Coco Tops Justice League with $13.2 Million on Wednesday

Gael García Bernal on Playing Hector in Coco

We chat with Gael García Bernal about voicing the role of Hector in Disney•Pixar’s Coco

In Disney•Pixar’s Coco, a young boy named Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) travels to the land of the dead to get the blessing of his relative. On the way, he meets an unlikely ally named Hector, voiced by Gael García Bernal. Hector is a trickster, a scamp and he’s sort of falling apart. He’s also dead. We got a chance to chat with Bernal about who Hector really is and his experience with the film, including singing for the first time in a movie. Check out our interview below. How much did you cry when you saw the film?

Gael García Bernal: Well, a lot, actually! Last night I didn’t cry as much as the first time I saw it, because I was controlling myself a little bit. [laughs] I was looking – last night I saw more of the details around the movie. Like the little things that happen in the background. Things where I was like, more curious about that, you know?

CS: What was it like, being approached for this film?

Gael García Bernal: It was such a privilege! Such a wonderful opportunity when they said Pixar wants you in the movie, I was like yes! Cool, yes! And then I spoke with them and met and had a really good meeting where they talked about what they wanted to do and they showed me some of the things that they had, and yeah, I mean, I was like, sweet! [laughs]

CS: What was the recording process like?

Gael García Bernal: Well, it was – you might know how they do things. They animate on top of what you do, in a way. So they rehearse, they try out things, they play around, they make sure – they have such a good rigor of doing films, you know? I mean, it’s really wonderful, the way they end up doing things. Then you start to see a result and then you start to do more things, and then you see the result. Then you do an ADR. You already filmed the movie and then you do ADR! [laughs] It’s really strange. But they always made me feel really secure, fun. We’re there to try out things. You’re going into a world where you really trust what they’re doing, because they have so much experience and they do so many good films. So it just made me want to be part of it and it sparked my curiosity about the way they do things. It’s wonderful.

CS: What about the music? For “Un Poco Loco,” did you guys record that together? [Note: He sings the song with Gonzalez.]

Gael García Bernal: No! We did it separate. “Recuérdame,” “Un Poco Loco” and “Juanita,” we did it, each of us separate. Again, they made me feel very secure, very supported. They brought in really good people to help… we’re not singers, some of us. Anthony sings incredible, but Benjamin Bratt or me, we were, I don’t know. They told me that he was also very nervous, because I just met him yesterday! I don’t know, it’s just wonderful to fall into a character and use the character’s voice to sing.

CS: I read that you compared Hector to Baloo the Bear in The Jungle Book.

Gael García Bernal: I did!

CS: For people who haven’t seen the movie yet, how would you describe Hector?

Gael García Bernal: He’s a guide of Miguel in the land of the dead. A very quirky, a bit of a pirate in the land of the dead… he was a musician. I can’t say any more than that. [laughs]

CS: When you actually saw the land of the dead, what was your reaction?

Gael García Bernal: Oh my god, so beautiful, right? So beautiful and such a personal point of view. I mean the way it’s animated, the way it’s illuminated, it’s… the bridge, my god! It just looks amazing! I just wish it was like that, no? [laughs] I hope it will be like that, the land of the dead! It’s so pretty and full of detail and really human. I don’t know, and the alebrijes! [Note: Spirit guides like the character Pepita.] Those little — that, for example, is something that is very particular in this film. I mean, alebrijes don’t formally — aren’t part of the Day of the Dead tradition, you know? Alebrijes are from another aspect of Mexican tradition, from a specific part of Mexico. They managed to include them and that’s what’s great about the Day of the Dead celebration, is that anything, anything anything can go in. You know? You can build it from any personal point of view you have about it. It’s a personal reflection of death, therefore everything fits because there is no final answer about what happens after we die, you know? So it is really open and really beautiful… It’s such a big thing, whenever there is a transcultural movie. Pixar managed to do a Mexican movie. That is not – we cannot minimize that. It is a huge achievement. It’s a triumph of creativity and of cinema when someone from another country does a film about another country, but they manage to do something that is even more surprising and much more like, loyal to where it’s set, you know? There is something really fantastic about that. It’s a triumph of otherness. The transcultural conversations we can have, you know, and it just shows how interdependent we are, culturally and socially.

CS: What do you want people to take away from this film?

Gael García Bernal: Well, I think the film invites a personal reflection on death, no? I think that is very important. Because whatever that reflection is, it just generates good will. It generates a sense of valuing life, valuing the interaction, valuing love, the love relationships that you have, the caring that you have for people, and the way that — how, with the power of narrative, we can keep people alive. That is important, for us as humans. We are very traditional in that sense. We want to find answers in that ritual. I hope that people get that.

Are you guys excited for Coco? The film opens in theaters this Thanksgiving. Stay tuned to for more interviews from Coco!


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