May 9, 2006
Garcia brings Cuba film to screen after 18 years
By Bob Tourtellotte
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than a labor of love, new
movie "The Lost City" was a labor of life for Cuban-born actor
film about pre-communist Cuba that begins playing in theaters
around the United States on Friday after a limited run in Los
Angeles, New York and Miami.
The actor, whose movies include "Ocean's Eleven" and
"Ocean's Twelve," labored 18 years to raise money and make
"Lost City," but he said the seeds of his story go back to when
he was 5 1/2 and fled the island nation and the communist
regime under Fidel Castro.
"From a very early age, I was stimulated by the stories and
music of Cuba, and I continue that interest to this day," he
But the problem for Garcia is that Hollywood was not as
excited about a 300-page movie script for "Lost City," written
by Cuban exile and novelist Guillermo Cabrera-Infante. A
typical movie screenplay is around 120 pages.
"Lost City" possessed an epic scope, a lush setting,
revolution, love and a family torn apart by politics. Those
elements looked good on paper, but for Hollywood the idea
appeared too expensive to make for a seemingly small audience
-- Cuban Americas and Latinos.
But Garcia saw it differently, and said the movie has a
universal appeal. "They marginalized the potential of the
film," he said. "Diversity is one of the things people go to
"Lost City" revolves around nightclub owner Fico Fellove
(Garcia), the oldest of three brothers who are members of an
upper class family. Their father is a well-respected university
professor, and their uncle is a gentrified land owner.
Fico disdains the revolutionary politics of the day, but
his brothers take sides in the fight to overthrow dictator
Fulgencio Batista. One joins a nationalist group backing a new
democracy; the other takes up arms for the communist
revolutionaries led by Castro and Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
As events unfold, audiences are given a sort of tour of
Cuban culture and history -- music, dance, rural life and the
wild nights of pre-Castro Havana with its clubs and casinos.
Of particular importance to Garcia is the Cuban music. The
actor is an accomplished musician himself, and he used some 40
songs in the movie's soundtrack.
Garcia has called "Lost City" an homage to the generations
of exiles who emigrated to the United States. Castro and
Batista are both seen as ruthless dictators. The nationalists
who try to restore democracy are heroes, and Fico and his
family are victims.
The actor noted that even though the events in "Lost City"
happened around 50 years ago, the movie is relevant today as
leftist leaders such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's
Evo Morales come into power in South America.
"It's still happening," he said.
ACTOR TO DIRECTOR
Garcia and his family and emigrated to Miami in 1961. In
Cuba, Garcia's father had been a lawyer and his family owned a
small farm. In the United States, he went to work delivering
food for a catering company, Garcia said.
The actor's career began in his mid-20's on television. He
steadily worked his way up Hollywood's ladder, and finally
gained wide recognition in 1990 in Francis Ford Coppola's "The
Godfather: Part III."
He has appeared in big-budget movies like the "Ocean's"
crime capers and low-budget films such as 2004's "Modigliani,"
in which he portrayed the artist Amedeo Modigliani.
Over the years, "Lost City" has remained his darling. When
major Hollywood studios would not produce the film, Garcia
found independent financing from a Beverly Hills-based merger
and buyout company, Platinum Equity, whose principal partners
include Cuban-born Johnny O. Lopez.
"Lost City," cost $9.5 million to make, and was shot over a
brief 35 days in the Dominican Republic. Garcia called in
favors from big name stars like Bill Murray and Dustin Hoffman
to appear in the film, and his love interest is portrayed by
Spanish beauty Ines Sastre.
Garcia said that his greatest hope is that the movie plays
well at theaters, and that people see it on big movie screens
instead of waiting for the DVD.
But his greatest achievement, he said, is that a movie
about Cuba and its people exists at all.
"There was a story waiting to be told," he said.