yet, so that’s why we haven’t talked about it. We hope to be filming this summer, we’re working our way there. It’s a movie I co-wrote with Hilary Hemingway, Ernest’s niece, and I’m also directing and playing Fuentes, the captain of Hemingway’s boat on the last 20 years of his life. And Jon Voight has come on board to play Ernest Hemingway. And [Annette] Bening has also expressed interest in playing Mary Welsh, his wife. We’re in process.
You’re writing, directing and acting in it. You’ve worked on both sides of the camera for awhile. Is it easier to do that now?
Andy Garcia: Well you have to be prepared, you’ve got to know the story you’re telling, obviously, and you’ve got to know so you can create an environment for this story to fulfill itself. You just have to be prepared and go to execute all aspects of it. Not only as your work as an actor but your responsibilities to the director. I’m not the first to do it and I won’t be the last. That’s really what it is. I wrote the story, so I know what’s the story I’m trying to tell. In order to be loose and experiment and let your actors play and discover things, you have to be control in the story and what you’re trying to do, so that you can always throw that away, not in the sense of throwing it away, but knowing that you’re in control of it. It’s like an orchestra leader. You’re controlling the tempo, the mood and the tone, but you have to give space for all the actors to improvise and to solo. You’re creating the space as a director for this spontaneity and this life to be able to exist. There’s the practical things that happen. You have to be able to drive the set fast enough so you can get the work done in the day’s work that was planned, and get the shots you need to tell the story and all those things. That’s part of it. This is what we do. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and this is what we do. It’s not as foreign, it’s maybe foreign to you but it’s not foreign to those of us who have been doing it for a long time. It’s not as nerve-wracking as you might think. Not to say that it’s easy, but it takes a lot of hard work and physical stamina. But your adrenaline is flowing at a very high level, so that keeps you going. The crash comes after you wrap.
You’ve been working in the industry for 30 years. What do you think of your career thus far?
Andy Garcia: I can say that I’ve done the movies that I’ve wanted to do and I’m very proud of them. I have no regrets on any of the films that I’ve made.
At Middleton is playing in limited theaters now.