American actor tals City Island, families and improvised comedy
Andy Garcia’s new comic film, City Island, follows an Italian-American family living in the titular Bronx ’hood, yet each family member harbours a secret. Garcia plays Vince, a corrections officer who furtively pursues an acting career, while Vince’s daughter, Vivian – played by Garcia’s own daughter Dominik Garcia-Lorido – keeps her own salacious career under wraps.
You’re generally known as a very private person, yet with City Island – because you’re an actor playing an actor, your daughter plays your daughter – you’ve been asked to talk about yourself a lot. The reality is that the work I do is not private work. I bring all my secrets, my life, to my work. Anybody who’s seen my work knows everything about me.
Yet people’s perception is ‘Andy Garcia, a private man.’ Because for them it’s a character in a movie. But the pains and joys are fed through my personal instrument, so my work is not private at all. But when I’m not working, what am I supposed to be talking about? As an actor, you need to hold on to some enigma because people can get tired of you real quickly. If you read too much about somebody, it’s like, ‘Do I need to see him in a movie? I’ve been watching him. He’s on the darn thing every day.’
Emily Mortimer, who plays your acting-class partner, said that, like your character, you’re ‘a big family man with a traditional way of looking at the world and an incredibly sweet spirit.’ I never heard that quote; that was very touching. I am a traditional man. I’m a product of a traditional man. He sacrificed everything for his family. He was the victim of Castro’s betrayal of the revolution in Cuba. Everybody was reduced to being subjects of the state, whether you owned a grocery store or you had a shopping cart selling lemons on the street. We were there for two and a half years struggling within that system, and then they passed a law where you gave up the rights of your children to the state.
And your dad said, ‘Not my kids.’ And he said, ‘No way.’ That was the last straw. We got out first and he came second: Let’s get my family somewhere where my kids can be free.
We wonder what being a traditional dad has meant for you. Dominik has said you were strict. Sure, that’s my job. What am I gonna do? Be unprotective? Children need parameters, they know what’s right or wrong.
She mentioned she was never given the keys to the house, so you and your wife always let her in. Absolutely. She can go where she wants, but I want to see who’s bringing her home and look in her eyes when she comes in. She also was the first, so the first gets the heaviest load. [Laughs] It’s all unconditional love.
Have you two, like Vince and Vivian, come to terms with things unsaid? There’s things that my daughter went through in her adolescence that she then has opened up to me, and I was like, ‘Oh, I didn’t see that.’
For example? Well, I would never share that with you. It’s not really your business.
Andy Garcia, the private man. Not your business. But yes, of course, it’s the natural order of adolescence. But I’ve been diligent to be there always, to be constant in their life.
Has that familial stability – you’ve been married for almost three decades – placed you outside the Hollywood norm? No. People outside think that’s outside the norm because what they hear is what sells papers. They’re not gonna write about, ‘Hey, so-and-so’s been a normal family.’ [Laughs]
Your production company, CineSon, has done several projects focused on your Cuban homeland. Are you trying to fill an absence in film? Definitely – there’s an absence in film of stories about my culture. The Lost City  took me 16 years of my life to get financed. I never got any support from the industry I work in, absolute zero support. But they’re stories I want to tell, and it’s my responsibility to try to tell them.
And Hollywood isn’t telling them. Absolutely not. In fact, they end up marginalising it as if only the Cuban-American community would be interested in Lost City – which is unfair to say, because it’s just a movie about a historical event. I don’t have family that survived the Holocaust, but I went to see Schindler’s List.
City Island seems like an unusual turn to comedy for you, given The Godfather: Part III and The Untouchables, but you had an early stint in a comedy troupe. I was in an improvisational theatre troupe for many years in Los Angeles, even though I haven’t made you laugh through the entire conversation. Oh, that’s the first one. City Island is in UAE cinemas now.