■ The actor, 40, on shooting his final Star Wars instalment, loving RuPaul and his part in thriller Triple Frontier
Netflix thriller Triple Frontier casts you and Ben Affleck as ex-special forces soldiers reuniting to steal a drug lord’s fortune. Sounds like one for Narcos fans…
Oh yes, there are definitely elements that are similar. What was so forward-moving about Narcos is that it wasn’t afraid to do things in the language they were from. They didn’t try to make everyone speak English, so that immediately meant a real sense of authenticity to it — which is something that we do in this film as well. Also, we were shooting in some of the same locations.
Why should we watch Triple Frontier?
It’s many movies encompassed in one, so it’s very exciting and dynamic. There’s a realist element to it — it’s about these five former warriors who dedicated their lives to serving their country and being lethal in combat, and then what happens at the other end of those careers as they get older. There is also a heist movie element that’s really exciting. And there is a survivalist picture where they go out into nature and they’re having to survive. The story is also a comment on the military strategy of the US over past decades and their involvement internationally and how they justify a lot of the wars that have happened. The attitude that ‘we are going to do a lot of good for the people down there but there is going to be a lot of collateral damage and we are also going to get rich’. Triple Frontier is a bit of a parable about that.
What do you watch on Netflix?
I was in London for the last six months shooting a film and man, oh man, did I watch me some RuPaul’s Drag Race. I love it because it is so emotional — the stories of these amazing queens who are all outsiders, they have lived through incredible hardships, and then they come into the show and are celebrated for their uniqueness, their wildness and their strangeness — all of which, in other circumstances, they have been persecuted for. Then there is just the artistry of what they do: the make-up, their costumes and their dancing. I find it very rewarding. I was horrified when I came back to the States and found out it wasn’t on Netflix here.
Presumably you were in London shooting the last in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Does it feel like a family reunion?
It absolutely is. To the point that when we were finishing, the thought that, ‘Oh my God, that’s it, we are not going to be together like this again, ever’ was really emotional. I never did a TV show or anything where I had a recurring role — and you don’t know where the story is going but you know you are in it. It was a big challenge. But it’s also really fun to have three films to develop a character over. I think the one thing I can say [about Star Wars: Episode IX] is that it has been the most fun for me, particularly working with John Boyega because we have just had so much more to do together and we just really connected in a great way. It was really a wonderful way to finish it for me because John was the first person I met right when I screen-tested. It was just with me and him. So it just felt like a real full-circle thing.
You have been cast as every nationality, from Armenian to Welsh. How many languages do you actually speak?
I can fake, like, 17, but I can only speak two. I was born in Guatemala, but when I came to New York for the first time, almost 20 years ago, it immediately felt like it was home. However, the fact you can’t quite pinpoint where I am from has allowed me to play people from all sorts of walks of life and different parts of the world, and that has given me my livelihood. I mean, that is why I became an actor, not for my representational qualities but for my transformative ones. I have always felt like a bit of an outsider and so to be able to time travel and nation travel and body travel? I embrace it 100 per cent.
Aren’t you a bit young to be playing Timothée Chalamet’s dad in the remake of Dune?
I feel like there are crazier things in Dune than me being Timothy’s dad. There are massive man-eating sandworms, people who can see the future — there is some pretty crazy, nutty stuff in there. But Paul is a teenager in the book so Timothée is playing younger and I am playing older. And I am about the same age as Rebecca Ferguson, who plays my wife, so I think it will all work out in the end.
Did you play with toy guns as a child?
I was more into karate: Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, that was my jam. I didn’t really do the cowboys thing. Whenever Jean Claude pops up on TV, I still perk up.
Are rumours true that you’re the new Batman?
No. I have only read it online like everyone else. I haven’t had any conversations about Batman, unfortunately, but I am sure it is going to be great. Matt Reeves is such a great director. Yeah, he can get my number.
■ Triple Frontier is available on Netflix