EXCLUSIVE: How Eugenio Derbez Is Becoming a Hollywood Power Player

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Eugenio Derbez’s rise to stardom began over 30 years ago in
his home country of Mexico. Since then, the actor-producer-director has become
one of the world’s biggest Hispanic stars, setting a box office record in the
U.S. for the highest-grossing Spanish-language film with 2013’s Instructions
Not Included
and even earning his own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. But
many who pass by the marker don’t recognize the name.

“It’s like living two lives at the same time, because all
the Hispanics here in this country, they know me pretty well, but not the
Americans,” Derbez confesses to ET. “Sometimes [I’ll] go to a meeting and I’m
nothing, nobody for the executives. Then I go back and, picking up my car with
the valet, the valet parkers are excited to meet me. So my agents told me, ‘You
should do your meeting instead of in an office, in a restaurant, because all
the kitchen [staff] comes out and they want pictures.’”

MORE: 'How to Be a Latin Lover' Stars Salma Hayek and Eugenio Derbez Reveal Worst Pick-Up Lines Ever

But that should all change thanks to two high-profile
projects: How to Be a Latin Lover,
Derbez’s new filmstarring Salma
and Rob Lowe in theaters April 28, and the upcoming remake of the Goldie
Hawn-Kurt Russell classic Overboard. And
as Derbez has filmed and promoted the former, ET has been with him every step
of the way to witness just how talented, affable and -- frankly -- famous the
55-year-old star is. But will it finally earn Derbez the recognition (and power
player status) he deserves?

“I am so proud of Eugenio. I’m like, ‘Everybody, look at this guy. Keep your eyes on him.’ He’s so talented,” Hayek gushed. While Hayek and Derbez have been friends for 20 years and even share the same birthday (Sept. 2, but different years), they have never have shared the screen together. In fact, Hayek taking a role in the comedy came as a direct favor to Derbez, who called her personally to offer her the part. 

“He’s extremely successful in all the Spanish-speaking
countries. He’s our No. 1 comedian and I’m so happy for his success. He really
deserves it. Because not only is he talented, he’s such a great human being
that really deserves it and he also deserves to cross over. And I think that
the rest of the world is going to fall in love with him.”

Lowe echoed Hayek’s sentiment, saying: “I want to do a
hundred movies with this guy.” The 53-year-old heartthrob was impressed by the
interaction and admiration between Derbez and his fans. And if anyone knows
what it means to be adored by the masses, it’s Lowe. “Watching him interact
with his people is the greatest,” the actor said during a visit to the set of How to Be a Latin Lover.  “It’s 6-year-old
kids, 80-year-old women…and the way they react to him is like he is family.”

While Derbez has been able to turn his career as a filmmaker
into a family business -- his three adult children Aislinn, Vadhir and JoséEduardo
have pursued careers in modeling, acting and music, with Vadhir playing a
younger version of his father in the film -- it’s taken nearly three decades for him to
cross over into the American mainstream. Realizing that there were no handouts,
he eventually forged his own path, creating opportunities for himself that made
him a star. “In the beginning, I was always asking for a role and an
opportunity, and then I realized that that’s not the way that things work. I’d
been struggling for many, many years and nothing happened until I gave myself my
own opportunities,” he recalled. “So I started developing my own company, my
own scripts, my own ideas, my own signature, and this is a result of that.
Nobody was hiring me, so I hired myself and here’s Latin Lover.”

Adding to Derbez’s Hollywood star power is the remake of Overboard, which will star him and Anna Faris in swapped parts from the 1987 original.  And while it would have been natural for Faris to take on Hawn’s part and for Derbez to play Russell’s, it would have meant that he’d be playing a Mexican carpenter -- a stereotype that he would like to break. Instead, he will be playing the rich billionaire whose yacht is the center of much of the movie’s action. In fact, the script change was partially inspired by the fact that one of the richest men on Earth, tycoon Carlos Slim (worth $54.5 billion), is Mexican.

Derbez admitted that the road to reboot Overboard wasn’t
the easiest, sharing that “MGM was freaked out, [saying,] ‘Oh, don’t change
anything, it’s a classic.’ [But] then they read the script and they were

Both Derbez and Faris are hoping for a cameo from the film’s
original stars, but Russell and Hawn seem to be content with letting the
newbies handle the reboot on their own. The couple played coy to ET at the
premiere of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, with Hawn saying she’s
out and Russell joking that it depends on the amount of money they’re offering
him. “No interest at all,” Russell laughed when asked about making an
appearance in the film. “I mean, they’ve got to make their way man! They’ve got
to do whatever they do.”

Fortunately for Derbez, “making his way” is something that
he knows how to do quite well, and it’s not something that the actor plans to
give up on anytime soon, especially noting his recent success producing his own
material.“I love being a boss,” Derbez said. “It’s like having my own