Getting movies made in Hollywood is never easy. But considering he’s the writer, director and star of the highest-grossing Spanish-language film ever made, it would be fair to expect that the path to high-profile projects would be a bit more straightforward than Eugenio Derbez has experienced.
Derbez, who established himself with Mexican sitcoms in the early 2000s, broke out at the box office in a major way with 2013’s Instructions Not Included, the comedy he co-wrote, helmed and stars in as a playboy who has to suddenly care for his 6-year-old daughter. Buoyed by the success of its $ 100.5 million worldwide gross, a number that has yet to be topped by another Spanish-language film, the star moved to the US the following year, finally ready to relish the attention he hadn’t previously received during Hollywood dit-downs.
“Before Instructions Not IncludedI was always in meetings with producers, directors, executives, and with every idea that I brought, they were like, ‘You know, it’s too Latin for the general market,’ and they rejected my ideas, “Derbez tells The Hollywood Reporter. And while he was able to meet with executives from every studio after the success of Instructions, the conversations that he had even then were different than he expected, as he was surprised that the onus appeared to be on himself to show up with a project already in hand. “I thought they were gonna give me a lot of scripts and offers. They were like, ‘If you have a script, we’re here for you.’ “
After a winding road, the star, who formed the production company 3Pas Studios in 2014 to start developing his own projects, has had quite the year to remember. Derbez was previously best known in the States for starring opposite Anna Faris in the 2018 gender-flipped remake of the 1987 Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell hit Overboard. Now, he’s a member of the CODA team that won the SAG Award for best cast – he plays supportive high school choir director Bernardo Villalobos – and was onstage at the 2022 Oscars ceremony with his co-stars as the group collected the prize for best picture.
“Definitely, CODA changed my career and my life in many ways, ”Derbez says. “Nowadays, everyone in the industry, and also my core audience, they perceive me in a different way. Thank God. Now I’m getting offered more dramatic roles, something that I would never expect in the past. I’ve already done two dramas since then, so I’m happy that CODA is giving me the opportunity to reinvent myself here in the US It’s not that I’m gonna stop doing comedy; it’s so that now I’m going to be able to also do dramas besides the comedy that I’m producing. ”
He’s definitely not leaving comedy anytime soon, but he’s becoming careful about doing so on his own terms. Derbez currently stars in Hulu’s recent romantic comedy The Valetin which he plays the titular character – a Mexican-American immigrant with a simple existence and uneventful love life – who gets mistakenly identified as the secret beau of a glamorous A-list movie star (Samara Weaving) and has to carry out the ruse to distract attention from her messy personal situation.
As it turns out, the film, a remake of the 2006 French one of the same name, is a project Derbez has held the rights to since back in 2014, the year he arrived in the US Initially, his version was intended to be a much lighter and sillier one. Then, the 2016 election happened, and the world didn’t feel as light and silly.
“Back then, Barack Obama was the president, and in 2016, things changed, and it was a completely different country, so we felt that we needed to change the script again,” Derbes said. “Basically we started from scratch, and we wanted to give all the immigrants more of a civility and talk about them in a different way. I think we got the right script because it’s funny, and you can feel there’s a lot of messages in the back. “
Of course, even getting The Valet made the way he wanted to prove challenging, despite his status as a producer. Just as Derbez is proud that he and his producing partner were able to push for the Overboard remake to subvert expectations by having his character be the rich one and Faris play the less advantaged individual, the star knew to stand his ground when it came to giving The Valet a less-conventional ending than typical rom-com fans might expect, and one that has earned consistent praise from critics. “It was a huge fight with the studios, but at the end, thank God, we won,” he says.
Derbez, who hopes he’ll get back to directing in the near future, still enjoys making people laugh. However, he does see the comedy genre changing in ways that other comedians have similarly noticed, and he makes it clear that he’s “not a big fan of political correctness.” As he explains, “My mom died of lung cancer. But if you tell me a joke about a woman who had cancer, I would definitely laugh and laugh a lot. I wouldn’t probably connect the dots between my mom and the joke because I’m used to it; it helps me to be happier in life when you laugh about everything. For me, a joke is a joke. It’s not that you’re trying to make fun of me. It’s not that you’re making fun of my mom. For me, it’s just a joke. “
Regardless of where he goes from here, the star feels an energy that he hasn’t felt since he got his start decades ago. “I feel like a teenager right now because every day I’m trying to conquer a new audience,” he says. “When I see someone that is not from my core audience, someone that is not Latino, and they ask me for an autograph or a picture or tell me about my movies, I feel excited. It’s helping me because I feel like I’m hungry again to succeed. I want to conquer the world again. ”