"I love Miami," says Spanish actress Paz Vega ahead of her visit for the Miami International Film Festival. "I have a lot friends living there. It is a fabulous city! And the best thing is the people. Every time that I go I have so much fun!"
She will appear at the festival to support The Pilgrim: The Best Story of Paulo Coelho where she plays Luiza, a small but key role in this biopic that covers the Brazilian writer's life before he wrote his most famous novel, The Alchemist. "She was his first true love," explains the actress of Luiza, "someone who really understood him and supported him. She was ready to have a life with him, but Paulo at that time, wasn't ready to commit."
If you don't know about Coelho's writing, it's time to get out from under the rock you've been living under. He is the most translated living author for The Alchemist, a book that's been translated into 80 languages. His 30 novels have been distributed in 224 countries, and he has sold more than 165 million books. "In my life, I've read several books of Paulo," Vega says. "I think my first one was The Alchemist."
Vega says Coelho's popularity is easy to understand, there is a universal appeal to his books that transcends language. Speaking about her own pleasure reading Coelho, Vega says, "I enjoy every reading because always there is some connection between the characters and my own experience. I think this is why Paulo Coelho's books are read in so many countries, because he writes about universal feelings, and the science of the human being."
When Luiza enters the picture, the writer is far from finding himself, though. His future lover first appears in the film swaying by a nighttime beach bonfire, as she reads poetry from a book with musical accompaniment among a group of hippies. The scene is captured as a near euphoric experience for the writer, who is played by Júlio Andrade. It's one of the hottest love-at-first-sight scenes you'll ever see on screen. "She loved him so much," Vega explains.
The actress admits, however, that speaking Portuguese on camera was one of the hardest things about this role. "One of the challenges was the language," she says, "because this is my first movie in Portuguese. But everyone took care of me very much. They made me feel at home, despite the language barrier. It was a very beautiful experience."
Playing real life characters is also nothing new for the actress. Vega most recently appeared as an even more famous personality: opera singer Maria Callas in the biopic, Grace of Monaco, which stars Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly. Kelly and Callas were great friends. "It was a beautiful experience because I'm a big fan of Callas," says Vega. "My admiration for her is infinite, so when the director, Olivier Dahan, called me, it was like a dream come true, and all the process was totally unforgettable for me."
Grace of Monaco has yet to make a U.S. premiere, even though the Weinstein Co. bought the rights to distribute it almost a year ago. Despite a harsh reception at Cannes in early 2014, there were stirrings of a summer release and then a fall release, but nothing came of the film in the United States.
Vega distances herself from the business side of things, but says she genuinely hopes the film will get a theatrical release in the States. "I don't know," she states. "This is a matter that concerns to the producers. But I think the audience in the USA would like to watch this movie."
The Pilgrim: Paulo Coelho's Best Story has its international premiere at the Miami International Film Festival on Saturday, March 7, at 7 p.m. at the Olympia Theater at Gusman Center. Paz Vega, actress Marcia Nasatir, director Daniel Augusto, and producer Iôna de Macedo will be in attendance at the screening. Tickets are $16. Call 844-565-6433 or visit miamifilmfestival.com.
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