Roger Ross Williams, the director of Cassandro, opened up about why it was important to portray a positive queer story in the biopic based on a real-life gay amateur wrestler that turned Mexican lucha libre on its head.
“It was really important to tell a positive queer story about someone who is inspirational — someone who inspired me,” Williams said during a panel for the MGM Amazon Studios film at Deadline’s Contenders Film: Los Angeles.
Williams said he made a short about the wrestling star and when he met the luchador he said, “You’re it! You’re my first scripted film.”
“I totally fell in love with his energy, his positivity, and the power of his story that in this macho, totally macho, male-dominated, homophobic world — he used that, he took back his power,” he said. “He used all the negativity and he turned it into a positive thing that gave him energy and made him a superhero and conquered the world of lucha libre.”
Cassandro is portrayed by Gael García Bernal, who costume designer María Estela Fernández calls a “very generous actor.” Seeing him dressed as an exótico was “amazing for everybody,” Fernández said during the panel.
“He was so happy to be in those moments,” she said, with Williams adding, “He owned it. He owned the spandex.”
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Williams also revealed that, although Cassandro is still alive, he suffered a stroke shortly before they started shooting the film, and he is now paralyzed.
“He came in a wheelchair to set and weeped watching Gael play him,” Williams said.
The director also said he had the “greatest screening of my life” seeing Cassandro watch the finished film as he “mimicked the action on the screen” seeing his mother and his big match with Santo.
Check back Monday for the panel video.
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