Role: General Enrique Gorostieta, who transforms a ragtag band of men into an army to be reckoned with in a fight for religious freedom against the Mexican government
By Julie Rattey
What price would you pay for freedom? In “For Greater Glory” (releasing June 1) which tells the story of the real-life martyrs and heroes of the 1920s Cristero War, which arose in response to government oppression of Catholicism in Mexico, each of the characters must answer this question. This April, actors from the film, along with director Dean Wright, met with media outlets including Catholic Digest to discuss the film and, in many cases, their personal Catholic faith. The questions are from Catholic Digest and other media outlets. Please note that the content contains some spoilers.
Academy Award-nominated actor Andy Garcia is known for films including Modigliani, Ocean’s Eleven, and The Godfather: Part III. He made his directorial debut with The Lost City. Born in Havana, Garcia was only 5 ½ when his family fled to Florida following Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba.
There are people still alive who have connections to people who fought with the Cristeros (“soldiers of Christ”), and I wonder what kind of gift do you think this film is to those people.
I got a letter from the granddaughter of Gorostieta. She was very emotional in watching the film and in the fact that the film honored her grandfather. She felt that for many years, his endeavors, his commitment to this fight never really received any credit because the story was very taboo in Mexico. People don’t really know about it because nobody really wanted to talk about it, therefore anybody who fought in it, no one’s going to talk about that either, so the Gorostieta name and his journey within the Cristero War fell under the rug with the rest of the story. She felt that finally her grandfather’s journey and his efforts — this movie has brought them to light. She sent me an excerpt from a letter that he wrote home to his wife Tulita, which, paraphrasing, said, “I know that we’ve spent all this time apart, and because of the cause that I’m fighting, I might not ever see you again, but what I am sure of is that the Gorostieta name will always be preserved for our children.”
Is there a Spanish-language version of the film, because the fact that it’s in English means that the audience in Mexico…
No, they saw it in subtitles, and it broke all records there. It’s like the second highest-grossing film after Titanic in Mexico. It’s a universal story, it’s not specifically made only for the Mexican people, although it was produced in Mexico and financed in Mexico. It’s a movie for the world. It’s a story that needs to be told.
How do you think this film has contributed both to your career and to your personal faith?
It was a great privilege to do the story because it’s a beautiful story, and I had great actors to work with and great designers and technicians, and I was in these extraordinary locations having the great honor portraying this character and leading this army.
You don’t have to be a man of faith, or a Catholic, for that matter, to be in this movie, nor do you have to be one to see the movie. What’s important is that it’s a beautiful film, and it’s an important story to tell, and that’s why I did it. I am a man of faith, but that’s not the reason why I made the movie. If it was a terrible script, I wouldn’t have done it.
Was your faith deepened by participating in the project?
No, it was deep enough already. (laughter)
There are certain parallels to this movie to my own life, obviously, because I come from a country where religious freedom for many years was completely taken away; absolute freedom was taken away from the Cuban people. So it’s an easy cause for me to champion, because to me it’s more about absolute freedom of the human being.
What was the most challenging aspect of the role for you, and the most rewarding?
The, ah, roundtable interviews. (laughter)
How about during the actual filming? Besides riding on horseback, unless you’d had experience with that.
I’ve ridden before for other films, but I hadn’t in a long time, so I had to get back in the saddle again.
You know, how do you get underneath the skin of someone like this, and his journey, and try to find the parallels and the emotional depth and the stakes of what he’s going through to really bring an organic truth to what you’re doing and really experience him to honor that character? The challenge of the actor is always to try to fulfill that.
The horseback riding’s a technical thing. You know, if you’ve ridden before, you practice a little while, and then, you know, you have beautiful horse, you’ve got a great hat, and you’ll be fine. (laughter) But it’s really the emotional side of it, and having to do it sometimes in adverse situations, having to explore the depths of these very painful things at times, for a sustained amount of time. But what’s more painful is not being able to go through it, and being stifled. If doesn’t happen, you never had the actual emotional catharsis, and the fact that you weren’t able to deliver the scene is even more painful.
So was that then also the most rewarding part of doing that role — actually going through that process?
Yeah, well, living the character. I mean, it’s a great privilege to be called upon to play a character like this in a movie that was so important to so many people. You want to honor him, to bring him to life for people. He deserves to be recognized for what he committed to, and whether you’re religious or not is indifferent; it’s really about absolute freedom, and fighting the good fight. CD