A Q&A with Eduardo Verástegui, actor, pro-life advocate

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Photo courtesy of Metanoia Films
Verástegui with little Eduardo; Photo courtesy of Metanoia Films
Verástegui in “For Greater Glory”; Hana Matsumoto photo, courtesy of ARC Entertainment

By Julie Rattey


Editor’s note: This feature consists of exclusive material not featured in the interview with Verástegui in the June/July issue of Catholic Digest.

“I didn’t know what to say. I was nervous, I was shaking.”

While researching his role in the 2006 pro-life film “Bella,” actor Eduardo Verástegui found himself outside an abortion clinic talking to a Mexican couple considering an abortion. He was nervous, but the couple recognized him from TV, and the three talked for about 45 minutes “about everything — life, faith, food, Mexico.” Eduardo gave the woman two miraculous medals — one for her and one for her unborn baby — and the couple left without entering the clinic. Months later, Verástegui received a call from the woman’s partner. “Eduardo. I have great news, man,” he said. “My boy, my baby was born yesterday, and I want to ask your permission to name him Eduardo.”

When an 18-year-old Verástegui left his small town for the bright lights of Mexico City, he was looking for fame and fortune. But after achieving his heart’s desire and breaking into Hollywood, he felt empty. A powerful change of heart about his lifestyle and career choices led him to resolve to never again pursue projects that would offend his family, his Catholic faith, or his Latino culture — a resolution that eventually led to his co-founding Metanoia Films and to the filming of “Bella.”

This month, the now 38-year-old Verástegui plays a Catholic martyr in “For Greater Glory,” about the 1920s Cristero War, which developed out of a rebellion against oppression of Catholicism by Mexican government. Verástegui took time out of his preparations for a mission trip to speak about the film, his faith, and his hopes for a family someday. To read this interview, see page 14 of the June/July issue of Catholic Digest. For exclusive material not featured in this interview, see below. For additional interviews connected with the film, click here.

The priest who inspired a movie:
How Eduardo learned about the Cristero War

When I decided that I would never do anything that would offend my family or my faith or my Latino culture, I knew that it was going to be a very hard commitment, so I went to this monastery for five days for a retreat to get the strength that I needed to be faithful to this commitment. It was there that Fr. Justin asked me, “Have you thought about doing a movie about the Cristero War?” and I said, “What is that?” And he said, “What do you mean, ‘What is that?’ You’re from Mexico.” He left the room and came back with like, five books, and I started reading the books and I was blown away.

The quote that changed Eduardo’s life
Eight years ago, I was in the middle of trying to figure out if, being a practicing Catholic, you can still work in Hollywood. It seemed like the two didn’t match. One day I heard what Catholic speaker Matthew Kelly said (and Mother Teresa before him) — that we are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful to God. If we are successful, thanks be to God. But you can never compromise your faith to get success. And for the first time, I felt true freedom because one part of me wanted to be successful, and one part wanted to be faithful, and I realized if I just focused on one first, the rest will come. If you’re not detached from those worldly dreams — if you see success as the end instead of the means, if you see it as the only way that you’ll achieve true happiness, you’ll start suffering. And for 20 years I was that person. I had to break down and have a different mission in life. In the beginning it was painful, but with grace you start getting better and better.

Praying for strength
When I made a promise to God that I would never work in anything that would offend my family or my faith or my Latino culture, of course it was a challenge. For four years I wasn’t working in anything. I started turning down many projects until I didn’t have money to pay my rent. I needed to compromise but that wasn’t an option anymore. That’s why I went to Mass every day, for all the strength I needed just to say no. It can be almost humanly impossible to say no when you need money and you’re scared sometimes. But it’s only until you put love in the middle where everything starts making sense. When you go to Mass every day and you love Jesus and you love to please Him and you want to become like Him and give your life to Him and you’re praying, then it becomes easier to do certain things. You don’t want to offend whom you love. It was tough for years, but then, thanks be to God we put this company (Metanoia Films) together and we did “Bella” and things got better.

Life after “Bella”:
Eduardo on Metanoia’s next film

We just finished “Little Boy,” which is an amazing film about the corporal works of mercy. It’s a beautiful fairy tale that is designed to wake up the little boy we all have in our hearts — connecting with the Gospel quote that if you don’t become like little children, you won’t be able to enter the kingdom of God. That innocence, that purity is something children have that we start losing when we grow up. So it’s a movie that I’m sure is going to bring a lot of families together and entertain and inspire people. We’re editing right now. Hopefully we’ll come out for Christmas.

 

Editor’s note: “Little Boy,” whose stars include Sean Astin (“The Lord of the Rings”) and Emily Watson (“War Horse”), tells the story of a young American boy who struggles to achieve the impossible: bring his father back from World War II. Metanoia describes the project as “a love story between a boy and his father; a demonstration of duty and patriotism; and exposition of the value of family and friendship; a clashing of cultures, East vs. West; a dialogue about varying philosophies of life and faith; and an examination of what is truly important amidst the struggles of life and war.”

Managing Editor Julie Rattey

Julie Rattey is a Boston-based writer and editor. She is the author of If I Grew Up in Nazareth, available from 23rdPublications.com.