February 13, 2012 | 3:55 pm
Posted by Naomi Pfefferman
The underdog in the race for best actor at the 2012 Academy Awards is certainly Demian Bichir, who was nominated for his searing performance as an undocumented worker struggling to raise his troubled teenaged son in Chris Weitz’s “A Better Life.” While more expected contenders such as Michael Fassbender (“Shame”), Ryan Gosling (“Drive”) and Leonardo DiCaprio (“J. Edgar”) fell by the wayside, Bichir received the Oscar nod and is only the third Latino to ever do so, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Last year, I interviewed Bichir about his turn as the struggling gardener at the heart of the film; his formidable competition for the Oscar will include Brad Pitt (“Moneyball”), Gary Oldman (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”), George Clooney (“The Descendants”) and Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”).
Among those who were thrilled by Bichir’s Oscar nod was “A Better Life’s” Stacey Lubliner, who with partner Jami Gertz produced the film as the first effort of their Lime Orchard Productions. I caught up with Lubliner recently to discuss Bichir, the surprise contender:
NPM: Demian was sometimes mentioned as a possible nominee but only as a longshot. How did you get the news and what was your response?
SL: My husband was at the Sundance Film Festival and he called me and told me to turn on the TV. I was so excited to see them say Demian’s name. I called Jami at 5:30 am and woke her up! I was so happy for Demian and so proud of the movie and all that we accomplished. It was the first movie Lime Orchard produced and everyone on the cast and crew worked so hard on the movie, so it felt very rewarding for us on behalf of all of them.
NPM: Demian told me he’s felt typecast into certain roles where he is the suave, good looking, or intimidating kind of character (like Fidel Castro in “Che” or a gangster in “Weeds”). What made you consider him for “A Better Life?”
SL: Chris Weitz found Demian and knew he was the guy from the beginning. We met him and saw him read and felt his passion for the role. He was so dedicated to bringing a genuine portrayal of this character to screen.
NPM: What did he bring to the role that made the story so heartrending?
SL: Demian was so dedicated to getting every physical and emotional attribute that this father and gardener would have. His attention to detail and his passion for authenticity were amazing. It was his subtle persona and his understated, yet powerful performance that was so heartbreaking.
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