National Catholic Register

Inperson

Living La Vida Bella on Oct. 26

In Person

BY John Lilly

October 21-27, 2007 Issue | Posted 10/16/07 at 12:37 PM

 

He’s known as the “Brad Pitt of Mexico.” But after the crucial Oct. 26 opening weekend of his new movie, Eduardo Verástegui (left) may be regarded as Mexico’s “Jim Caviezel.” He’s an actor as excited about his faith as his acting.

Once a notorious playboy, the singer, actor, model and film producer experienced a powerful reversion to his Catholic faith four years ago. In the process, he gave up his fame and fortune to pursue film projects that glorify God.

The first of those is Bella. The film won the prestigious People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival last fall. Bella will be out in theaters Oct. 26 (to find out where, visit BellatheMovie.com).

Register correspondent Patrick Novecosky sat down with Verástegui after a pre-release screening in Naples, Fla.

Tell me about your upbringing.

I am from a small town called Xicotencatl in the state of Tamaulipas, right below Texas. When I was a kid, my aunt Chalito was always telling us stories about Our lord Jesus from the Bible. The way she was telling the stories was like fairy tales, beautiful. And I think that’s how I got my faith in God — through her and my mother.

I was one of those Catholics who made my own Catholicism because that’s what I thought it was — as long as you don’t kill, I’m a good person, you know. You go to Mass twice a year at Christmas and Easter and pray every night.

I come from a very artistic family. My grandfather was a painter. My sister is a painter. All of my aunts and uncles sing, play guitar and write songs. Instead of doing it just for fun, I wanted to do it professionally. I moved to Mexico City when I was 17 to pursue that. I studied acting for a year and right after that, I got an offer to join this music group.


How did that happen?

It was accidental. When I was in school, I started modeling. A guy I met at a photo session told me that he was putting a group together called Kairo and they were looking for a singer. At the time, I had no interest at all in music. I wanted to finish school so I could be an actor.

For three months he was insisting, until one day he convinced me to join the group. We signed with Sony Music and traveled to 16 countries. We were a very successful band. After 3 1/2 years, I wasn’t content any more. I left the band and acted in Mexican soap operas for five years. My biggest dream was to do a movie in English.


In 2001, you landed a role in the movie Chasing Papi. How did that lead to your return to the faith?

The person who helped me to rehearse for the movie’s audition was a devout Catholic. At that point, I was already hungry and trying to figure out how I could fit everything together because I was already very empty and very unhappy.

One day she asked me, “Why do you want to be an actor? I think God has a plan for you. You’d better listen to that.” It was six months like that, going deeper and deeper. I was fighting it because I knew that if I accepted it, I’d have to change. I wasn’t ready to change. I wasn’t ready for a new commitment because I was weak.

She persisted until one day I said, “I’m wrong. I have to do something.” That’s when the faith my parents put in my heart — there were graces coming into my heart and opening my eyes.


Later you formed Metanoia Films and made Bella. How did you prepare for your role?

I needed to understand the pain the other person [in the film] was going through, so I ended up going to an abortion clinic. I thought it was going to be easy. I’m doing my homework as an actor. I’ll stop the first girl I see and ask her questions.

So, I arrived and I was in shock when I saw all of these 13-, 14-, 15-year-old girls going in. I couldn’t ask anything. I forgot about the film. I forgot about everything.

I saw a little group outside trying to talk to them and convince them not to do it. One of the ladies in that group told me this couple is from Mexico and they don’t speak any English. We ended up talking for 45 minutes. I gave them my number, then they left. They didn’t go in.

So, I went to New York and finished the film. I received a call, months later. It was the man who was with her that day. And he said, “I don’t know if you remember me. I want to ask you permission to call my son ‘Eduardo.’” I put the phone down. I couldn’t even talk. It was amazing. It was the most noble thing I’ve ever done in my life because I didn’t plan it. They invited me to the hospital. The most beautiful thing was when I was holding the baby and he was looking at me. It was just beautiful.


Why is Bella an important film?

More important than anything to us is to do God’s will, to be saints and to grow in holiness. That’s my goal.

Bella is the fruit of 3 1/2 years of sacrifice, of saying No to a lot of offers that were not honoring God. To really follow the path of Our Lord, you have to be willing to die to yourself. Period. Because sometimes my own dreams become my worst enemy if those dreams are not in line with God’s will. If it means that I never work again in this career, thanks be to God. If God wants to use me to use my talents in this career so I can glorify him, thanks be to God.

But making a film or being a movie star for me isn’t the goal anymore. I wasn’t born to be a movie star. I was born to be a saint. If he wants to make me an actor so I can glorify him in a big way in the media — let’s do it!


Patrick Novecosky writes

from Naples, Fla.


A version of this interview appears in the Register’s sister publication, Faith and Family magazine (FaithandFamilymag.com).