With Joy opening Christmas Day, we chatted with Ramírez about working with Russell and Robert De Niro, the beauty of the love story at the center of Joy, and putting his great salsa dancing skills to good use.
On Joining David O. Russell’s Acting Troupe
Well, it was great. It’s an enormous privilege to be so warmly welcomed into such a great and creative family. It’s a family composed of some of the most talented people in our craft. I feel very privileged. And the fact that also got to work again with Robert De Niro after we shot Hands of Stone made it all easier. He was already like family. It was fantastic. It was beautiful. That’s the dynamic that David generates. He’s implementing and continuing an old tradition in cinema which is to work with — I mean, many directors have done it: Cassavetes, Antonioni, Martin Scorsese, Fellini — to work with a sort of repertory actors. To try and do new things and new characters. And that’s great because it’s all based on trust. I feel very privileged to be part of the family now.
On The Film’s Take On “True Love”
All the complexities and all the contradictions of the character were something that really drew me to it. This is a guy who’s really flawed. I mean, in a way, at the beginning of the film, he’s basically become Joy’s third child. And he was a great guy to have as a friend, but very difficult to have as a husband. That’s one of the most beautiful things about the film, because it explores the extent of true love. When love is true and unconditional, it can take on different forms. It can transform. And even if a romantic side of a relationship doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that the relationship needs to end. It can become something different. But it’s still love. And that is something that drew me to it because it gives me a lot of hope and that it would give audiences a lot of hope. That true love can really last forever. Because all of the stages: you see them falling in love, and the struggles of a marriage that was not meant to be, and they’re still friends and they love each other, just in a different way.
On Why Tony Is One Of The Bravest Characters He’s Played
The fact that this guy, being a Latin guy, in a macho-normative society at large – here’s a guy who’s willing to make amends. And he’s willing to stand by, to support, and to celebrate the determination of the woman he loves, of his friend, and the mother of his children. And that is something that I found very courageous. It’s one of the bravest characters I’ve ever played because he doesn’t feel threatened. He doesn’t feel that his masculinity or manhood is compromised in any way. He’s very comfortable in being the great man behind the great woman. Normally, it’s the other way around. It’s that behind every great man there’s a great woman; but in this case, there’s a great woman who’s out front, who’s conducting and creating an empire, and he’s even willing to become her employee and work with her. And that we don’t see very often. We don’t see that very often in life, let alone cinema. So it’s very refreshing. And I feel very proud to have had the opportunity of playing this character.
On The Use Of Soap Operas In The Film
That was part of the narrative that [David] wanted to explore. How Joy’s mother related to soap operas and also the impact [that] watching those soap operas when she was a kid had on her. The telenovelas that we do in Venezuela, at least the one that I was part of, is very different from that kind of format. Mine was very social, and then it was very modern in a way, so that’s why nobody saw it outside of Venezuela. Because it was very local, and very socially and politically involved. So I never had the experience to work on a soap opera that [has] all these big performances and this overacting. But I feel that it was an amazing aesthetic choice for the film. It was a great resource and I think it was really fun, and actually, if people knew how much work you have to put into a soap opera, especially the ones that are emulated in the film, [they] would be surprised. These actresses are so skilled and they work so hard. They have to shoot like a hundred scenes a day. It’s incredible.
On Singing And Dancing In The Film
It was awesome! I come from Venezuela. I’m Latin. And more than Latin, Caribbean! So we dance a lot. So that was fantastic. I was very happy to be able to integrate some of my cultural background into this film. And I had the chance to perform, and actually to record with Rey de la Paz, who’s one of the most magnificent Latin voices in salsa. It was a huge privilege for me, and I had Ruben Blades as my advisor into finding tones, and of course, I worked really closely with David. What else can a guy ask for than to become a singer in a film? It’s fantastic!
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