LOS ANGELES-- --Andy Garcia can finally sit down, relax and light a cigar. As he takes a puff, the smoke rising above him in his Los Angeles hotel suite, he begins to describe what it took to direct his newest film, The Lost City.
He brought the stogie back from the Dominican Republic, where much of the film's production took place. He acted, co-produced and oversaw the movie's soundtrack, too.
The film chronicles the events leading up to the Cuban revolution, as seen through the eyes of a nightclub owner in Havana played by Garcia.
Garcia's family left Cuba for Miami when he was 5. Garcia went on to have a successful film career, most notably his work in The Godfather: Part III and Ocean's Eleven.
The idea of making The Lost City began 16 years ago, and Garcia - who says he has always believed that someday Cuba will be freed from Fidel Castro's control - never gave up on the story.
Recently, Garcia spoke about bringing his most personal project to the screen.
What do you think it took for you to get to this point of your life?
For me to be here, my parents had to sacrifice. They had the courage to get on a plane and go to a country where they didn't speak the language. They had to start anew, giving up their professions. Their professions in a sense were taken away because once everything was nationalized in Cuba ... whatever businesses you had were confiscated. Newspapers were confiscated. Businesses were confiscated. The monetary standards were changed. Your money was confiscated.
As Fico [Garcia's character] says in the movie, "There was nothing left for me in Cuba, so I took Cuba with me." My parents made the sacrifice to bring me here so I could live in a place where I can be free to think for myself and to articulate my ideas without any repercussions.
Do you still have relatives in Cuba?
No. We had a very small family and we all left.
What did your parents do in Cuba?
My father was a lawyer and a farmer. His father died at 54. We had a farm outside of Havana and my mother was a high school ... teacher. My father loved the farm.
What sentiments did your parents share with you about leaving Cuba?
When we came here, there was never any sadness in our household. We were blessed that we were here. We were able to be in America and have an opportunity to pursue our dreams and live free. We knew what was going down in Cuba and still is: the lack of human rights and freedoms [which are] essential to human beings.
We grew up living in a one-room apartment for all six of us. We slept on the living-room couch. It was a great upbringing. Growing up in Miami Beach in a predominantly Jewish-American community was fantastic for me. I had a profound nostalgia for Cuba, but I also have a great appreciation for America. I never saw my father or mother down. They were nostalgic and passionate about Cuba. Their journey was always positive and full of life. They worked very hard for us.
How much does the family in the film resemble your own?
My brothers and I were all very young [when they came to the United States], but the film reflects all our stories, more my father's journey. It's an amalgamation of everybody's story, in a way. And we wanted to cater to historical things and shed some light on the Cuban revolution, which a lot of people think was a peasant revolution. It was not. It was an intellectual revolution to restore the constitution and democracy. That's what Fidel Castro promised. ... Within a year's time, it became a Marxist communist state.
What do you think will happen after he dies?
You would hope that there would be a movement to get back to the principles of what the revolution promised, which is democracy. That's what I'm hoping for. I'm surprised it's lasted this long. I don't underestimate the desire for people to hold on to a specific type of power.
Do you think that in your lifetime you'll return to Cuba?
Yes. Just being in a free Cuba will be enough for me.
What are the chances that this film will be seen in Cuba?
Ahh. [Pause]. I don't know. In Cuba, usually all movies are seen. They get bootlegs. Eventually The Lost City will be seen, and people are waiting for it because I get that feedback. It might already be there. There could be a screener in Cuba as we speak. I don't know if he [Castro] will see it or not. If he does he'll probably say everything in the movie is false.
What message do you have for Castro?
Let the people of Cuba be free. Set them free.