Actors and boxers should have one thing in common, according to Édgar Ramírez. “There’s a part that should stay in the shadows that you shouldn’t overstay.”
The mysterious alchemy of the two art forms recently fueled the actor for his starring role as Panamanian boxing legend Roberto Durán in “Hands of Stone.” And for the first time in his two decades as an actor, Ramírez allowed the unknown to guide him, resisting his usual cerebral approach to a man so defined by his physicality.
“I learned how to fight [first],” he says of going to Panama to train with fighters from the period in which Durán was competing. “I focused on feeling the struggle, the pain that a boxer has to go through, and then I worked on the mannerisms, the traits of his personality. That’s what this character asked me for…. This character is very different for me, very different.”
Picking up on the tumultuous streets of the Central American country at the height of protests over U.S. control of the Panama Canal, “Hands of Stone” traces Durán’s humble beginnings, from street fights as a child to facing off against Sugar Ray Leonard and infamously leaving the ring midbout, allegedly declaring, “No más.”
“What drew me to the character is that Roberto Durán is the son of an American soldier—a Marine—stationed in Panama and a humble Panamanian mother, and he was abandoned,” explains Ramírez. “He felt abandoned by his father who came from a country that’s occupying his country. He fights, and it’s almost like every time he gets in the ring it’s an emancipation. It’s like he’s bringing his pride in his country into the ring. That parallel situation going on between personal pride and national pride, the search for self-identity and national identity, I find very interesting…. He’s more than a boxer, he’s a mythological figure for his country. Because somehow he has been able to embody the identity of all Panamanians.”
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