“As an actor, you want a role that will stretch your range as much as possible,” said Demián Bichir of his Oscar-nominated turn as the beleaguered immigrant gardener Carlos Galindo in A Better Life. A celebrated Mexican star, Bichir’s emotional portrayal of Galindo, an undocumented worker struggling to provide for his son in East Los Angeles, has him pitted against the likes of George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Gary Oldman, and Brad Pitt for the best actor in a leading role award.
What attracted you to this role?
DB: Being an Angeleno myself, I know exactly what the script is about. I found a Hollywood story without the Hollywood gimmicks—and so rich in emotion, and a physical challenge as well.
Do you think the film inspires people to think differently about illegal immigration?
DB: You cannot think about Carlos Galindo’s story without thinking about the need for immigration reform for 11 million human beings. You know what I’ve gotten from friends? ‘I didn’t know my status towards immigration could change in two hours.’
You’ve been called the George Clooney of Mexico. How does it now feel to be nominated alongside Clooney?
DB: I’ve read that but I don’t even know who began saying that! I see it as a huge compliment, but I think I may be closer to Homer Simpson. I never thought I’d even be in the same category as George.
Few Latino actors are nominated for Academy Awards. How does it feel to be one of them?
DB: It’s a handful but it should be bigger. It makes me even more grateful to be part of it. I’m the second Mexican actor to be nominated for a leading role, and the other guy is Anthony Quinn. How crazy is that?
What do you like to do when you’re not busy with a film project?
DB: I’m a pretty mellow and quiet person. In my free time I exercise, go see a movie, read a good book, and I love the opera. I try to take it easy.