Demian Bichir’s character might not be the namesake of director Richard Shepard’s new Dom Hemingway—that honor goes to Jude Law, who leads a stellar cast that includes Emilia Clarke and Richard E. Grant—but his role as the crime boss Mr. Fontaine, is one of the comedic caper’s most memorable.
And while Bichir’s played more than his fair share of good guys—most recently his cop on The Bridge, which will return for a second season this summer—the Mexican-born Oscar nominee is our favorite when he’s playing something of a villain. When we caught up with the actor, he admitted he quite liked playing a bad guy, too.
Here, Bichir tells DuJour about Dom Hemingway, taking a turn behind the camera and what kind of criminal activity he’d do best.
You’re currently in the middle of directing your first movie, Refugio. What has being on the other side of the camera been like for you?
It’s been great. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I think there is always some director in every actor, and we always want to have more decision making power—not only for a character but throughout the whole process. I think that’s why we do it, because you want to put your nose everywhere.
So you wanted to be in charge?
After so many years [acting] you see many things clearly, and the only way you can make sure that things are done correctly is to do them on your own.
The next time we’ll see you is in Dom Hemingway, though. Were you OK being directed?
Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have a good director in charge of every decision and then everything is really easy—like in Dom Hemingway. When Richard invited me to be a part of the project, I said yes immediately, because I had seen his first film and liked it very much. This is a guy who works independently, writes his own scripts and puts the whole thing together, and I loved the script. The script was magnificent, and of course the fact that Jude Law was in it made my decision very easy.
Playing a playboy crime lord like Mr. Fontaine must have been appealing also.
It was a lot of fun. Richard and I decided to give him Russian nationality; the character was assigned at first to be French and then a Spaniard, but we decided the right way to go was for him to be Russian. You know, we worked on that for a whole two weeks, exchanging endless emails about this and that and then we finally agreed on doing it. And there is this fantastic acting coach from Russia, Eugene Lazarev, who I met when I was a kid in Mexico… and it turns out that now he’s based in Los Angeles, so we met again some 30 years later to work on this film. He helped me out with pretty much everything that has to do with playing a Russian mafia guy.
What’s the most exciting part of playing a villain?
I think it has to do with the process. I only believe in characters that have qualities that all human beings have—we can all be fantastic or terrible human beings. Mr. Fontaine is good at heart, but he’s terrible too.
I don’t think it gives too much away to say that your character meets a grisly end. What was it like to film such an over-the-top death scene?
When I read that scene, I was jumping up in down with joy because it is so memorable. It was quite tough, because we were shooting in the rain for a couple days and it was really, really cold. That’s OK for a British actor, but not for a tropical fish like myself. Add to that this huge piece of metal that was going through my body—which was really complicated, there’s a harness that you have to wear underneath everything—and it’s pretty tricky. You can’t move, you really have to be careful because you could kill someone if you turn the wrong way. But it was really, really great. That was one of those things that make you become an actor when you’re a kid.
Jude Law’s character’s claim to fame is that he’s a safe cracker. If you were to be born again as a criminal, what would be your master criminal power?
I would be a fantastic getaway driver. I would be the guy waiting for everyone to escape, to drive everyone safely away.
As little trouble as possible there.
Yeah, well, you know, I don’t think I have that criminal streak in me—so if I didn’t have any other choice, yeah, I’d drive.
Dom Hemingway hits theaters April 2. Watch a trailer below: