Actor-producer Andy Garcia

Originally aired on December 6, 2012

Garcia shares the backstory of his latest film, the environmental thriller A Dark Truth, which he also co-exec-produced.

Andy Garcia combines acting, directing, producing and composing in a notable career, and has earned Emmy, Oscar and Grammy Award nominations along the way. In addition to playing a wide range of characters, he exec-produced (and starred in) HBO's biopic on Arturo Sandoval—producing the soundtrack and the award-winning score—and also wrote, directed and starred in the feature, City Island. Born in Cuba, Garcia was five years old when his family fled the country. He began acting while in college in Florida and did regional theater before moving to Los Angeles to pursue his craft. He's next up in the feature, A Dark Truth.


Tavis: Pleased to welcome Andy Garcia back to this program. The Oscar nominee stars in a film inspired by real-life battles over water in South America. It’s called “A Dark Truth.” The movie opens in theaters early January, but is available through video on demand starting November 29th, and so here now, a scene from “A Dark Truth.”

[Film excerpt of “A Dark Truth”]

Tavis: I’ve been anxious to – first of all, good to see you again.

Andy Garcia: Good to see you.

Tavis: I’ve been anxious to have you come back on the program about this project, because I’ve been reading so much lately about how into the future wars will continue to be fought, sadly, but more and more, what we’re going to be fighting over in the future is not religion, not geography, who has the right to decide where the line ought to be, but we’re going to be fighting over water. Water is going to be –

Garcia: The sustainable sort of items to live. Who controls –

Tavis: Who controls the water sources, that’s what we’re going to be fighting about in the future, so into that fray comes this wonderful project, “A Dark Truth.” I’ll let you explain the character you play, and then I want to get into the film because there’s so many real-life issues that run through this movie that I want to kind of bounce back and forth if I can.

Garcia: Well, this character of Jack, Big Jack Begosian, he’s, as you find him in the beginning of the film, he’s a radio talk show host in Toronto, and the show is called “The Truth.” He’s basically trying to bring attention to situations around the world or in society that are untruthful and need to be busted on.

But his past is one that’s very dark. He was involved in the CIA and he says, as he says in the movie, that he’s done things that are, to one of the callers, that he’s done things that are unforgiveable and unforgettable, and he’s trying to make amends, somehow make amends for that in his life.

It’s an impossible thing to do because it’s, according to what the things that he did, it’s a very – he will never be able to make amends, but at least he has to try. Thrown into this emotional baggage that this character has comes this issue that has to do with Forest Whitaker and Eva Longoria’s character.

Forest is a gentleman who is the head of a peasant movement in South America, which years before I had put in jail. I was responsible for putting him in jail for 10 years. He’s been labeled an ecoterrorist by this company that’s controlling the water rights in a certain country.

Tavis: An ecoterrorist.

Garcia: An ecoterrorist.

Tavis: Yeah.

Garcia: Yes. Because there’s a big typhoid breakout, and in order to not let anyone know what’s going on, they end up killing a lot of people and sort of quarantining areas and getting rid of the population. He gets wind of this and basically, I’m sent down, I’m pulled out to go and rescue him and bring him back so the truth comes out by a member of the actual, the sister of the CEO of the company, who’s not playing along.

So I have to basically go back and re-encounter a man that I put in jail many years from before, and he doesn’t know that, but I do, obviously, and that’s where the story takes off.

Tavis: At this point in your career, do you choose certain projects, do you ever choose projects based upon the issues raised in the project, or is it just a choice of you finding good work that’s entertaining?

Garcia: Well, I think both. You try to give the best piece of material possible. The subject matter is compelling and has residence like in this case and it’s great, but you still have to have something that is a story or a genre that’s told intelligently and sensitive to the actual issue that you’re raising.

So it’s a bit of both. You don’t really – I don’t go out searching for movies with a cause. Sometimes they seem to come to me. (Laughter) But that’s okay. But still, you’re looking at how it’s articulated, what’s the execution of the material, who’s involved.

This script, when I first read it, I thought it was a good idea. I needed work and we worked on it for a while, as you usually do, before we actually shot it and we were fortunate to get Forest and Eva involved with us on the piece.

Tavis: This project is based on, obviously, some truth. You mentioned doing projects that are intelligent and that are sensitive. How do you tell a story like this about a real-world issue like what we raised in the beginning of this conversation? These fights over water are very real, and they’re going to be increasing in the years to come. How do you tell a story like this that is intelligent, that is sensitive, but doesn’t proselytize?

Sometimes I see these – I’m not accusing this of doing that –

Garcia: Yeah. No, no, no, of course.

Tavis: But I see these projects from time to time that have a worthy cause, but you go see it and you feel like you were preached to.

Garcia: Yeah. There has to be a – there’s a level of entertainment, because ultimately, within the context of the story it is sort of a genre picture. Whether it’s a new movie that’s a revenge picture or in this case there’s element s of action and adventure because you have to go down to this country.

So there is a ticking clock in our story and you want to, as Dizzy Gillespie said about music, there are only two kinds of music – good music and bad music. So you want to make a good movie that’s entertaining, and then if it provokes thought, obviously, and has a resonance. I think it’s important when one works for me is that the work that you do and the films that you do have resonance.

Now, whether that’s dramatic resonance or comedic resonance or things that touch on humanity, you want people to think about the picture a week later and think, that was a good picture. That was – and kind of think back at it and be part of your consciousness, and that’s always good.

Tavis: Since you mentioned Dizzy, let me detour right quick and I promise I’ll come back. So Arturo Sandoval’s latest project is a tribute to Diz, who got his career started, as you well know.

Garcia: Yes.

Tavis: So I’ve had a chance to interview him a couple of times on the program, but just maybe six months ago, since I’ve last seen you, I had the opportunity, the honor of bringing him on stage at the Hollywood Bowl.

Garcia: Yeah.

Tavis: I had a chance to reference Andy Garcia and the project in my introduction. It was a great moment for me, though, to connect that. That Arturo Sandoval story –

Garcia: Yeah, that was great, yeah.

Tavis: Yeah.

Garcia: I had the great honor to play with him on that record. I sat in on the record and he actually just finished writing the music for a movie I produced that co-stars Vera Farmiga, which I hope to come here to talk to you about, called “Middleton.” It’s a human dramedy, similar to “City Island,” the tone of that movie that we talked about. Arturo wrote the original score for it, and we’re good buddies.

Tavis: Yeah that’s good stuff, good stuff. Let me go back to the story, the movie here, “A Dark Truth.” You play a talk show host who is a former CIA agent.

Garcia: Right.

Tavis: Could you ever imagine yourself, given your views on the world, being a –

Garcia: CIA?

Tavis: No, no, no, no. (Laughter) No, not that. A talk show host, being a political talk show host, particularly in the world that we inhabit?

Garcia: No, no. No, no. No.

Tavis: You do have views, though.

Garcia: We all have views, yeah, but I choose to live my life as a filmmaker and as an artist. That’s what I’m interested in. I’m not interested in politics or – everyone has an opinion about what’s going on in the world because we are part of the world, and we’re interested in how the world fares and how we treat each other as human beings.

But the political scene has no interest to me. People try to suck you in and unfortunately, I’ve had even situations where there’s been statements out there in this modern day of the Internet where people are making statements as though you are making them.

I had to shut down six Facebook pages that were making political statements that I’ve never made. How do you control that these days? There’s no respect in our society anymore about each other’s privacy or anything. It’s a free-for-all.

We’re all part of it. I’m sure you’ve had issues like that, and all you can do is the people who know you know that you wouldn’t say that, and you make a declaration and you move on. But it’s a shame that it’s come to that, and there’s no regulations regarding that.

Tavis: So that nobody else will be accused of saying this, let me ask you in your own words – that doesn’t mean, though, that you didn’t feel a sense of pride on Election Day when the Hispanic/Latino community turned out in such huge numbers this time around?

Garcia: Well, it’s important that everybody vote their conscience. We need to vote. Everybody needs to chime in, you know what I’m saying? However you want to chime in, but it’s important that you chime in. America’s a very diverse country, as you know, and the Hispanic vote, it’s an influential vote.

It’ll elect either president. The skew, whatever it is, is really what decided this election, and probably will decide many elections to come because that seems like that second of society is growing even more and more.

Tavis: There’s been a lot of talk of late. You mentioned rumors and misstatements and half-truths attributed to you on the Internet, so everybody seems to be on Castro death watch these days. Every other week there’s a story that Castro has died or all the news media’s bracing for an official announcement out of Cuba.

Because you are, of course, Cuban American, you have thoughts about where this relationship is headed post-Castro? That is to say, the U.S. and Cuba?

Garcia: Well, I think that whole regime has to end in that country. It’s not only Fidel, but it’s Raoul and his brother and the whole concept of that regime. There hasn’t been democracy in Cuba for over 50 years, so that whole system has to change.

For the Cuban people really to benefit from a relationship with America that’s helpful to them, the internal embargo of rights has to change. Everybody talks about the embargo, but it’s really an internal embargo of rights, because we cannot deal directly, meaning you and me as Americans, we cannot go to Cuba and deal directly with a Cuban citizen and open up a business.

You can only deal with the government, so until that system changes internally, that country and the people will really never benefit from absolute freedom, basically. They trade with the entire world, but their country’s still an economic mess.

Why? Because it’s a centralized government that the people are not free to do what they need to be doing, which his to be entrepreneurs, to have opinions, to vote, to travel. It’s a mess. So unfortunately, it’s one of those regimes that’s been in power, there hasn’t been an election there in over 50 years.

Tavis: Tell me about the “Hemingway and Fuentes” project.

Garcia: It’s a project that I’ve been developing for a number of years that I co-wrote with Hillary Hemingway, his niece, and it deals with the last years of Hemingway’s life in Cuba, the last 10 years, during the time he wrote “The Old Man and the Sea.” It’s a film that we’ve been putting together for a couple of years now, the financing, and I’ve had the honor to have support from Sir Anthony Hopkins and Annette Benning on it that I like to work with..

We’re coming to the – not to the finish line, but to the beginning line, as they say. The finish line is at the end. But there are industries in a particular interesting place now. If you’re in independent film, you have to go almost span the nature of that globe you have over there.

You have to bring monies from all over the world to make a movie these days, and it takes time, especially when the project is ambitious in terms of budget and stuff like that.

Tavis: I’m glad you said that, because I wanted to go there, so I’ll just follow you in. You always seem to be working on other projects, and they always seem to take years to get done.

Garcia: Well, “The Lost City” took me (unintelligible) year.

Tavis: “Lost City,” “Modigliani,” you work on these things for a long time. Tell me why it is that you choose – you choose – to spend your life as an actor, as a producer, a director. You choose to spend your life spending and investing so many years on these passion projects, as it were.

Garcia: I think it’s a passion thing. You have a desire to tell a story. Now it’d be a lot – if you have an idea for a story and you take it to Warner Brothers or someone and they say, “Oh, great, when can you start,” I would say, “Great, that’s – ” but they have particular, they’re making movies, certain type of movies with certain commercial parameters that they’re dealing with for kids and stuff like that, and if your project doesn’t quite fit that niche, you’re sort of on your own.

So you have to decide, well, what are you prepared to do if you want to tell this story, so you have to take responsibility for them and that’s what I do. If I have passion for something, it’s a story I want to tell, I’m like a dog with a bone. However long it takes, and that’s what it’s going to take.

Tavis: Would it be unfair to say that when you do those big blockbusters like the “Oceans” projects, is it fair to say that you in part do those, or is it just about the script? Do you in part do those to help finance the other stuff that you want to do?

Garcia: Well, it’s very helpful for an actor to be in a highly commercial film, so those movies, the publicity machinery behind it and the commercial success of those movies enhances the value of all the actors that are associated, even the director, in the international market.

So it’s good if you’re blessed to be in some of those movies every so often, they continue to give you values in the international marketplace, and then when you have a passion project you can go and tap those values. Maybe not as much as you would tape it financially for an “Oceans” movie, but for “Modigliani” or “Hemingway” or something.

They’ll tap a reduced portion, but they’ll support it because the elements that you have it are people that can value commercially.

Tavis: Speaking of how this industry has changed, I’ve only done this maybe a couple of times in all the years I’ve been hosting this show, and I suspect I’ll be doing it more, given how the industry is changing.

But I mentioned at the top here that the movie comes out in January, this project, “A Dark Truth.”

Garcia: Right, theatrically, yeah.

Tavis: Video on Demand, like, November 29th. How does that work, and tell me about the changes in –

Garcia: I’m not sure. I’m not sure, but it’s happening all the time.

Tavis: Exactly.

Garcia: I saw a picture of Richard that was here, Gere, about his movie; I think his movie was released exactly the same way, “Arbitrage.” It’s a new model, and as we know today, more and more people have a widescreen at home and they might as well see the movie at home because it’s hard for them to get to the theater, and the delivery system is changing.

So you’ve got to change with it, and there’ll be a time where someone makes an independent movie and they go directly to the consumer. They won’t even have a distributor. They’ll post it and you download it, you pay for it, and the advertising is cheaper, obviously, online, or on television.

So it’s a model that’s been going around for a while and I think you’ll see more and more films being released that way. Because if you have to release a movie on a Friday night in 3,000 theaters on a big screen theatrically, how much money do you have to spend on that release? It’s a huge expenditure.

So that’s the balance. You can have a movie that potentially could be released that way, but you’d have to spend 20, $25 million, $30 million to promote it. You can open up at 3,000 theaters and that’s a big number.

Tavis: I’m not asking you for names, specifically, because then again, if I wanted to know I’d just look at the credits on all your stuff to see who actually gave the money for it. But when you take on these passion projects –

Garcia: If I told you who did, I’d have to kill you. (Laughter)

Tavis: Well, I believe you on that. Given some of the roles that you’ve played, I believe you’re capable of that.

Garcia: I protect my sources.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah. But again, you look at the credits, you can see who –

Garcia: There’s only so much money to go around, you know? (Laughter)

Tavis: That’s why I’m not asking you for names, Andy, I’m not asking you for details. But is there a profile of a person these days, given all the changes in the industry that we’re talking about now, so Andy Garcia, Tavis Smiley, however, has a passion project that you’ve got to get funded somewhere.

Is there a profile of the kind of person who is still interested these days in the world, to your point, wanting to finance independent projects like this?

Garcia: Yeah, yeah. There’s people, there are companies, independent companies, that are actually in that business. It’s a combination of equity and sometimes if you can fund your whole movie with pure equity, then that’s fine. You have a partner or several partners and you go and make the film.

But usually it’s a combination of equity with some international presales that you collateralize in a bank, and a gap loan based on future sales, and that’s kind of like the standard formula.

Other than that, you can approach anybody for equity. You can approach your dry cleaner’s or you can approach Bill Gates. There’s no rule there. There’s people who are always interested in art.

Looking back through centuries, art always needs patrons. So I think people who invest in film, they are patrons, in a way. It’s a fairly high-risk investment, but there is a love of it and an interest in being involved in it, and an upside, if it happens, obviously.

But I think there’s always that element of somewhat of artistic patronage when it comes to investment in the arts, whether it be film or a stage play. You look at the numbers, but it’s not like – it is a higher-risk type of investment, there’s no doubt.

Tavis: I want to circle back to this particular project, “A Dark Truth,” because you’re talking now about art. I want to shift a bit and talk about truth, and art and truth aren’t that disconnected, if it’s real art, or authentic art, at least.

There’s a line in this film where you say as a radio talk show host that people aren’t interested in truth, they’re interested in entertainment.

That’s a line in a film. Is that line applicable to real life?

Garcia: Well, I think you could argue that there’s a lot of stuff on television these days that we are being presented as news and it’s not really news, it’s more entertainment than anything else.

It skews towards that, because everyone’s chasing the ratings and truth in journalism today is sometimes hard to find. You don’t know what the truth is out there anymore. Like we talked at the beginning of the show about the rampant use of falsehoods in the Internet these days, you can look up Tavis Smiley and you go what the hell, I never said that, or I wasn’t born there, or I – it’s like all this misinformation, and people are using it and accepting it as the truth.

It’s unfortunate. I don’t know how you control that. I don’t know if it’s a – it’s a slippery hill, you know?

Tavis: There’s another great line in this film. This film is chock full of great lines, as you can see. The family member at this company that hires you to go down to Ecuador has an –

Garcia: Yes, Kara Unger, yeah.

Tavis: Yeah, Kara Unger, who says everything has a price, but everything ought not to be for sale. Everything has a price, but everything ought not to be for sale. So these lines just sort of jump out at you in the film. The screenplay is very nicely written. These things kind of jump out at you.

When you – I raise that because I wonder whether or not when you do these projects, whether they sort of impact you as an actor the way your life and your thought process, the way they impact me as a viewer?

Garcia: Yes, of course they do. For me as an actor, you have to find these sort of subconscious and emotional truths in your own life that are parallel to the character you’re playing and the themes that you’re exploring.

So they force you constantly to reach inside and open some doors and provoke thought that maybe doors that you haven’t opened in a while or you would rather not open, but you have to. So there is a cathartic and analytical process to the work.

Tavis: So finally, the most important question in this conversation – I haven’t had a chance to get downtown this season yet, but how are your Lakers going to fare?

Garcia: Well, they’ve been faring pretty well (unintelligible) staff, I’ll tell you that much. (Laughter) It’s been exciting to watch the team just go out and play basketball as opposed to being concerned about should I be in this corner or should I go over there or should I go over there and just play.

It’s a talented team. I think Steven Smith (unintelligible) goes, “If the Lakers take 100 shots and another team takes 100 shots, it’s a good chance the Lakers will win. They’ve got good people on the team.” (Laughter)

But the problem is when you don’t have a free-flowing office or something, you take one shot at the end of the shot clock and then you’re dead.

Tavis: Did the whole Phil Jackson controversy throw you? Were you -?

Garcia: I was surprised that even Phil’s name came up. I thought he was gone, it’s like he was done. So it surprised me that it was even brought up. It’s hard to say what happens inside of – you don’t know what the inner workings of that is. We can only speculate as fans and say – for me, if you’re going to reach out to Phil, then you have to reach out to hire him but not to taste him, to get a feeling.

You can’t’ even say that that’s the way it went down, because do we really know the truth on what went down on it? I can’t say. But they’re two great coaches. Tony’s a great coach; it’s going to be a very exciting team with him. It’ll be free-flowing. Steve Nash will be able to create, which is why he’s here. They’ve been fun to watch the last couple games because of that.

Tavis: I think the Phil Jackson thing will be a dark truth.

Garcia: Yes, exactly.

Tavis: For a long time.

Garcia: Yeah. And if a very tall guy shows up at your door, a large silhouette, be careful. (Laughter) Pretty square shoulders. Phil is coming.

Tavis: Speaking of “A Dark Truth,” that is the name of the new project from this Lakers fan, Andy Garcia. It’s called “A Dark Truth,” starring Andy Garcia and Forest Whitaker. A lot of Academy nominees and winners in this project.

Garcia: Eva Longoria, yeah.

Tavis: Eva Longoria, yeah.

Garcia: Kim Coates, who was on “Sons of Anarchy,” Kara Unger.

Tavis: (Unintelligible) Good to see you.

Garcia: Thank you. Always a pleasure.

Tavis: “A Dark Truth,” starring Andy Garcia. That’s our show for tonight. Thanks for tuning in. until next time, keep the faith.

“Announcer:” For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at

“Wade Hunt:” There’s a saying that Dr. King had, and he said, “There’s always a right time to do the right thing.” I just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. We know that we’re only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. And Walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the U.S. As we work together, we can stamp hunger out.

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Last modified: December 7, 2012 at 4:01 pm