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Juan Fernandez: "The tree doesn’t grow for a week"

Interview: Dessislava Tomova
(Magazin Moda /11.2002)

For 3 months the American company „New image” made in Bulgaria the action „In Hell”. The principal part is assigned to the Hollywood star Jean-Claude Van Damme. This time the actor plays the role of the young engineer Kyle whose wife was murdered. Kyle is searching for retribution in the court, but he doesn’t succeed to win the case and initiates a personal encounter with the culprit. He murders him and is put in jail. Most of the film takes part there, and the accent falls on the relationship between the prisoners. Partners of J-C (the nickname of Jean-Claude Van Damme) in the film are popular American and Bulgarian actors – all of them interesting and very, very good. The first time I stepped on the set of this production, I was fascinated by a picturesque guy with American Indian features, eccentric outlook and outstanding actor appearance. I found out immediately from my friends who he was. His name is Juan Fernandez, and the name of his character – Shupkov. The Bulgarian public knows him from many TV and video films. I recognized him in the role of Miguel from the Crocodile Dundee II. Although my friends were calling me to go and get acquainted with him, I was a little uncertain and stayed. Only a minute later the fate brought me a surprise – Juan himself was standing in front of me. He smiled at me cheerfully and in the gap between two retakes we initiated our first acquainting conversation.

What is your role in the current production „In Hell”?
In this production I perform a completely different role from my previous ones. I play a transvestite called Shupkov... This is why I am so beautiful. (Ha-ha!) The character I play is a small version of Maria-Magdalena, and the film is an old criminal story for the survival in the prison space.

What is the interaction between you and Jean-Claude?
The connection between us is the following: I as a human being can feel his pain, and he in his turn can feel the pain of my character.

How would you define Jean-Claude’s performance in this film?
I know his career for many years, but in this film this role is different, more advanced. It is the first one that represents such a strong, impressive character. He is protecting his love. The action is taking place after the emotion, and the emotion is much more important than the action.

Do you have any observation on the performance of the Bulgarian actors?
It is a real pleasure that I know the actor Valio Ganev who is one of the best in Bulgaria. He has excellent concentration and is very, really very good in his work.

What are your impressions from Bulgaria? Do you know anything about the Bulgarian culture and art?
No, during these 6 months I wouldn’t say I had enough time for this. I know your culture is based on your history and supported by your tradition. This is important because without it there is no future! The past should be revived in order to get into the future. However the cultural policy here looks poor and this should change. There is no middle class - there is no balance between wealth and poverty...

How do you accept reality?
Reality is an instant. If you are not present, at the moment, it means you are not real, and if you are not real, you won’t be on stage. Otherwise it is a crime for the actor. This is in my opinion the reality in cinema. In theatre things look different. They develop in two dimensions. There one moment follows the other, without jumping from one scene to another. In my personal life reality is something completely different – this is the moment of creation that helps me understand who I am in my action.

Wish something to the readers of “Moda” (“Fashion”)!
It is very important to watch cinema productions – not only American, but also your own, Bulgarian. Because when we are not interested in ourselves, no one else will be interested in ourselves. People should stop staying home, watching TV, and turn to the cinema. Young people should put effort in learning foreign languages, but hardly after they speak their native language perfectly, because a tree doesn’t grow for a week.

Here is what the maker-up Ivon Ivanova shared about her work with the actor Juan Fernandez:
„A very interesting man, full of ideas how to look. His presence in the dressing-room was fun. He is a very intelligent and creative person who plays all the time. For his role of the transvestite Shupkov I put him additional hair attached to his own, in order to make him look long-haired”. The tattoos on Juan’s ears and hands were made by special effects. Some of them were hand-made, others by especially prepared patterns and stamps. The work was resumed over and over again and everything had to happen very expeditiously.