Perhaps the most prolific and reliable character actor of the last 20 years, Luis Guzman is nothing short of an American treasure. Think of your favorite movie right now — was Luis Guzman in it? There is statistically a 23.9% chance you just said "Yes." That's Luis's career in a nutshell. No one plays the goofy, lovable criminal, sidekick or law enforcement officer better than Guzman, and everyone in Hollywood knows it — that's why he's been in approximately 5,891 movies since 1990.
Guzman recently co-starred in "The Last Stand" with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Johnny Knoxville, where he played a deputy sheriff to Schwarzenegger's head honcho. "The Last Stand" is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Luis recently spoke with NextMovie about "The Power of Love," turning down Adam Sandler's private jet, and "Do It."
Congratulations on "The Last Stand." You co-star with Arnold Schwarzenegger — the movie is noteworthy for being his first starring vehicle since he stepped down from the governorship. If you were the governor of California, what would be the first thing you'd change?
I'd probably say that at the end of my first term, 50% of cars would be electric cars.
Good for you. Noble.
In "The Last Stand," you have a memorable scene where you take out like ten guys with a Tommy gun. What's the most memorable weapon you've ever used on a movie set?
I think it was a glock machine gun. It was a TV show.
It was like "New York Undercover," or something like that.
And that one was more memorable?
Well, this one [on "The Last Stand"] was memorable in the sense that it was an old-school kind of Tommy gun. It was heavy as hell. Then again, for me it was like the "hero shot" of the movie. How the hell could anyone survive that explosion from a grenade? I have to put the Tommy gun up there.
Well, especially because you come out of the fire, you pick up the hat, it's very dramatic ... I mean you kind of blow everyone away. So I'm kind of surprised it's not at the top.
It was very old-school.
Everyone and their mom has an Arnold impression. Do you have one? Can I hear it?
The only one I know is "I'll be back."
Did that imitation get any better after working with him? Or did you have that beforehand?
Oh man, I've always had that beforehand. Are you kidding me? I grew up watching the guy! I would never do that in front of him, though, I leave that up to him.
Would you be too scared to do it in front of him?
Nope. I'd just leave it up to the man himself. I'd do it in front of my friends, and all that stuff.
What's your favorite roll of yours that wasn't a cop or a criminal?
I would have to say it was this movie I shot in Puerto Rico, a little movie called "Maldeamores" — "Lovesickness." And I played a husband who was cheating on his wife with his cousin.
Hey now. You're obviously known for how much you work. You've been around the block — have you ever been legitimately starstruck on a movie set?
Yeah, I have, actually! S**t, the first time that I got to work with Sidney Lumet I was starstruck, because he's a phenomenal director and had an incredible history. I was starstruck when I did "Anger Management" and got to work with Jack Nicholson. You know, who wouldn't be starstruck by Jack, right? And he was absolutely a really cool guy. And ... I guess the only other guy I was that starstruck by was when I had the chance to meet Michael Jordan. And I got to spend a half hour with him, one on one. He was shooting a commercial and I was shooting a show on the stage next door. And one of the PAs came up and said, "Hey, Michael Jordan is next door." And I walked in, and he recognized me. And all we did was talk about family, we didn't even talk about basketball. And to this day, he's a good friend.
You starred in a short movie called "I Kicked Luis Guzman in the Face" in 2008. Has anyone actually kicked you in the face and lived to tell about it?
My kids, horsing around with me. They're still around.
That's good. I'm glad.
I think it was my son. But you know, it happens. But I don't think anybody has like, ever even thought of attempting to walk up to me and kick me in the face. That would be bad news.
Needless to say.
Do you sometimes look at your IMDb page and get lost? Like, do you look at it and remember a movie you did in 1998 for the first time in years?
Yeah I do go through it every once in a blue moon. And I say, "Oh my God, man, what an incredible journey." To me, it's all been a journey. And it's pretty amazing, and pretty impressive. And quite frankly, I'm pretty wowed by it because it just goes to show the reward if someone puts in the work.
There's the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game — shouldn't there be the "Three Degrees of Luis Guzman" game?
Yeah I think it's down to like 2.4 now. It's amazing, it's just so amazing because like ... you've been in this business long enough and you work with everybody, and everybody else has worked with everybody, and so, it's pretty amazing. For that matter, I might be on a movie set, and you meet somebody for the first time, and they say, "Oh hey man, I'm friends with so and so and they speak highly of you," and stuff like that. It's all cool. And like I said, there's one word for that: Amazing.
What's the longest you've gone without working in the last 15 years? Is it longer than a month?
I think I took a year off a few years back, on purpose, because I wanted to be home for a whole year to see my kids grow up. Sometimes you gotta make those decisions. I'll tell you an interesting story: We had done "Punch-Drunk Love." I get a call from Adam Sandler, he was flying to New Hampshire on a private jet. And he said "Hey, I'm gonna send a car to pick you up, and we're gonna go to Cannes together. And we're gonna premiere 'Punch-Drunk Love' at Cannes." And as I'm having that conversation with him, at the time, my son must have been six years old, and he starts tugging on me, and he asks me, "Hey Pop, you're not gonna miss my basketball game, are you?"
I looked at the kid's eyes, and I talked to Adam, and I said, "Adam, there's something bigger in my life right now." And I didn't go. I went to my kid's basketball game.
What did you buy with your first Hollywood paycheck?
I bought a car that my best friend totaled the next day.
Sorry to hear that. What's your go-to karaoke song?
Oh man, my go-to karaoke song is uh ... oh s**t, I know it too, give me a second. My go-to karaoke song ... it's "The Power of Love."
Awesome. I wish I could see you perform "The Power of Love."
Someday you will.
I hope so. What's the single greatest moment of your career?
I'm gonna go out on a limb, I'm gonna have to say it's "Boogie Nights."
I wouldn't say that's out on a limb. That's a great movie.
Well, I've been asked this question, and honestly I've never said it once. This is the first time I've chosen it. Because I've had so many. "Traffic" was a great movie. "Carlito's Way" was a great movie. "The Limey." "Punch-Drunk Love." "The Count of Monte Cristo." "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island." I'm sorry that it wasn't "The Last Stand."
That's quite all right. Last question, an appropriate one after "Boogie Nights" — what's your porn star name?
My porn star name is "Do It."
"Do It"! D-o I-t.
I like it.
Yeah. It's different.