Actor Hugo Diego Garcia possesses a talent that is exceedingly rare among even the most seasoned of his peers. He’s able to transition between wildly different characters and roles with the effortlessness that others might walk from one room to the next. A great deal of his uncanny ability to embody virtually anybody onscreen is no doubt due to his upbringing, immersed in three distinct cultures.
“I was born in Oyonnax, France, a small city lost in the mountains,” Garcia described, “to a Spaniard father and a mother of Italian descent.”
His upbringing in that idyllic, yet isolated, town didn’t initially afford Garcia the opportunity to see as many films as he might have had he grown up in a big city. The collection of movies he did have, however, included some of the most influential and universally-acclaimed works in the history of film. Once he’d devoured the classic films he had at home, Garcia developed an insatiable need to watch every movie he could get his hands on.
“We didn’t have many films at home, but we had some of the best. The first VHS tapes and then DVDs we had were from Cimino, Leone, Scorsese and Coppola,” Garcia recalled.
“I then watched most of the American movies that were screened on TV, I would go every week to the French version of Blockbuster and rent plenty of DVDs. Together with my best friend we’d see every movie at the local cinema in my little city. And somehow, I got lucky enough to watch some of the best cinematic works ever at a very young age.”
That early exposure to such a vast number of films and filmmakers left an indelible mark on Garcia. As he entered adulthood, he became certain his calling lay on the silver screen. For Garcia, living in such a remote part of the world was an obstacle he was determined to overcome. With unbridled determination, he began studying every book and taking every class he could find to learn and master the actors’ craft.
“It was so far from our world, both geographically and metaphorically, that I couldn’t envision it,” he said. “I bought books from masters, studied and read just about everything, tried classes everywhere, and ultimately moved to Paris where I studied full-time in three schools — including one where I was offered free tuition after several rounds of auditions.”
After years of tireless dedication to improving his craft and growing as an actor, Garcia has achieved his dream. He’s deftly honed and refined his unique style with years of devoted practice, study, and insights gained from a lifetime spent observing the greats. As a result, Garcia’s become a commanding onscreen figure, delivering powerful performances in an ever-growing number of roles.
Among Garcia’s most definitive roles to date is the forthcoming film “Cagnolino.” Beautifully written and performed, the tragic drama tells a story of loyalty, violence, and deferred dreams.
“‘Cagnolino’ is about appearances and social determinism. It talks about the fascination for violence, particularly in the ‘hoods, through the music, pop culture, cinema, TV, and other media,” he described. “It is the story of a bad encounter, based on multiple true stories.”
The film follows the young members of a small-time criminal group as their egos and hotheadedness inevitably lead them toward the tragic consequences of a fateful mistake. Garcia stars in the leading role of Dario, a member of the family torn between his familial loyalty and his desire to escape this life and build a real future.
“My character wants to emancipate himself and get a better life for himself. He wants to do what’s right and leave the family business to pursue his own life and dreams, as well as being motivated by his girlfriend,” Garcia explained. “He struggles to leave because of the weight of the family ties and the love and admiration he has for his family, including his cousin. He has this life in his blood.”
Its story unflinchingly honest and its actors’ performances unequivocally human, “Cagnolino” captures the raw and universal truth of the struggles between right and wrong, power and weakness, and loyalty and self-determination. Garcia’s performance as Dario is masterful and moving, a testament to his strength and versatility. Further illustrating his commitment to his craft are the lengths to which he went to ensure a perfect performance in the film.
“In the sequence where my character gets beat up, we were shooting by night and at 6 a.m. I had to finish the night on the floor being kicked by the other characters,” he recalled. “I got bruises all over my body, but the adrenaline and pleasure of filming got us through it.”
With filming and post-production completed this year, “Cagnolino” will begin screening at festivals soon. Also set for release in the coming year is “Death Before Mourning,” a profound film which examines the often-silent and stigmatized effects of mental illness. Impressed by Garcia’s exceptional work in other roles, “Death Before Mourning” director Ruperto Luis Sanchez handpicked Garcia for the lead role in the film.
“After seeing his work and collaborating with Hugo on several projects, I had no doubt he would be the best fit for the lead role in my movie, Death Before Mourning. Ayala, his character, is complex and dark and Hugo possessed every quality required to play such a tortured role,” Sanchez said, explaining his deliberate choice to cast Garcia.
“His charisma, rugged good looks and ability to speak perfect English and Spanish made him my first choice directly. Ayala is also a boxer and so is Hugo, which made it even more interesting.”
The film takes an appropriately dark approach to its subject matter. With mental illness becoming a more and more prevalent topic in today’s news and culture, “Death Before Mourning” is a timely film that accurately portrays both the effects and stigmas facing those who suffer from invisible diseases like depression. Garcia, a trained boxer himself, disappears into his role as a boxer fighting against a different kind of opponent within his own mind.
“‘Death Before Mourning’ is a complex, ambitious black-and-white movie about PTSD, depression and the cycle of life,” Garcia described. “I play Rene Ayala, a great prospect in boxing, who sees his dreams destroyed when he loses a fight he was supposed to win, destroying his self esteem, future and all-time dream.”
Garcia’s performance in “Death Before Mourning” is undoubtedly one of his most powerful to date. As he steps out of himself and into the character of Rene Ayala, he brings such life to the role that it becomes nearly impossible to say for sure that the struggling boxer onscreen is a work of fiction rather than a living, breathing man in his own right. That is precisely where Garcia’s greatest strength lies. Much more than an ability to become somebody else, Garcia is able to persuade audiences that his characters are alive and that he was never really there at all.
“Acting, for me, is pure pleasure. It might be cliche, but I have a passion for storytelling,” said Garcia, explaining what draws him to acting and what makes him such a superb onscreen presence. “To quote De Niro, acting is ‘living someone else’s life, without paying the price.’ It’s using part of yourself that you wouldn’t or couldn’t explore in society for any number of reasons.”
Precious few actors in cinema today can hold a candle to Garcia. Fluent in three languages, a professionally-trained boxer, and unmatched in his onscreen versatility and range, Hugo Diego Garcia is among the most talented and devoted actors to grace the screen in years. Just as he’s spent his life studying the greats who came before him, there will be a day when a new generation of actors do the same — and they will undoubtedly turn to the iconic performances of Hugo Diego Garcia.