Rian Johnson has decided to give a new twist to his work as a director, this time through the investigation of a mysterious murder, a hilarious script, and a cast that pleases even the most demanding of audiences.
Knives Out, tells the story of the unexpected death of the head of a wealthy family in a picturesque mansion, where a Clue-style investigation takes place.
Starring Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer, Knives Out premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7.
Although Johnson’s latest movie has proven to be a total success — raising more than $70 million, and the consensus of Rotten Tomatoes’ critics says the director’s use of the “stellar ensemble” is “brilliant” — for Cuban actress Ana de Armas, the decision to join the team was not that easy.
At 31, born in Cuba and with more than a decade of experience as an immigrant (first in Spain and now in the United States), the actress became known on the American scene for her role as Joi, an AI hologram and Ryan Gosling’s partner in Blade Runner 2049.
Choosing her next role on the big screen was not a matter to be taken lightly.
That’s why, while reading her character for Knives Out, de Armas reluctantly perceived that commonplace trope in the collective unconscious of Hollywood’s cinema that places Latinos in stereotyped roles, in angles away from the foreground.
“The [script] description said Marta was a caretaker, Latina, and pretty. That’s it. And I’m like, What? I’m not doing that,” she said in an interview with Vanity Fair. “Because for a Latina in a setup like this, with a wealthy family and this cast, all I thought was, what am I going to do here? I’ll probably be standing in a corner, not having much to say.”
However, after reading the entire script, De Armas decided to take a leap of faith and embark on a production that, fortunately, has broken with all her prejudices and those of some of us who thought twice before deciding to buy the ticket.
“Marta” is the nurse of the 85-year-old head of the family, Harlan Thrombey, played by the mythical Plummer, who is found dead after the family reunion to celebrate his birthday.
With no spoilers intended, all we can say is that the young Cuban’s performance is nothing less than phenomenal. Putting herself side by side with her stage colleagues in the skin of a character, an immigrant struggling to support her family, allows her to make that inevitable wink to the political atmosphere in the U.S.
“There are a lot of Latina characters represented in a very small-minded and basic and cliché type of way that I try to get away from,” de Armas said. “And Rian gave me a whole universe.”
In addition to becoming the dynamic hub of the entire script, de Armas plays her role by going far beyond her physical appearance and embracing the director’s humor — which makes her vomit every time she must lie — to set the tone for a new generation of Latina actresses.
“These characters don’t exist,” she told in another interview with Variety. “They’re rare. It’s just almost impossible to see — or at least the previous Latina, Spanish-speaking parts that I’ve seen before, they’ve really not necessarily had the best qualities or possibilities. Or they don’t really reflect our community or our strengths.”