How 'Perfect Strangers' Director Manolo Caro Brought His Latin Version to Life (Exclusive)
How well do you really know your closest friends?
Perfectos Desconocidos (Perfect Strangers), auteur Manolo Caro’s latest film, asks that very question.
The Spanish-language comedy tells the story of a group of friends -- three couples and a single friend -- who get together during a lunar eclipse to enjoy an intimate dinner. When the hostess proposes a game -- all guests must lay their cell phones on the dinner table and read aloud their texts and answer all phone calls in front of the entire group -- the friendly setting quickly becomes a rollercoaster ride filled with "textual tension,” lies, secrets and betrayals.
ET got the chance to speak with the Mexican director about the making of the film, how it differs from the original Italian version, as well as how he assembled the stellar cast, which includes his Casa de Flores leading lady Cecilia Suárez.
"The Mexican version ends up being more hilarious, more chaotic and more passionate, like we Latinos are,” Caro explained. “We take the film to a place where we feel identified with our follies and our secrets. I believe that the Latinx public will identify with how these characters react to their secrets being revealed.”
The original Perfect Strangers, titled Perfetti Sconosciuti, was released in 2016 by Italian director Paolo Genovese, with a slew of international remakes released over the past couple of years.
“Each version has its magic and relates to its own country. That’s what makes this one unique. The script for the Latin American version is well-rounded. It’s an incredible script, it’s intelligent,” Caro expressed. “Each script speaks to the spirit of each country.”
Co-starring Suárez, Manuel García-Rulfo, Mariana Treviño, Miguel Rodarte, Bruno Bichir, Ana Claudia Talancón and Spanish newcomer Franky Martín, the actors were Caro’s dream cast.
“Once they offered me the film, the first thing that I thought about was which actors I’d love to work with,” he shared. “A requirement I wrote down, before accepting the job, was the opportunity to choose my cast. I was fortunate in that all of the actors said yes. The hard part came after when we had to figure out everyone’s schedule, because a lot of them don’t live in Mexico, and get them all together to start filming. It was a marvelous experience. They are very generous, fun actors and we had an incredible time. I was so happy to be able to do this project with them.”
Caro has previously worked on a handful of films with Suárez, including Gente Bien... Atascada, La Vida Inmoral De La Pareja Ideal and Elvira, Te Daría Mi Vida Pero La Estoy Usando, among others.
“Cecilia is an actress with whom I’ve worked with on many occasions, and right now we’re experiencing a special moment with the success of Casa de Flores,” he shared. “She’s an actress with whom I’ve had a lot of challenges. We have a special connection and understanding. We know each other very well, we share the same outlook on certain topics, including giving visibility to topics that can seem taboo, putting them on the table, and making people start normalizing them. It’s a bit of a mystery how well we understand each other on set."
As for what he admires most about the actress is “her intelligence and the way she generously gives her entire heart and soul to her characters.”
“Also how she takes a lot of risks with me,” Caro said. “She is a woman who listens to me and knows my sense of humor, and knows how to deliver a performance without a lot of guidance.”
While Caro and Suárez share a special connection, one of the biggest challenges he was confronted during production was shooting everything in such a short amount of time.
“We filmed the movie in three weeks. It was very fast and intense,” he revealed, adding that another challenge was getting the cast to listen to him because "it was always a party with them. They all get along very well and are all close friends, so while filming it would become a constant celebration between them.”
But that great chemistry and friendship are exactly what makes the film shine. Throughout the night, the audience begins to see each character address situations that make them uncomfortable. They also show a vulnerable side of themselves that they’ve never shared with their best friends, and find out things that they never knew about one another.
Perfectos Desconocidos also has a way of showing how cell phone-obsessed people have become, and the things that go on behind locked screens. The film, however, isn’t just a silly story about a group of friends and their secrets, it’s also about “acceptance, honesty, communication and respect,” stressed Caro.
“It’s about the communication -- or lack of -- that we have with our friends, our family and partner,” he said. “It's also a movie about how great technology can be, but also how destructive it is. It shows how harmful it is to live a double life via our phones and what happens when the truth comes out."
Perfectos Desconocidos arrives in theaters on Jan. 11.
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