If it feels like Gael Garcia Bernal’s career has cooled down a bit since his string of arthouse hits in the mid-aughts (if only because he seems to prioritize interesting projects over high-profile ones), expect things to heat up for him again with the release of Cassandro next month, which is already generating awards buzz. Garcia Bernal stars as luchador Saul Armendáriz in the biopic, which just released its first trailer, having premiered to rave reviews at Sundance back in January.
Directed by Oscar-winning short documentarian Roger Ross Williams, (this is his first fiction feature), Garcia Bernal plays Armendáriz, an openly-gay luchador turned exótico, a sort of drag queen version of luchadores. Cassandro follows Armendáriz’s journey from El Paso kid to masked luchador (initially as a villain character created by Rey Mysterio) to a flamboyant and unmasked exótico named Cassandro. As Cassandro (a name reportedly borrowed from a Tijuana brothel keeper), Armendáriz went on to become one of the most famous exóticos of all time.
Not surprisingly, the film looks like a big party, and the ideal bilingual showcase for Bernal’s range and magnetism. This time around he stars opposite Roberta Colindrez, Perla De La Rosa, Joaquín Cosío, Raúl Castillo and Bad Bunny, plus the inevitable cameos from famous luchadores playing themselves. The film is set to be released September 22nd on Prime Video and a week before that in limited theaters at the height of awards season.
“Bernalaissance” might not have the same ring to it as McConnaissance or Brendannaissance, but if he does finally get that Oscar nomination, it will be a moment some of us have been waiting for since his break-out turn in Y Tu Mamá Tambien more than 20 years ago, in one of the best movies of the early 2000s.