New Heroes

Source: Marie Claire

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The night before the interview our men went out on the town to invoke, by having some beers and wine, the ghost of the old times. Those intense four months of shooting. Of taverns, sword duels, arquebus shots, love affairs, miseries and calluses of the soul in the heat of a Spanish superproduction - 24 million Euros - called Alatriste, which will be released in September. Tons of gunpowder and testosterone spread over two hours and fifteen minutes of footage in which Agustín Díaz Yanes summarizes Arturo Pérez-Reverte's five homonymous books. And it looks like the reunion has been memorable and they have overslept. "Staying up all night? Nooo, we just went out and had a little dinner," assures with feigned innocence the first of the prosecuted, the Catalan Eduard Fernández. Lively eyes, quick with words, loose shirt; quick to go up onto a polystyrene cork mat to grow in height in front of our photographer's camera. A short man who doesn't look like one even when he comes down from the platform. His character, Sebastián Copons, is simple and loyal, of uncouth manners and brutal tenderness, "because, otherwise he breaks down, and his roughness is the mask he uses to do a nice deed, just like some men do." Next to him, the American of Danish father Viggo Mortensen, star of the film, who joins Alatriste without having managed to shake off completely the sex-symbol appearance of Aragorn, his character in The Lord of the Rings. And yes, I confess my anthropological curiosity about the actor, amplified by the meaty bribes I've received in order to give up my position in this report. 47 years old, 1,80 tall, blue-eyed and with gentle manners, Mortensen is the personification of anticoquetry. His interest in image is only shown by his discreet visits to the dressing room to check his hair in front of the mirror. His way of speaking is soft and monotone, and with a restrained Argentinean accent he mumbles "we didn't have too much rest during the shooting, to tell the truth, but I got to initiate them into maté and they to me into beer." I'd say that his appearance commands respect and that the most impassioned of fans would think twice before throwing him a bra or asking him to autograph her skin...And also that his appeal is inversely proportional to his degree of cleanliness.

Bearded and overclean come Eduardo Noriega (Santander,1973), Unax Ugalde (Vitoria,1978 ) and Javier Cámara (Rioja, 1967). Also known as Count of Guadalmedina (the ignoble nobleman), Íñigo Balboa (Alatriste's protégé) and Count-Duke of Olivares (the King's favourite) respectively. And we already have the stars of the Tercios of Flanders formed. In all, five losers who walk around the decadent Spain of the XVII century. "That dark society, terrible, full of betrayals and conspiracies, in which you don't know where the sword that is going to kill you may come from. Full of good-for-nothings with no chance of being promoted and without a happy ending," Noriega sums up and Javier Cámara continues, loquacious despite the jet-lag he's got because he has just arrived from Los Angeles. Always ready for the conversation not to adopt personal overtones. "In the XVII c. the stabbing thing worked as a payment for a bad deed, whereas nowadays the people who do worse things are those who pay the least." And, with the sparseness he's noted for and that look of eternal adolescent in rebelliousness, Unax Ugalde takes part: "But they try to cling to love as their hope because that's the only tangible thing in their lives in which everything comes and everything goes."

Designing The Hero

The chance. The flipping coin for heads or tails. The ambush at a dark alley or the brutal head-on clash. Dignity or vileness. Honour or dishonour. Everything on the edge of the knife. So it's not clear whether the alatristes are heroes or antiheroes. Just like in life. "For me, a hero is someone who does things with no profit motive in mind, without getting carried away with vested interests, but I don't know whether this corresponds, for example, to the actions of the NGOs," hesitates Noriega, with the glasses jammed on and extreme gravity. Impossible at least to joke about his famous nude - I mean tonic water - advert, although I cannot get it out of my mind.

Now it's Viggo who paints the hero: "I'd say it's someone who isn't afraid to lose, who undertakes actions with no guarantee of triumph." And he keeps the dialectic sword pulled out when I ask him whether Rafael Nadal or Fernando Alonso could be the contemporary new heroes. "What interests me about Nadal is seeing how he loses; that is, how he reacts when things turn out badly. Just like I think that we measure ourselves when we feel physical or psychological weakness, when things in our lives go wrong." In other words, heroism in small letters, away from the grandiloquence of the comic and caped superhero that Javier Cámara describes with his Riojan charm; and miles away from the antithetic antihero: an example? "Bush, an a**hole." Everybody agrees. "The people in the United States empire lives get more and more worse,' Mortensen charges, 'but the State has the power and the propaganda..." Are you considered annoying over there?, I want to know. "No more than here. I simply say what I feel like."

Same as Eduard Fernández. Quick and ironic, who blames ignorance for lots of abuses. "It's the best way to anaesthetize us, to guide us towards the monolithic thinking." This is getting serious and my invitations to tackle some subjects of a more personal implication ( not gossipy, I swear) are in vain. To my innocent "how do you behave when things don't go well for you?" (to Viggo), the Count-Duke of Olivares in person (that is, Cámara) answers with a: "Personal moments he doesn't have to talk about." Amen. I give up like one of the Dutch in Breda (I have just seen it in the film) and I suggest, to speed up, the debate about the labels of men: from the metrosexual to the ubersexual.

"After centuries of raising the feminine insecurity making women buy beauty products and torture themselves, they have realized that they can also try that with us: make us feel ugly, fat and hairy," Viggo denounces, and Unax agrees: " They want us to think that's the kind of man that women want, but I believe you like men just the way they are". And Eduard sums up: "The labels for men change as much as the World Cup's ball."

Throughout our meeting, some of them come in and the others go out. They kiss when arriving and when saying goodbye, and they touch each other. Just like in the film, where masculine friendship comes off very well. Is it actually like that?. "Are we talking about Alatriste or real life, mates?" Eduard wants to know. Both. "Well, I think that one always has a couple of friends whom one tells everything and talks about feelings and emotions. The thing is that women devote more time to that." Or more determination, I think. But that's another story.
Last edited: 1 September 2006 14:15:38
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