EXCLUSIVE: Veteran Actor Alfredo Castro (The Club, No, From Afar) is in the middle of what could be described as a mid-career boom, but he doesn’t think it’ll bring him many plaudits in his native country.
“I think I will have to leave Chile,” Castro joked as he sat down with Deadline virtually from Santiago.
Last month, Castro was out in Cannes with The Settlers (Los Colonos), a tight and shrewd historical drama from Felipe Gálvez. Set in Chile at the beginning of the 20th century, the pic follows a wealthy landowner, played by Castro, who hires three horsemen to mark out the perimeter of his extensive property and open a route to the Atlantic Ocean across vast Patagonia. The expedition, composed of a young Chilean mestizo, an American mercenary, and led by a reckless British lieutenant, soon turns into a “civilizing” raid against Chile’s indigenous population. Mubi picked up the film for multiple territories out of Cannes, including North America and the UK.
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Castro remains on similar charged, historical ground for his next project, the latest film from Spencer and Jackie maverick Pablo Larraín. The pic, a black comedy titled El Conde, is the story of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet told through the lens of an immortal vampire who finally decides to die after 250 years on Earth.
“I think it’s Larraín’s most important film,” Castro said of El Conde.
The film, Larraín’s first with Netflix, is currently in post and is expected this fall, but not before Castro makes his debut as Chile’s controversial former socialist president Salvador Allende in Allende, the Thousand Days, a four-part series co-produced by Chile’s Parox and TVN alongside RTVE in Spain and Argentina’s Canal 9.
Below, Castro speaks with Deadline about the success of The Settlers out of Cannes, working with Larraín on El Conde, what audiences can expect from the “very weird” vampire pic, and how all three projects confront Chile’s brutal political history. Castro also teases which European festival audiences should expect El Conde to debut this fall.
DEADLINE: The Settlers debuted to rave reviews out of Cannes and was promptly picked up by MUBI. How did it feel to receive such a positive response?
ALFREDO CASTRO: I was very happy because the film is very much a Chilean story. But in a way, it speaks to something that has happened everywhere: The devastating erasure of millions of native communities. I think all Chilean films and life is related to the impunity of those days. Even recently, we had a coup in 1973, where hundreds of people disappeared or were found dead, and we still have not had justice. So we’ve had 100 years of impunity. These are the intense emotions that intrigued the audiences in Cannes.
DEADLINE: Is the story of native communities widely known in Chile?
CASTRO: No, not so much.
DEADLINE: So why take on the role?
CASTRO: I am a very political guy. In my country, I work to fight against the extreme right, so this is an interesting subject for me: The subject of impunity. I’ve been working with Pablo Larraín. All his films are about impunity too. And then I go on with other directors, men and women, and all of these films are about the lack of justice in the world. So I don’t have any interest in just being the protagonist of a movie. I like to work with films that have a very political subject. Always.
DEADLINE: You mention Pablo Larraín there. I know you just finished his upcoming film, El Conde. Can you talk about the film and what audiences can expect? Because the premise sounds high concept.
CASTRO: Yes, it is. I’ve seen the film. It’s not finished, but I just love it. I think it’s Larraín’s most important film. Larraín has two modes: First, the movies he makes abroad, for instance, Spencer and Jackie. That’s one branch of his work. The other is his work in Chile: The Club, Tony Manero, Post Mortem, and now El Conde. This film is very important because it shows the dictator as he was: A thief, killer. I play the role of Pinochet’s right-hand man, the state torturer who tortured hundreds of people. The film is about Pinochet trying to keep the money he has stolen from the country: Millions and millions of dollars. He’s based in Patagonia in the very south of Chile, where he has a house and where he keeps his vampire. He drinks blood, and I mean it’s very weird. I loved it.
I think I will have to leave Chile because, at the same time, I am shooting Allende, the four-part series where I play Salvador Allende. Allende was an important historical figure, but he didn’t get to where he wanted because of the United States and the politics in Chile. The high class in Chile, the right in Chile. So I’m doing both sides of the story.
DEADLINE: How far into the process of shooting Allende are you?
CASTRO: We have been shooting for one month and have a month left. The first chapter will be on the national broadcaster in Chile on September 10, and the 1973 coup was on September 11, so we will see what happens. We just had elections here, and the right party has the majority, so they can do whatever they please. So it’s a very tough moment in this country.
DEADLINE: You said the first part drops in September, so is there a second series? Would you come back again?
CASTRO: We are shooting in four chapters. After the first is released, we’ll see if we go ahead with the rest if I am still alive.
DEADLINE: There have always been great Latin filmmakers, but it feels like the entire industry is enjoying a strong moment with big international successes like, say, Argentina, 1985. Why do you think that’s happening now?
CASTRO: It’s because of the platforms. They have democratized cinema. It’s also thanks to festivals. I went to Cannes with Larraín’s Tony Manero for the first time 15 years ago. Larraín is at Berlin, Cannes, or Venice almost every year, and so are many other men and women filmmakers. This has allowed Latin American filmmakers to show the world that we exist and have wonderful stories to tell.
DEADLINE: You mention Larraín is frequently on the festival circuit. Where can we expect El Conde to debut?
CASTRO: They’re applying to Venice, so maybe we’ll see it there.
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