BLESS ME, ULTIMA
Casting BLESS ME, ULTIMA
"'There are many gods,' Cico whispered, 'gods of beauty and magic, gods of the garden, gods in our own backyards-but we go off to foreign countries to find new ones, we reach to the stars to find new ones-'"
BLESS ME, ULTIMA gave the filmmakers the opportunity to cast some very talented actors, many of whom work outside the Hollywood tradition. The filmmakers are still amazed by the good fortune they had casting phenomenal actors not only in the lead roles, but in the supporting roles as well.
The search to find the right actor to portray Antonio was a long process. The actor had to be able to express not only the innocence of a 7 year old but also the solemn appreciation of the seriousness of life. The filmmakers decided on Luke Ganalon.
"Oh, that was an odyssey. We saw so many young boys for this role. We had initially cast another boy, he was 13 years old, but looked nine. He got an offer to do another film and we lost him. And, I think we were really fortunate. We had to cast a broader net and found kids who were actually the age of Antonio. Luke Ganalon has natural qualities you don't find in people who have had a lot of training. I am not a religious person, but I am a spiritual person and somehow I feel he is just another blessing that was bestowed upon us," says Franklin.
On his part, Luke really enjoyed his experience working on BLESS ME, ULTIMA and especially working with director Carl Franklin.
"Carl helped me a lot! He was off camera telling me things to do. He would explain, give me lots of advice. He said 'Don't be afraid to go big. Go big.' If I had a scene where I am crying he would tell me 'go big!'" explains Luke Ganalon.
Jesse B'Franklin adds, "There were some really good kids, and there were some kids with perhaps more experience, but there was something special about Luke in terms of his spirit and his sweetness and his face. There is a depth and maturity to him that you don't usually see in a nine year old. When Carl directed him, he took direction like an adult."
The catalyst for Antonio's growth is Ultima, a strong woman who seems to have a great understanding of life. The filmmakers cast the actress Miriam Colon.
"Miriam has secrets as an actress and especially for a film actor that is important. When you always feel that they are holding something within that you will never know. She knows her craft. She was just right for the role. She was the right size, the right age, she had the right voice and she had the right look. She was Ultima." says Franklin.
Ultima is the catalyst for Antonio's breaking with tradition. Antonio will be the last person with whom she shares her secrets.
Miriam Colon explains, "Ultima likes Antonio so much. She sees him struggle with life and thinks maybe some of the things she has learned she could teach him. But she is not an overwhelming individual. She gives her advice slowly and with care. She is interested in him not being polluted beyond hope, beyond repair."
Rounding out the cast are Dolores Heredia, Benito Martinez, Castulo Guerra, Joaquin Cosio, and Manuel Garcia Rulfo.
It was important that Carl Franklin was surrounded by not only a cast that would support his vision, but also by a really talented crew. Franklin chose to work with Paula Huidobro, Director of Photography, Production Designer David Bomba and Costume Designer Donna Zakowska.
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