GQ Hype: It’s the big story of right now.
Gael García Bernal is well aware of the term short king. The Mexican actor-director-producer is 170 centimeters tall—around five feet seven—but the internet still claims him as one.
He doesn’t mind. His stature was only ever an issue in high school when he began to realize he wasn’t going to be some tall guy. “It’s not been a pain,” says García Bernal. Maybe he’s short for a superhero, which is fine, since he’s not very interested in ever playing one. “The superhero notion that they’re indestructible, [that] they will never die…” He shakes his head. Boring. Not his thing.
Instead, García Bernal has made an enviable career out of choosing thoughtful, understated roles. This is reflected in person, too. It’s late April and García Bernal has been staying in Nashville, where we meet, filming Holland, Michigan, a Hitchcock-style thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Succession’s Matthew Macfadyen. In person, García Bernal is animated but soft-spoken. He’s dressed in blue chinos, an army jacket, and an old mint-colored T-shirt. His hair is streaked with gray and he wears little octagonal glasses, but he still has the same hypnotic green eyes that made him a heartthrob in his youth. At 44, he’s been famous for more than half of his life, beginning with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2000 film Amores Perros and Alfonso Cuarón’s 2001 hit Y Tu Mamá También, which anointed him and costar Diego Luna as awards-season habitués.
The early hype proved to be real. García Bernal received a BAFTA award playing Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries and a Golden Globe for his role as a manic conductor in the Amazon Prime Video show Mozart in the Jungle.
I meet García Bernal at a restaurant in the Gulch, a neighborhood near downtown populated with squads of women wearing hot pink dresses and white cowboy boots like cowgirl Barbies. As García Bernal orders an omelet, bachelor parties zoom by in buses or on makeshift flatbeds pulled by John Deere tractors. Working here in the South has been a bit strange, he says. His guard is constantly up. “The people are really lovely, but it’s freaky to see so many ads for churches, cryptocurrencies, and guns,” says García Bernal. “That triad, it’s scary as hell.”
His new film, Amazon Studios’ Cassandro, is the story of a Mexican wrestler who is both hugely popular and gay. For Cassandro, he was approached by the director Roger Ross Williams with the idea for the film. “I remembered Cassandro, but I didn’t remember him that well,” says García Bernal. “I started to think, like, Of course, as a Mexican, I have to do a lucha libre film one day.” He took on the role along with Raúl Castillo from Looking, Roberta Colindrez of A League of Their Own, and Bad Bunny as a flirt named Felipe. “The story of Cassandro is a very modern, archetypal one of a person that had to play another character in order to be himself,” García Bernal says. “I play a different character in order to be myself. That’s why I’m an actor. I play different characters to find out who I am.”