Actor in Focus: Diego Luna – Mexico’s Golden Boy

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For those Star Wars fans, mention Diego Luna and you’re bound to get an immediate reaction for his portrayal of Cassian Andor in Rogue One, but mention him to perhaps a die-hard fan of his work, you’ll get a whole IMDb page-worth of work credentials.

Born in Toluca Mexico, Luna was the rising Hollywood Golden Boy doing wonders for representations of minorities in Hollywood blockbuster films. However, since Rogue One the actor has returned to his Mexican roots, distancing himself from the film-making central of Los Angeles. There’s no denying that Luna loves his culture and is extremely patriotic and loyal to his Mexican origins which is where his acting career blossomed. Following a career in Mexican telenovelas from a young age, Luna bagged one of the main roles in Alfonso Cuarón’s coming of age film Y tu mamá también as Tenoch Iturbide. Talking to GQ, Luna likened himself to Tenoch as he grew alongside the character and found joy in the journey and experience of Tenoch, all whilst living in the country he loves. The film was a raging success and received many award nominations, including a BAFTA in the Foreign Language category. Still, 19 years after its release, it sits 20th on Empire Magazine’s ‘100 Best Films of World Cinema’.

At the age of 21, Luna became a fully established actor on the big screen and began branching out from Mexican cinemas and landing roles within the mainstream, starring alongside Kevin Costner and Michael Gambon in the Western film Open Range. For a long time Luna was landing supporting roles, always the bridesmaid and never the bride, but now, flipping back and forth from Mexico and film sets, he is most certainly getting the well deserved recognition for his craft.

Whilst Mexican cinema continues to evolve from the Golden Age of the 1930s, many Mexican actors and directors have followed the same path, fleeing to Hollywood for larger films and roles; yet Luna has done the opposite. Now living back in Mexico, he has made all the efforts to celebrate Mexico’s culture and customs. Amazon series Pan y Circo sees Luna and other conversationalists engage in fundamental topics of Mexican lifestyle and universal interests in contemporary societies. They even touch upon systematic functions such as ingrained racism and migration of Mexicans. Not only has Luna engaged in politics and societal issues of his much loved country, he engages in bringing the classics of his profession to Mexico City by starring and co-producing adaptations of William Shakespeare’s complete works. Luna has, in interviews, previously expressed his love for the plays: ‘even if I don’t have time for these, I make time, they’re very special projects for me…I love merging Mexico with other cultures’.

Luna also starred in nostalgic 50s Latin dance film Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights which takes on a similar preface of the subsequent cult hit, but with rich and feisty Cuban culture, and the sensual romance of Latin America. Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal also reunited for Rudo y Cursi (2007). Directed by Carlos Cuarón (brother of Alfonso Cuarón) it tells the lives of football-crazed brothers living on a banana plantation but not unlike Y tu mama tambien, the film follows conflicting ambitions and dreams of the brothers.

Diego Luna, like many Mexican actors, has gone wrongfully unrecognised for his work in the realm of Mexican cinema. Whether you know him from the Star Wars universe or his portrayal of Mexican drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo in Narcos: Mexico, watching a few of his earlier Mexican films will form a full understanding and appreciation to his work.

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classic culture editor 20/21. third year english student with unhealthy shakespeare, hannibal lecter, robert plant and 70s nostalgia obsession.

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