Starring in Henry Poole Is Here, the story of a depressed man named Henry (played by Luke Wilson) who gives up on his life and buys a small home in a Cali suburban neighborhood where he plans to drink himself to death, actress Adriana Barraza makes her mark on the big screen once again.
While the director of “Henry Poole,” Mark Pellington, was inspired by this beautiful story due to a darker “chapter” from his own real life, he along with writer Albert Torres used filmmaking as a tool of inspiration for those folks who feel as if they’ve reached bottom. Adriana Barraza, an actress who understands that bottom and has been given the gift of light, which mysteriously found her and pulled her all the way up to the top, is a person who some might say was wisely chosen to play a role in “Henry Poole.” However, after interviewing this inspiring woman, it is clear that like everything else in her life, the role chose her.
Barraza is a walking miracle who began her journey to Hollywood by accident. But don’t let that fool you. It wasn’t a smooth ride for Barraza…not by a long shot. However, her ups and downs are evidence that there is something bigger out there, something that will find you even if you don’t believe.
We met at the Four Seasons for our interview. I had no idea what to expect. Playing Esperanza, a curious neighbor who immediately enters Henry’s life and won’t leave due to her sudden and (let’s be honest), completely nutty idea that a stain on the wall of his house IS God, this spiritual, uplifting and faithful character walked in and greeted me. From what I could see, Adriana WAS Esperanza–kind, full of life with a glow in her eyes. You could immediately tell that this talented actress had something important to offer.
Sure, she was an Oscar nominee for her previous role in Babel, yet with a long list of mainly Spanish-speaking roles, to transition from foreign to English films? Now, that’s quite an accomplishment!
Born in Toluca, Estado de Mexico, Mexico, Barraza said that her love for the arts began at the age of eight-years-old.
“I saw a beautiful ballet,” Barraza said. “I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I want this! I want to be a classical dancer.’”
With very little money, Barraza was unable to afford private classes but when she turned sixteen, this hopeful teen was given a choice in school–ballet class, basketball or theatre.
“I ran to the ballet line but….it was too late,” Barraza remembered. “Well, I thought, ‘I have two choices–Basketball and theatre.’”
Obviously, Barraza chose theatre and she smiled with that sparkle in her eye and said, “When I put my feet onto the stage, I discovered a wonderful, wonderful world for me.”
Still, she admittedly never thought to herself, ‘I am an actress.’ While acting was her deep-seated love, Barraza found employment in many other fields including work in a hospital for four years. And when she moved to a town called Chihuahua, Mexico, Barraza actually sold books from door to door.
“Really?” I asked, laughing.
She grinned from ear to ear. “Yes! Yes! I won a prize–the best seller!”
Barraza continued, “I try to do my best all the time.”
Her book-selling days ended when a pal who owned a beauty salon offered Barraza work. She learned how to do hair but always continued her studies as an actor.
“I lived in the theatre,” chuckled Barraza. “When I was a young girl, I dreamed of winning an Oscar. I think every kind of actor in every part of the world dreams of that. I fantasized about a director coming behind me and saying, ‘You are the best.’”
Her smile slightly fades and Barraza continued, “But my life when I grew up, taught me that it wasn’t real. My dreams of acting disappeared.
“I’d say to myself; ‘That is a young girl’s dream.’”
She cheers up, “But one day, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I met my true love…my husband. And up until that moment, I also thought that love was not really for me.
“I was 45-years-old and suddenly, this amazing man appears.”
Never expecting this to happen to her, Barraza’s eyes opened wider for the first time in years and not only did the universe intervene by introducing her to her soul mate, Barraza’s dream of acting came back to life.
“I looked around me and saw actors with little money putting on wonderful plays and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this isn’t a young girl’s dream, it’s a REAL dream.’”
At the most unexpected time, Barraza’s dream came true. She found love followed by her role in Babel. And just like that, a Mexican woman in her mid-forties broke all boundaries, proved her own inner voice wrong and started living her dream in Hollywood. More specifically, at the “wrong” age with the “wrong” native language, and the “wrong” gender, she made it!
And not only did she make it, Barraza made it BIG. “Life taught me to never lose your dream because you don’t know,” she said. “Life is more clever than you. We have to hear the miracles because they ARE real.”
Henry Poole Is Here opens on August 15, 2008 in theatres near you. Bringing passion (something Barraza believes in strongly) to her character, she continues to shine bright. Leaving the interview, I felt a newfound burst of hope from Barraza’s story because “Henry Poole” isn’t just another movie. It speaks the truth about miracles and Barraza is proof of that.