Over the past few years, Roberto Aguire has established himself as a young talent on a meteoric rise in Hollywood. As a young actor, he cut his teeth as a student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, receiving a double major in acting and economics. One of the most dedicated and hard-working actors in the business, he has started turning the heads of both critics and fans alike. Aquire made his initial splash in his feature film debut as both actor and producer in the dark coming-of-age comedy, ‘Struck By Lightning.’ The acclaimed film, scripted by Glee’s Chris Colfer and also starring Rebel Wilson, Sarah Hyland and Allison Janney, premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival to outstanding reviews. In the film, Roberto plays Emillio, the school’s resident foreign exchange student from El Salvador and consequently, a die-hard womanizer. It was this role served as an amazing start to what is sure to be an amazing career in film.
It is evident the moment he hits the screen this incredible young actor pours his heart and soul into each and every role. His latest captivating and highly emotional performance is no exception to the rule. In Dito Montiel’s ‘Boulevard,’ which headlined the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday, April 20th, he stars alongside Academy Award Winner (and childhood idol) Robin Williams. The film centers around a devoted husband in a marriage of convenience until a run-in with a guarded young man, Leo (Aguire), forces him to come to terms with his own secrets. His masterfully acted performance as an incredibly complex character leaves little doubt this multi-faceted young actor is poised become a breakout star in 2014. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon caught up with Roberto Aguire to discuss his career, the challenges of bringing his character in ‘Boulevard’ from script to screen, his evolution as an actor and much more!
What got you started on your journey into the entertainment industry and made you pursue it as a career?
My Mom actually pushed me to do it. I have always been an entertainer and have always gotten up and performed in front of people. I would get up and do a puppet show, put on an accent or make fun of myself. I had been doing a couple of school plays and my Mom got this audition from a friend for an amateur theater company in Geneva, where I grew up. She said “Why don’t you go on this audition. You won’t get it but it will be fun!” I said, “Ok. Cool! I will try it!” I went to the audition and ended up getting a callback! She said, “Congratulations! You got a callback! You aren’t going to get it but you should go back anyway!” [laughs] I went back again and got another callback! She said, “You know what? You probably shouldn’t go back. You aren’t going to get it.” I said, “No. I want to go.” I went and I ended up getting the part. It was for Neil Simon’s ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs.’ I was playing Eugene, the lead character. It just completely hooked me! I got addicted to acting and couldn’t imagine myself not doing it for the rest of my life. That is where it all started!
Who were some of the biggest influences on you as an actor early on?
I think the biggest influence I had growing up, ironically, was Robin Williams. I think I got part of my acting big from him. Growing up, I saw him in so many different things. I grow up laughing at “Mrs. Doubtfire” and being captivated by his performances in “Good Will Hunting” and “Dead Poets Society.” I found it amazing that one person could take people on all these different adventures and have them rolling on the floor laughing in one movie and absolutely awe stricken and about to cry in another. He has probably had the greatest impact on me as an actor. It was from there that I said “I want to be an actor for the rest of my life and to be able to do everything he can do.”
That leads us to your latest film. ‘Boulevard,’ in which you co-star with Robin Williams. How did you get involved with the project initially?
A friend of mine, who knew the writer really well, passed me the script. He said “You should look at this because it is really interesting. I think you would be great for the lead.” I read it and fell in love with the script. It was a beautifully written script and was so detailed and descriptive. It was like verse and prose! It was amazing to read. I called the writer and I asked to sit down with him. We immediately had an amazing connection. I understood what he was trying to convey through the script and he really understood how passionate I was about the script. By the end of the meeting, he said “I would love for you to play this role. I think you are perfect and are everything I imagined him to be.” After that, Robin and director Dito Montiel came onboard and it happened pretty quickly!
What was it about the character that intrigued you in the initial script?
I think what intrigued me was that it seemed like such a challenge for me! This kid, Leo, is just so lost in life and so broken that it was going to be a huge stretch for me to play him. It was going to be such an uphill battle to find all the nuances and subtlety that the writer had given him on the page and then to bring them to life. To me, the most intriguing part about Leo is dealing with someone who really got stuck in life and didn’t know how to get out. All you want to do is shake him and say “Come on! Just move on! You had everything at your fingertips to do it but you just aren’t doing it!” I think it was that frustration that I wanted to hook onto and try and give the audience through the performance.
Going into a project like this, how do you prepare for a role? Is there a particular process you go through?
Yeah, I am one of the crazy ones! [laughs] I am someone who does so much research beforehand. I basically want to find out everything I can about Leo’s world and what it is to be on the street and what it is to be addicted to prescription meds, which we don’t explore that much in the movie. Doug had I had talked about it beforehand and it fed my research and portrayal of Leo. I wanted to create as much of a background as I could, so that when I was on set and everything was a go, I could just go on the fly. That is especially important when you are working with someone like Robin and never know what might happen on set. You never know which way a scene might turn. I just wanted to be ready to stay true to the character no matter what.
As you said, Robin Williams was a huge influence on you. What can you tell us about meeting him and working with him for the first time?
It was the most nerve-racking moment of my life! [laughs] I had so many people tell me, “Don’t expect too much of your idols. Try to lower them off that pedestal. Just think of them as regular people.” However, when you have someone who has had such an impact on your life, you can’t do that! It is part of what drives you; imagining these people as these huge, almost magnanimous beings that you can’t ever touch. When I walked up to him for the first time, all of those things hit me! I remember, within five minutes, he was already doing the accents and cracking jokes. I said, “Ya know, That is Robin Williams! He is everything I thought he would be and more!” I was so happy I didn’t take him off of that pedestal because he met every single expectation that I had for him.
Being paired with a tremendous actor like him is certainly a great opportunity. What did you pick up from him by watching him work?
So much! The greatest thing about Robin is that if you look at him from a technical standpoint, he has done over 100 movies; he is so at ease on set and knows exactly what is going on. I think that is something I definitely tried to adopt after I saw him do it. He is just so prepared with what he has done that he doesn’t let what is going on around the set affect him at any point. If people are running behind, if something got messed up or if suddenly there was any sort of problem, he is so in his character and the right state of mind that you can’t throw him! I think that is one of the things I really appreciated in him as an actor and something I tried to apply.
Looking back on you time with this role, what jumps out of you are the biggest challenges you faced or the biggest lesson you may have learned?
I think for me, the biggest challenge was the transformation. When Dito and I first sat down to talk about Leo, we were both really adamant about how I had to look Physically for Leo. We were also in agreement on what kind of behavior I had to start adopting. From our first meeting, my target goal was to lose 30 pounds for the role. I ultimately lost 35 pounds! That transformation is huge. At that point, your body is so starved of anything that you are not really function on any sort of higher plane! [laughs] Your body is just in survival mode where it is going on instinct. That feed into the behavior of the character, where this kid is basically living on instinct. He is not able to respond the way anybody in their right mind would be able to respond. He is deprived, starved, malnourished and obviously addicted to drugs. I also started smoking for the role. Doing that transformation was a huge challenge but I feel it ended up giving me a truthful portrayal of this kid.
What was it like working with director Dito Montiel on this project? What do you feel he brought to the table for a project like this one?
I think what is unique about Dito is the fact that he is so in tune with reality. He doesn’t let himself be guided or let anything be dictated by what a movie reality should be or the type of reality we sometimes find in movies. For him it is all about “What is it in life? What is the truth of this situation? If we were to find it, how would it manifest itself?” He is so good at latching on to that and he is able to come into the middle of the scene where you are and you are engaged by him and what he is saying. You understand what he is saying because he is speaking on a very truthful, emotional level. I think that is why he is so amazing with actors because he skips passed any sort of bullshit and goes straight to “I think this is what is happening in the scene and I think this is what I am feeling. It doesn’t feel like this direction is what we want. Why don’t we switch it into this direction?” He has a terrific ability to articulate what he wants because he is so clear about what he wants when he is on set. As an actor, it is really easy to latch on to that and say “Ok! Let’s go in that direction! Let’s explore that!” Then everything starts rolling much more smoothly.
How do you feel you have evolved as an actor since first starting out?
I think I have evolved in a huge way! It is weird, I don’t know if it is like this across different industries and across different careers but in acting there is a huge learning curve. The difference between your first, second and third movie is substantially different from your experience on your sixty-first, sixty-second and sixty third movie. You learn so much, absorb so much information and basically are becoming more adept at the craft at the beginning of your career. In addition, I am lucky to have had a solid education in acting. I went to Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. They were able to lay this awesome platform for me, so when I started actually having this practical experience of acting, I was able to grow that much for quickly. I think at this point in my career, I have worked on enough films that I am finally able to relax a bit and have the confidence to say “Ok. I know what I am doing. Let’s make this something really, really fun!”
What types of projects are you eyeing for the future? Are there any particular roles or genres that speak to you and have you anxious to pursue?
The thing I have always had my eye on, since I was a little boy because I am such a huge fan, is the world of sci-fi and fantasy. Being part of anything that is such an immense imaginary world and being able to truthfully be in that creation would be amazing. In terms of what I want for my career, I want to focus on characters that really scare me. Those are the most challenging; the one’s you look at on the page and say “Oh my God! Wow! That is a huge undertaking!” [laughs] There is something about rising up to the challenge and looking uphill at something, as opposed to downhill at something that really gets me excited. I really want to focus on those kinds of roles in the future!
Are you interested in exploring the world of filmmaking from behind the camera in a directorial or writing capacity?
Yeah, I think eventually I would love to explore that area. It is interesting. In this industry with success comes a lot of flexibility across the different crafts or mediums. I would love to direct something. I think that all-encompassing vision of a captain in this process that is something that is appealing to me. First and foremost, my passion is acting, so I think I have to feed that and get that tank three quarters of the way filled before I am able to say “Let’s try a different challenge!”
Absolutely. Everything comes in time!
Exactly! There is this amazing quote by Andrew Marvell, “Had we but world enough, and time.” The second half he is actually talking about seducing women but the first half is pretty good! [laughs]
What other projects are on the horizon for you? What should we be on the lookout for in the months to come?
I had this one project, “After Darkness,” which we shot last year with Kyra Sedgwick, Tim Daly, Valorie Curry and John Patrick Amedori. It is this character driven sci-fi film about a family dealing with their issues at the end of the world. I think that will, hopefully, be playing in festivals this year. I am really excited for that to come out. I am being very strategic about what the next role I do is going to be. Like I said, I want it to be something that really challenges me and builds me toward the future.
You can serve as a terrific inspiration to young actors. What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to those looking to make a career in the entertainment industry in today’s climate?
Don’t stop dreaming and don’t stop persevering. It is really unfortunate but I think nowadays people are so overwhelmed by the amount of times you get told “No.” and by the amount of people that say you can’t do it because they seem like insurmountable challenges. I think the best thing young people can do nowadays is follow their dreams. There is no reason why they shouldn’t dive in headfirst and go for it. I think people kick themselves more for the things they didn’t do, as opposed to the things they did.
Are you involved with any charity work at the moment we could shine a light on?
It is funny you mention that because my mother, my family and I are looking to work with some charities in Mexico. We haven’t determined which one just yet. My parents are Mexican. We are trying to find the right charity to stand behind in Mexico that we feel is going to make a difference in education. I think that is one of the biggest issues in the world today, especially in Mexico and third world countries. The populations are just not educated enough to know how to change things. They don’t know how to find when they are being manipulated or not, so I think education is one of the biggest issues that needs to change, especially in Mexico.
Hopefully, one of our readers can help point you in the right direction!
Thank you! If anyone has some information they can share, they should contact me. My mother and I are actively searching, so that would be fantastic!
Where are the best places for people to connect with you via social media?
I want to thank you so much for your time today, Roberto! It has been terrific speaking with you!
Thanks so much for the questions and the time, Jason! I really appreciate it! Talk to you soon!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.