Tuesday, January 27, 2009

'Che' spurs debate, Del Toro walkout

Sonny Bunch | Tuesday, January 27, 2009 | Washington Times
A controversial new biopic about Cuban revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara is awakening old passions and provoking vigorous defenses and denunciations of the iconic revolutionary and - in the case of an interview with The Washington Times - a dramatic walkout.

"I'm getting uncomfortable," Benicio del Toro said after fielding a question about his new movie's portrayal of the Bolivian and Cuban revolutions. "I'm done. I'm done, I hope you write whatever you want. I don't give a damn."

With that, the Oscar-winning actor walked away, abruptly terminating an interview conducted late last week to discuss director Steven Soderbergh's "Che."

Heated discussion has inevitably followed this almost 4 1/2-hour film's portrayal of the revered and reviled figure who sought to spread armed insurrection throughout Latin America and became a romanticized icon of rebellion in the process.

Yet its star seems ill at ease in the hot seat.

Hunched over a plate of guacamole in the backroom of gourmet Mexican restaurant Oyamel in the District, Mr. del Toro seemed excited to discuss the picture, which he co-produced with Mr. Soderbergh and Laura Bickford. Though the movie has received mixed critical reception, Mr. del Toro won top acting honors at Cannes this year. In his acceptance speech, he dedicated the award to Guevara.

The film was screened in Cuba, to much applause.

"Del Toro is spectacular in the role of Che, not only in his physical resemblance but also in his brilliant interpretation," wrote Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party. "After more than five hours of screening, the Cuban public gave its endorsement with a strong ovation."

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