LORENZO “TOTO” FERRO – THE STAR OF LUIS ORTEGA’S “EL ANGEL”
Buenos Aires, 1971. Carlitos was a seventeen-year-old with movie star swagger, blond curls and a baby face. Together with his friend Ramon, the two embark on a journey of discovery, love and crime in Director Luis Ortega’s breathtaking film “El Angel,” produced by the legendary Pedro Almodovar, a twisted “coming of age” tale based on the true crimes of the “Baby Faced Monster” Carlos Robledo Puch.
Lorenzo “Toto” Ferro plays the titular character of Carlitos in a very memorable and haunting acting debut. Luis Ortega, Lorenzo Ferro, and the talented cast behind the film take us on a beautiful journey into the half-real half-imagined life of one of Argentina’s most famous killers. We had the chance to speak with the young actor about his newfound fame, growing up around the movie-making business, and his future as an actor/rapper.
Interview by Rene Garza
Transcribed by Daniel Gomez
“El Angel” is your first leading role as an actor, as well as your first feature film, how did you find yourself in an audition for this role and were you surprised when you got it?
My father actually told me about the film. He said they were looking for someone to portray “The Angel,” but I really didn’t know his story or who he was. But I did a lot of research and went to a casting the following week. The week after, I got a call that the director wanted to meet with me. I ended up doing seven call-backs until they said “you’ve got the movie,” and that all took about six months.
Were you surprised when you landed the role? Or having gone through seven castings, did you feel that you were going to get it?
Well, I was going to be very sad if they said no. (laughs) Obviously I was surprised, I had dropped everything to be in the movie, without knowing if it would ever happen. It was blind faith.
Good, you have to give it your all.
Yes, you always have to give it your all.
Did you always want to be an actor? Did you have interest in movies or theater growing up?
Acting interested me because my father is an actor. I remember as a kid I went on to movie sets where he was filming. He always showed me movies or took me to the movies. So unconsciously I started to be interested in that world…and obviously the theater too, but more movies. As a kid I would ask my dad to watch three movies a day. I remember that when I was 6 years old I got to see “Kill Bill”, and we went to the cinema to see it. Later, when all this (El Angel) happened, I thought maybe it’s in my blood or something… or, let’s say, it was ingrained in me.
How did you get into the character of Carlitos? Even though in real life he was a notorious criminal, did you relate with Carlitos on some level?
Well…after the initial six months of casting, I worked for another seven months with the director Luis and an acting coach. The three of us met almost every day to read the script, to dance, to shout, to do everything. Luis would put a camera in front of me and say “go and try to break into this house” and we filmed it, we documented it. Then, little by little, the three of us got into the skin of the characters… He is so simple yet so complex, at least that’s how I see him… And it helped listening to Luis talk all the time, all the information he threw at me, and his thoughts on how he saw the character. What I really had to do to get into the character was to get rid of the pressures I put on myself and laugh my ass off, as if there were no problems in life. I was looking at life through rose-colored glasses, more or less how I think Carlitos is.
Are you personally interested in crime? Did you find the material fascinating?
Yes. I mean, I’m interested, but not so much that I’d be a criminologist. Those stories attract because they happened in real life and could have happened to you. And that really draws you in and gives you goosebumps, and it’s very rich material to make movies with. Crime is much better to do on film; unless you want to go to prison. (laughing)
How was your experience working with director Luis Ortega?
The truth is that it was great because of his process. We became friends, we became like brothers, and when we started shooting the film we were like siamese twins. If he was scratching, I was scratching. (laughs) With just a look we already understood what one or the other wanted. Then a bond of friendship formed through the work, it was like getting on a boat in which we only reached land when we wrapped filming, receiving the love from all the people. But the experience was the best, and I think that that is what I take away most of all. Maybe it will never happen again, but for now it’s the only movie I have done, so that’s my idea of what it’s like to make movies.
The main character is a beautiful and famous killer/thief, did the material intimidate you?
Ah no! To tell you the truth, you have to open your wings and let yourself fly like…a proper angel… It did not scare me; it intrigued me more than anything because one tries to understand these kind of people, but one only has assumptions. We will never know how it is, and the good thing is our movie is pure assumption. We did not want to get to the real case; Luis based the story on that picture of Carlitos coming out of the patrol car, the one that looks like a criminal shampoo ad. (laughs) The truth is that it did intrigue, it did not scare me, it made me curious.
Carlitos sees himself as a spy for God, how did you feel about his views of human nature vs Christianity? Did you find it difficult to separate the two?
Yes and no. You see, if you judge the character then things will go wrong. It is better to put on their skin and their shoes, because if there is distance between you and the character then that will be seen in the film. You have to stop judging because otherwise it will be seen in the camera, regardless of whether it is moral or not, you need to understand it. Even though acting is a job, it’s also a game, and if you do not let yourself play…then you have to rethink why you are doing it.
Do you have a role of your dreams?
I’m not sure “of my dreams,” but I would like to do Joker’s childhood for example, eh…and also maybe a gymnastics teacher addicted to heroin.
Do you have a director that you would like to work with?
Here in Argentina, I would like to work with Luis again, maybe with Lucrecia Martel, I’m interested in her films, she has a lot of personality. If we’re speaking in the United States, I do not know; I have a huge list of directors. I saw a new director, who was an actor, called Paul Dano. He made a cool movie called Wildlife, so if I go to the United States I would like to work with Paul Dano.
Many of the actors you worked with in the film are veteran actors. Did some of them take you under their wing and teach you some things? And what was the best advice you received from them?
No, it was not exactly like that, but they gave me all the experience they had through a glance. They did not need to say anything, just watching them I already understood what the situation was like, and at the same time, I helped them too because I had the fresh perspective of a child who had never made movies. It became something reciprocal, we fed off one another, some with the freshness and others with experience.
Did your dad give you advice on acting?
Yes, but not on acting. As every parent gives advice, he did not give me advice on acting or working, but about life. If I try to explain now, it would take three hours or more on the phone.
Pedro Almodovar and his company were the executive producers for “EL ANGEL;” was he on the set?
Not on the set, but he was present in France and in Spain when we screened the film. I had the opportunity to meet him, not in the manner I would have liked, but what little I learned about him is astonishing; you see that magic that he has from afar.
Were you a fan?
Um no, to tell you the truth, no. I don’t know even know if I am now, but I do not have to be a fan of his films. I’m a fan of his career, maybe of his imprint. But I have not seen all of his movies, I saw some, and the ones I saw I like. I would have to see them all to be able to say it, but they have a lot of personality.
In what movies or television programs can we expect to see in the future? Or what upcoming projects can you tell us about?
The truth is that I have enough circling, but I still do not know which ones to say yes. So I better not tell you anything, so I do not lie to you. What I can tell you is that I am currently making rap music with my friends, and between November and December we are going to drop a mixtape. I am the rapper and my friends are producing.
How do you feel about all the attention the movie is getting in Latin America?
It is very difficult, because I became famous over night, and I don’t know if that’s what I want… But hey, it’s also great because people received the movie with a lot of love. On that note I’m very happy, but on the other hand I’m a bit paranoid.
But there have been many actors who also make music, do you think that makes it easier?
I did rap before I made the movie, but after the movie I forgot about it a bit, and once I finished and was able to get the weight of the movie off my shoulders, I started doing music again. I knew I wanted to make music, even before being an actor.
Will you concentrate on one or the other? Or see what comes your way?
I don’t know if something is more important than the other, but the importance that one assigns to something gives it importance. I think both are like therapy.
There’s a phrase in the movie that says “I am a thief by birth” do you think that life is predestined from birth?
Ehh… no. I do not think so…uhh, maybe in my case, yes, but no, no. Like I was saying before, it’s just an assumption, but I don’t think it is destined from birth. I know that everything we do is a gift. There are people who would die to find it and live being a slave of the system.
Carlitos based his life on destiny, what is Toto’s destiny?
The destiny of Toto is: to continue working, to continue being happy, to get together with his friends, and to make more music.
“El Angel” is released in US theaters November 9.