Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams directs the new film Cassandro. The film follows the rise of Saúl Armendáriz, a gay amateur Lucha Libre wrestler from El Paso who became an international star after creating the character Cassandro. The film is an intimate and often heartbreaking look at how Armendáriz revolutionized the macho wrestling world and transformed his life.

Roger Ross Williams Interview

We spoke with Director Roger Ross Williams about what he found important when telling this story.

Roger Ross Williams on directing Cassandro

The film stars Gael García Bernal in the titular role. When asked what about Gael made him the right casting choice, Willams stated,

“I think you would agree he’s one of Mexico’s greatest actors. So, you know, and I’ve loved him ever since Y Tu Mama También. He played a similar role in a film called Bad Education by Pedro Almodóvar, another really famous director who I admire. I knew that Gael could handle this role because he could handle both the physicality of the role wrestling and the emotionality of the role, in that. There are these emotional scenes with his mother and his father and that and handling both was really important. You know, he did mostly all of his own stunts. He learned to wrestle. He spent months learning to wrestle for real lucha doors. All the lucha doors in the film are real lucha doors. They’re not actors. And he really took it on.”

Williams goes on to tell us about the emotionalness of the film and what discussions he had with his team about the tone of the film. “It was really important that the scenes with his mother were warm and comforting and quiet and emotional to contrast the crazy wrestling scenes.” He went on to tell us about what he felt was important to capture “His journey as a gay man who overcame incredible adversity, who overcame incredible, incredible homophobia to rise to the top of a macho fueled world of lucha libre and be a star on his own terms.”

Going from Directing Documentaries to Scripted Films

We were curious to see what it was like for Williams to transition from a documentary film to a scripted film. He told us “It was challenging. It was difficult. The biggest challenge is learning to work with actors. You know, I obviously I make documentaries. I work with real people. But I think it prepared me better to work with actors because I work with real people and get real people to open up and be comfortable. You know, I can get actors to open up and be comfortable. So that was a challenge, but it was also a great privilege and a joy to create worlds from scratch, build sets, and do all the things that go into making narrative films. And now I’m addicted to it.”

Cassandro debuts on Prime Video on September 22nd.

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