Diego Calva is thankful for everything. In Babylon, which is directed by Oscar winner Damien Chazelle and also stars Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Jean Smart, Tobey Maguire, Flea, Eric Roberts, and others, the Mexican actor, who is 30, makes his big Hollywood debut.
Calva, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy, told PEOPLE that “hanging out with superstars” wasn’t even the best part of his time on Babylon. It’s more like seeing how proud his mother is of him.
“My favourite part was seeing how my mother felt in her eyes. She also lives with me in a movie. For me, being able to make her feel these kinds of things is overwhelming. For her, it’s almost like a blessing.
It’s always great to see someone you care about succeed or have the time of his life, and that’s exactly what’s happening to me right now. It’s amazing that I can share that kind of happiness with her.”
Calva, who plays Manny Torres on Babylon, is a gofer who wants to make it in the movie business. As Manny moves up the ranks in 1920s Hollywood, he becomes friends with Pitt’s seasoned movie star Jack Conrad and falls in love with Robbie’s up-and-coming actress Nellie LaRoy, just as silent films are being replaced by talkies.
He says that the character’s life has a lot in common with his own, but he also points out the big differences. “I feel a lot like Manny, but I think things are different now because time has passed. For example, I never had to hide or pretend that I wasn’t Mexican.
Manny has a few times when he asks, “Hey, where are you from?” and the answer is, “Madrid, Spain.” This was 100 years ago. I’ve never had that happen to me. I’ve never lied.” Calva says that Pitt, who is 59 years old, is “very helpful” as a co-star.
“I remember that I had trouble with the scenes on this day. When you’re an actor, you sometimes get stuck and think, “I can’t do it.” It’s really hard to put away. Brad must have seen how upset I was inside. He came up to me and asked, “Diego, what’s up?”
I didn’t want to tell him because I didn’t know him very well yet. He thought, “Okay, he doesn’t want to talk about it, but I’ll say something.” He told me something very beautiful about acting and protecting our craft, like, “No one can take your craft away from you, because all we actors have is our decisions.” After the events, we’re free.'”
He continues, “It sounds easy, like something we’ve all done, but it was exactly what I needed. Since then, I feel free every time I hear the word “action.””
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And it was clear from the start that they had a “pretty magical” connection with Robbie, who is 32. In fact, he says, “I really think Margot is now my friend.”
“When we started reading about chemistry, something happened,” he says of the first time he worked with Robbie. “I was scared to do a show in front of a famous person. But then we start to act, like “take one, take two,” and something strange happens.
There’s something about how hard she works and how much she cares. She is such a good actress that I told myself, “OK, I have to be as good as she is.” Then, all of a sudden, we started playing, which was very fun. We quit acting and started to have fun.”
He continues, “Every scene we worked on together after that was a beautiful challenge. As if they were playing together. She’s serious, but once the “action” is done, she’s just free. That’s wonderful. She is attractive.”
On Friday, Babylon will be shown in theatres.