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GARCIA, ANDY: Just the Ticket

DOING IT THE HARD WAY
Andy Garcia is one of Hollywood's most popular stars, but when it comes to try and finance pictures himself, even stars can become disillusioned with the process. An example of this is his latest film, Just the Ticket, on which he had to fight hard just for distribution. He spoke to PAUL FISCHER.

Andy Garcia is a man on a mission: despite the obstacles he fought getting his latest film off the ground, the normally publicity-shy ex-Cuban refugee is determined to do all he can to tell the world about this low-budget romantic comedy, Just the Ticket, on which he serves as both star and producer.

"We wanted to totally break apart from the constraints of more traditional movies."

"I always wanted to do a movie in New York emulating movies like Midnight Cowboy and some of the Cassavetes movies, where you shoot it in a neo-realistic and a naturalist style," Garcia explains from Los Angeles. "We wanted to totally break apart from the constraints of more traditional movies."

The film revolves around Gary Starke (Garcia), who was an orphan living on the streets at 13 and grew up to preside over a crew of street hustlers as the grand master of ticket scalpers. Charming, savvy, and honourably crooked, Gary seems beloved by everyone until Linda (Andie MacDowell), the love of his life, dumps him. Tired of Gary's unreliability after eight years, Linda takes a scholarship to the Cordon Bleu in Paris to fulfil her dream of becoming a master chef. Gary, in a tailspin, is determined to win Linda back against seemingly insurmountable odds.

For the actor, known for more intense work in such films as The Godfather Part III and When a Man a Loves a Woman, Just the Ticket represents a considerable departure. Garcia returns to his improvisational and comedic roots, which he honed at the Impro theatre in Los Angeles 20 years ago. Garcia, who was born in Havana and moved to Miami at a young age, is one of the few Latino actors who has achieved crossover success in film.

"He endears himself to you."

In Just the Ticket, he plays a charmer, a charming quick-witted hustler, who lives day to day hoping for a big score selling tickets to anyone for any show in town. "He's the kind of guy that you kick out and half an hour later he's scratching at the door again, and you have to let him back in like a lost dog," Garcia explains. "He endears himself to you."

The film's writer/director, Richard Wenk, met Garcia while playing neighbourhood basketball games in Los Angeles, where they both live. In trying to raise the finance for the film, they decided to shoot some footage in Los Angeles to show people what it would look like. Garcia's involvement was critical for the movie to be made. "All of a sudden, people started seeing its possibilities." But even with Garcia's involvement, getting the film financed and more importantly, distributed, was no easy task. Initially the film was called The Scalper. "We couldn't get anybody interested in the film," Garcia said. "They would say, 'Who cares about a ticket scalper?' It was the underbelly of society." Finally, MGM signed on to distribute the film, and in true Hollywood style, the film's title changed. But at the time, Garcia remained bitter about the hard time he had to secure distribution. "I go into movies now knowing that it will be badly distributed..."

Just the Ticket also offers audiences a very un-Hollywood-like view of New York. "We shot the film like a documentary; we wanted the film to be as real as possible", Garcia explains. While there was much about the film that appealed to Garcia, he was particularly intrigued by his character. "His struggle was such a romantic struggle," he said. "It wasn't about doing something for himself but doing it for HER. I found that to be very noble." It also afforded Garcia to return to his comedic roots. "I always wanted to do comedy but [studios] never thought of me like that."

There's no doubt that in an industry, which still frowns on minorities, Garcia is one of the most successful Hispanic actors in Hollywood. Yet, he makes choices that have failed to elevate him to the A-list status that most actors in his position crave. "I'm interested in telling stories which are truthful, not ones that are a career boost." And he's hardly the stereotypical Hollywood player, avoiding the party scene, preferring to spend time with his family.

"First and foremost I am a father-who just happens to act,"

"First and foremost I am a father-who just happens to act," he stresses, once again. He's also a romantic husband, who met his wife of 15 years ago in a Miami bar and proposed on the spot. But he manages to keep his private life well and truly apart from prying journalists. "So I don't feel a sense of astronomical fame or anything like that because I really don't get out much," the quiet, affable Garcia says.

Professionally, Garcia has indicated that he interested in reprising his Oscar-nominated role of Vincent Mancini in The Godfather, Part III. The actor brushes off unfair comparisons to parts one and two. "That's like saying, 'Okay, I'm Pablo Picasso's son... How am I going to respond? The movie paid homage to the first two, and the fact that all the time people ask me, 'Where's Godfather IV?' means it served its purpose-to continue to tell the story. I'm ready to go for number four." Maybe someone will make the affable Garcia an offer he can't refuse.

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