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Rising Star: Jordi Molla

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Although Jordi Mollà is a respected Spanish actor whose credits include "Blow," "Jamón Jamón," "The Alamo" and "The Flower of My Secret," he admits he still hasn't quite settled on a career. "Honestly, I haven't decided yet," says the 35-year-old Barcelona native. "You can do lots of things in this life and every night when you go to bed, you think, 'Is this really what I want to do?' " Still, the actor with dark hair, piercing eyes and a flair for playing conflicted or on-the-edge characters, is making a name for himself in foreign and American films. He recently appeared as Juan Seguin in "The Alamo," also starring Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton and Jason Patric. Mollà likens Seguin, who fought alongside Anglo Texans against the Mexican army, to a man without a country who wrestled with his loyalties. "He's not a hero, but he's not an anti-hero," he says. "He's somebody like a human being in the middle of this whole thing, which makes it very human and very interesting for me as an actor." Mollà has had his share of interesting roles. He was a Cuban drug kingpin in "Bad Boys II." In "Jamón Jamón," he played a lovesick young man whose wealthy mother tries to sabotage his romance with a lower-class girl. He was a family man with a secret in "Segunda piel." In "Blow," he appeared opposite Johnny Depp as Diego Delgado, a Colombian drug smuggler. "It was my first movie in the states and I was so terrified that I didn't really prepare very much that role," he says. "I just decided to go with the flow." Reflective, affable and charming, Mollà reveals in a phone interview that his favorite hobby is people-watching, explains why he doesn't "think" he has a girlfriend, describes having felt overwhelmed by the gargantuan productions that are Hollywood movies, and confesses that he didn't visit the real Alamo when he was in San Antonio. Born in Barcelona, Mollà and his brother grew up the sons of a homemaker mother and a store owner father. At 8 years old, Mollà discovered he had a knack for imitating people, which sparked an interest in performing, although he says he didn't experience an epiphany or "calling." "I didn't have a moment, a flash, thought, or something in my head that told me, 'You have to be an actor,' " he says. "Like oh, when I saw whoever on screen, I decided I want to be an actor. I'm romantic, but I'm not an idiot. It was a step-by-step thing." Mollà studied for several years at the Barcelona Institute of Theatre, took acting classes in Italy, England and Hungary and eventually began working as a television extra. At 23, he landed a movie role in "Jamón Jamón," directed by Bigas Luna. His co-star was Penelope Cruz, then barely 18. They virtually grew up together on six different movie sets and he considers her a good friend. "I love her," he says. "She's a fantastic person." Transitioning from foreign to American films was initially overwhelming, Mollà says. But ultimately, making movies is the same in any language or location. "Here in the states, everything is bigger – more people, more money, more cameras, more locations, whatever," Mollà says. "I always get extremely scared at the beginning of the movie. But once I see the camera, it's like, 'Oh Jordi, it's just a movie'…So it's always the same, in Spain or wherever I am working."

Jordi Molla in The Alamo
(L to R) Kevin Page as Micajah Autry, Jordi Mollà as Tejano leader Juan Seguin and Billy Bob Thornton as David Crockett. Photo: Deana Newcomb.

"The Alamo" is his third major American picture. It was filmed on a set near Austin, Texas, in weather that ranged from sizzling heat to freezing winter nights. Texas, he says, is definitely hotter than Spain. He confesses he didn't visit the historical Alamo site because he needed a break from it after months of shooting on the elaborate, 51-acre movie set. Mollà was drawn to his role in "The Alamo" because of Seguin's complexity. Born in San Antonio, Seguin, like many other Tejanos, or Mexican Texans, fought alongside Anglo Texans against the massive army of Mexican General Santa Anna. Creators of "The Alamo" have said Mollà's role is a critical one in the movie. "One of the things we wanted to show was that there were many sympathetic Mexican characters in the history of the Alamo," producer Mark Johnson says in the film's production notes. "Many of them inside the Alamo were defending it against Santa Anna. And the character of Juan Seguin is very important in our movie. In many ways, we see the (story) through his eyes." Mollà says he enjoyed working with the cast. He describes Thornton as a great actor whose abilities seemed effortless and who was disarmingly funny and gracious to his co-stars. "In one scene I was aiming at him and he had a line something like, 'My name is Davy Crockett,' " Mollà says. "But it was so cold that night and the rifle was so heavy, that I was just concentrating on holding this weapon. He said to me in one take, 'My name is Penelope Cruz.' And then I had a reaction. I couldn't laugh because the camera was with me, but something happened. And I said to him, 'Thank you' because really I wasn't there. It was very cold."

Jordi Molla in The Alamo
Dennis Quaid as General Sam Houston with Jordi Mollà as Tejano leader Juan Seguin. Photo: Deana Newcomb.

Mollà recalls that Quaid initially intimidated him a little, especially because his character (Sam Houston) was tough and larger-than-life, but he quickly realized Quaid was genuinely friendly and helpful. "That's mainly the thing I ask for when I come to the States to shoot," Mollà says. "You feel very alone. Everybody speaks English. You feel like an alien in a way." In his native Spain, Mollà is hardly an alien. He is well-known and admired for his work in movies with directors such as Bigas Luna, Montxo Armendariz and Ricardo Franco. He has received nominations for a Goya award (Spain's equivalent of the Oscar) for his roles in "Segunda piel," "La buena estrella" and "La Celestina." Mollà also directed and starred in "No somos nadie," the tale of a homeless man who becomes a famous television personality. Mollà also worked with renowned Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar on "The Flower of My Secret." "He's a very talented man," he says of Almodóvar. "He made his own world. After all these years, we can all say almodovariano, like the adjective. When you see a frame of his movies, you can tell that's an Almodóvar movie. I love these kind of directors. They made their own world. They know how to move in that world they created." Mollà currently lives in Madrid, where he moved when he was 27. "I don't know what my plans are going to be," he says. "I'd like to be here in the states, but I have a theory. I prefer to go step by step, to go slowly better than running." A multi-talented artist who has appeared in some two dozen films, he is also a director, writer and painter. "I always say it's like having a girlfriend," he says. "My girlfriend is acting. But then I have all these lovers. Sometimes they really help my relationship with my girlfriend. I don't get tired of my girlfriend because I have these lovers." Speaking of girlfriends, there is someone special in Mollà's life. The subject comes up as he discusses his personal life. "I'm not married, I don't have kids and I don't think I have a girlfriend," he says. He doesn't think? "I don't think because I don't like to say I have a girlfriend," he explains. "I mean that person is not mine, is not my property. I prefer to say there's somebody that holds my hand and I hold hers." In his spare time, Mollà enjoys people-watching, although his rising fame is making that more of a difficult pastime, particularly in Spain. "I think my hobbies are watching people, watching women because I love women," he says. "I love the way they are. I respect them. I couldn't live in this world without women. But I'm saying it in a very respectful way. I think that watching people, that's a hobby. More and more, I'm not allowed to do it in Spain because everybody's looking at me, so that breaks the whole thing." Currently, Mollà is working on a directorial project. He also recently exhibited his artwork in Los Angeles. His parents still live in Barcelona. They are proud, he said, although always curious about what he will do next. Meanwhile, his father, who sold vegetables for a living, inadvertently taught him a valuable lesson about showbiz. "At the end of all these years," Mollà says, "I realized that selling onions, it's the same thing like selling movies."

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