Actresses / Drama / Foreign Films / Interviews / Movies / Oscar Nominees / Pop Culture / Video

Catalina Sandino Moreno – Full of Grace

Catalina Sandino Moreno in "Maria Full of Grace."

Catalina Sandino Moreno in “Maria Full of Grace.”

CATALINA SANDINO MORENO

FULL OF GRACE

by Brad Balfour

When the petite Catalina Sandino Moreno came into the offices of Fine Line Films for her day of interviews, she seemed as untouched by the absurd excesses of fame and celebrity as she had been before she even heard of Maria Full of Grace—this indie film that has taken everyone by surprise. Winner of the Sundance Film Festival audience award, the opener for this year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival first-time feature director Joshua Marston has cobbled together a set of exemplary reviews and accolades as well. Yet it’s been the uncanny casting of the unknown novice Moreno, a Bogota, Colombia, native, as the innocent yet desperate 17-year-old Maria, who rushes from her numbing work in a rose factory into becoming a drug mule. She then journeys to the States and a new life fraught with unknowns and hope as well.

Since director Marston made this surprising mature, taut even sparse drama through extensive research and an instinct for casting, the film has won both the director and its lead many opportunities including an Oscar nomination. For 23-year-old Moreno, and those interviewing her, its been an opportunity to come at this business with a thoroughly wide eyed innocence and freshness as well.

Catalina Sandino Moreno in "Maria Full of Grace."

Catalina Sandino Moreno in “Maria Full of Grace.”

DID YOU EVER THINK YOU’D BE AN ACTRESS?

I never thought I would be an actress.

WHAT WERE YOU GOING TO DO?

I was studying advertising, so for me to be in a movie released in theaters and read all this amazing press, is a dream that I haven’t dreamt.

DO YOU FIND THIS ATTENTION OVERWHELMING?

Sometimes I just want to freak. I don’t want to think, I get really overwhelmed and excited, and I get panic attacks. It’s too much for me because I never expected it.

HOW HAS DEALING WITH THE MEDIA CHANGED YOU?

This is pretty hard. I think it’s harder than shooting, because when I was shooting the movie, every day was different; but every day that I have press is the same. You’re in the same little room–they just put me in here–and they bring people down. In Maria, we just changed locations and it was exciting, and there were different people. And here is like, “Oh my God, again in Fine Line, again in Veronica’s room.”

ARE YOU CURIOUS ABOUT WHAT THE PRESS THINKS ABOUT THE MOVIE?

I’m not really concerned because I can’t do anything to change. My work is there and the press can like it or dislike it.

NOW THAT YOU ARE AN ACTRESS, HOW DO YOU MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT YOURSELF?

Well, I have good people around me; I have an agent, I have Josh—he’s a wonderful person who can give me advice—the producer… everyone from the movie, is very nice to me. They all give me little tips about the press, agents, and managers, and that’s very good, because I don’t know anything about this business.

HAVE YOU GOTTEN OFFERS?

I’m just reading now. The first script that I’ve read was Maria. I think I need to practice a little bit more.

Catalina Sandino Moreno in "Maria Full of Grace."

Catalina Sandino Moreno in “Maria Full of Grace.”

WHAT ABOUT GOING TO SCHOOL?

If I go to NYU or another university, I’m not going to study acting. I’m going to study something else. Anthropology or Sociology—something like that.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MESSAGE OF THE MOVIE?

I think the message is to humanize what is a mule. The first time that I saw how pellets were made was in the movie, in that scene. The first time I took a pellet in my hand there, so when I heard in the newspapers or radio that, they took four mules and they were in jail and we were like, “Ok, that’s good. They were bad people,” and now, I couldn’t say that, because I was a girl living in [a small Columbian town] having an extreme situation and choosing to do that. That’s too much for me.

DID YOU MEET DRUG MULES IN THE COURSE OF MAKING THIS OR AFTERWARDS?

I’ve never met anybody because Maria doesn’t know how to be a drug mule, and me either, so it was our first time that we were involved with drugs.

HAVE YOU EVER MET A DRUG DEALER OR SOMEBODY THAT LATER YOU FOUND OUT WAS ONE?

Never.

Catalina Sandino Moreno in "Maria Full of Grace."

Catalina Sandino Moreno in “Maria Full of Grace.”

SINCE IT TOOK TIME FOR THIS MOVIE TO BE RELEASED, DO YOU SOMETIMES HAVE TO PINCH YOURSELF AND WONDER IF THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING?

Well, in the two years that I wasn’t doing anything, I went back and forth to Columbia and I was studying at Strausburg [the acting school], wondering when the movie was going to come out. I thought that maybe Josh lied to me about Fine Line buying the movie. I was planning to go back to Colombia to keep studying advertising when Josh called me, in October of last year, and told me that we were going to Sundance and Berlin. Then we went to all these places and kept on winning. It was overwhelming.

SINCE THIS MOVIE HAS COME OUT, HOW HAS YOUR THINKING CHANGED? 

I know the American dream doesn’t exist. I thought that if you come to New York, from another country, you’re going to have opportunities and money. Then I come here and the life of an immigrant is not easy. They have to work really hard, just to survive. I’m lucky because I’ve never been alone since I moved here. I have Josh. I can call the script supervisor, the electrician, the grip, all these people that I worked with in Ecuador [where the movie was actually shot] and now they work here. So I was surrounded by nice people. I was not alone but I think it would be really hard for a person to come here and to make a new life.

Photo Credits:
#1 © 2004 Christobal Corral Vega. Courtesy of HBO Films/Fine Line Features.  All rights reserved.
#2 © 2004 Christobal Corral Vega. Courtesy of HBO Films/Fine Line Features.  All rights reserved.
#3 © 2004 Christobal Corral Vega. Courtesy of HBO Films/Fine Line Features.  All rights reserved.
#4 © 2004 Christobal Corral Vega. Courtesy of HBO Films/Fine Line Features.  All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: February 25, 2005.

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