Luis Guzman plays a helicopter pilot in "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," which opens Friday, Feb. 10. Filmed in Hawaii, it also stars: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Josh Hutcherson and Vanessa Hudgens. For Guzman, the film is just the latest in a storied acting career. Raised on New York City's Eastside, by Puerto Rican parents, Guzman's film career started with the tense, prison drama Short Eyes. He went on to play villains, detectives and gangsters in movies like Carlito's Way, Innocent Blood and Snake Eyes.
Directors Paul Thomas Anderson and Steven Soderbergh like Guzman so much they both cast him several times, in movies such as: Traffic, The Limey, Out of Sight, Magnolia, and Boogie Nights.
Guzman is a character actor, so his distinctive face doesn't grace too many magazine covers. But it has made him famous, so famous that he even starred in a comedy named for him: "I kicked Luis Guzman in the Face".
Whether or not you recognize his name, you definitely will recognize his face and his unique voice. From TV, you likely have seen Guzman in Miami Vice; Law and Order, Homicide: Life on the Streets; NYPD Blue ; New York Undercover; House of Buggin'; Oz; How to make it in America; or even in his own show, Luis. If you like video games, you'll know him
as the voice of Richard Diaz in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. His comedic roles include parts in Arthur, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Anger Management.
Guzman talked to The Skanner News' Helen Silvis in a telephone interview, Feb. 3.
HS: Was making Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, as much fun it looks from the trailer?
LG: Absolutely! You get to shoot in a paradise –Hawaii. You get to work with an outstanding cast: that's 'The Rock,' Dwayne Johnson; Michael Caine; Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Hutcherson. You have a good story and an incredible crew. You wanted to go to work every day.
HS: You have some fans up here so some of them had questions for you. This one is from Lela: How did you get to do the show, "Community" and did you like having a bronze statue of yourself?
LG: I got a phone call from Joe and Anthony Russo, the brothers who produced and directed the series, and they absolutely loved me. That's always great when people love you. I had fun with the part. It was pretty cool. I made my own Hall of Fame.
HS: This is from Andrew: Why'd he have to whack Carlito like that!?!?!?
LG: Because it be's that way sometimes, buddy boy. That's the rule of the streets.
HS: And John wants to know: After John Leguizamo shot you in the subway, did you live for a little while so that you had a chance to feel bad/naive for betraying Al Pacino... or was it an instant death?
LG: You know what. I didn't feel bad. I did feel bad that John shot me. But it's like that saying: What goes around comes around.
HS: John also asks: Did you ever lose a role to Danny Trejo and, if so, how insane did that make you?
LG: If I ever lost a role to Dan Trejo, I think it's a blessing. I have nothing but warm thoughts about Danny Trejo. He is a great guy. And if I was ever up for a role and he got it then I'm happy for him.
HS: Would you consider Boogie Nights to be a gangster film, based on the genre's criteria?
LG: Boogie Nights, a gangster film? No! It may have had some elements to it. But a gangster film—maybe a gangster of love film.
HS: John asks: Will the "Luis" series be released on DVD and, if so, can we expect it to include any unaired episodes?
LG: I don't know. They will have to call 20th Century Fox because that's where I shot it. It would be nice if they did release it because it was a lot of fun to make.
HS: And another from John: When Catherine Zeta-Jones brought lemonade out to him and Don Cheadle in "Traffic," was it really lemonade, or a prop liquid?
LG: It was really lemonade. I insisted upon it. I was very insistent that she make it for us. And I insisted that they send it to the lab – in case it was a bad slurpee. We teach children don't take things from strangers. We should teach adults that too.
HS: Steve wonders if you ever feel demeaned by the roles you are in, or how you are directed.
LG: No, not really, because I've never taken any of those roles.
HS: What advice would you give a young actor from your neighborhood and background?
LG: Listen. Ask good questions. Be very observant. Be prepared. Be focused. Be ready to work. Take on criticisms. Remember you will meet the same people on the way down that you will meet on the way up. Never forget where you came from.
HS: What causes or nonprofits do you support and why?
LG: I do stuff for the NIMBY Project, a nonprofit that works with battered women and also with homelessness. I work with St John's homeless shelter and with Spectrum Youth and Family Services in Burlington, which works with youth who are homeless. In New York I work with CHARAS community center in the Lower Eastside. That's where my roots are.