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Casting The Film
Casting Trade centered first on its three young leads: the kidnapped 13-year-old girl Adriana; her 17-year-old brother Jorge, whose mission it is to save her; and Veronica, the young Polish woman trapped in the "tunnel” who becomes, for Adriana, a different kind of salvation. With these three roles crucially anchoring the film, Kreuzpaintner and company wanted to cast as wide a net as possible in order to find new talent with the right sensitivity and chemistry. 

For Veronica, the director selected the luminous young Polish actress Alicja Bachleda. Born in Mexico, Bachleda connected closely with its culture, and had already worked with Kreuzpaintner on Summer Storm. The two younger roles, Adriana and Jorge, were selected from open casting calls. After a two-country search that took the director and producer from Mexico to New York, Miami and Los Angeles, they ironically returned to hire two unknown actors whom they met in their first casting session in Mexico City.

"Our Mexican casting director was Carla Hool, who had done a wonderful job casting the movie Innocent Voices,” said Heller. "One of the first girls she brought us was a 12-year-old named Paulina Gaitan. She did the scene where she prays in front of the Virgin and asks for help and immediately we knew: this was a hire. Her emotions were so translucent and instinctive, we had tears in our eyes.”

Another actor at that first audition was Cesar Ramos, a charismatic 20-year-old who had largely been seen in Mexican TV commercials. "Caesar was one of the very first people we auditioned,” says Kreuzpaintner. "We thought, this is just too easy, it's too much luck the first time around and we've got to keep searching. So we did, and many months later we came back and looked at him again and said, this is definitely it. He had so much heart and charm and passion. Our first instincts were totally right.” 

For Heller, what was most impressive about these casting sessions was her director. "I've been to many sessions where the director never says anything. But here was this 27-year-old working with these young actors so intimately and confidently, encouraging them and sharing so openly what he wanted from them. I don't even know if they understood all the words, but they got it, believe me. I was astonished.” 

For the role of Ray, the taciturn, world-weary Texas cop who unexpectedly becomes an ally in the personal mission of a young Mexican street kid, the filmmakers resisted traditional casting. "We didn't want the typical actor you'd expect to play a Texas cop,” said Kreuzpaintner. "Someone suggested Kevin Kline and I thought – could we get him? He was known a lot for Shakespeare and comedy, but this was completely different and we liked that. We also knew he's really selective about the roles he takes.”

Kline was so compelled by Rivera's script and by Kreuzpaintner's Summer Storm that he asked to meet the young director. Within three hours Kreuzpaintner was on a plane to New York, and what was expected to be a half-hour meeting turned out to be a five-hour marathon talking about the film, life, art, politics and Mexican culture.

"Within five minutes of talking to Marco, I could tell that he was not interested in the sensational or exploitative aspects of the story, and that he saw the film within a larger context,” said Kline. "He clearly had an aversion to clichés and, on a personal level, he seemed very open, vulnerable and giving. Plus he had a great sense of humor, which always helps. The first impression proved to be accurate during the filming process.”

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