Anyone who first encounters Ana de Armas' talent in Hands of Stone; the story of Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán, or in War Dogs, where she plays Miles Teller’s girlfriend, has arrived late to this party - she has already become Hollywood’s latest rising star, included in Variety’s annual ‘top 10 actors to watch’ list. Born in Cuba 25 years ago, Ana de Armas began to study theater at age 14. At 18 the beautiful young actress left for Spain where she soon became a local sensation. Currently shooting the new Blade Runner alomgside Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling, De Armas can say she’s worked twice alongside Keanu Reeves; in Eli Roth’s Knock Knock, and in Exposed. At the same time, she’s finished filming Colombian director Antonio Negret’s yet to be released Overdrive, where she shares the screen with another actor on the rise, Scott Eastwood. Hours after Variety’s announcement, we talked to Ana about her blooming career..
When you chose to leave your successful career behind in Spain to come to Los Angeles, were you confident that all of this would happen?
No, not at all. It’s not something I could’ve even imagined. I came with a pretty simple plan, a suitcase and the idea that if I had to stay I’d stay and if I had to go I’d go. I came open to everything and prepared to do anything. When I came to the US I didn’t speak English, and I knew I had a long road ahead of me, that it would be a slow process and that I would need to be patient. I knew exactly what to do, and that’s what I did. I also happened to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time but I honestly didn't think it would happen so fast.
How was the process for Hands of Stone?
Before being involved in the project I didn’t know who Roberto Duran was but when I read the amazing script that Jacob Jakubowicz wrote, I fell in love with the story and started investigating the family history. In fact I went to Panama that December, I think it was 2014, to spend New Year’s with them and to be with the family. From the start they opened their doors and treated us like if we were part of the family. They told us intimate stories about their lives that may not be in the film but definitely helped as a source of inspiration. I think it’s important to understand what drove these people to make the life decisions they did. I (wanted) to spend as much time as possible with Felicidad. Edgar (Ramirez) and I went to Panama when he didn't even know how to box and I got to witness how he transformed himself not only into a boxer but almost into Robert Duran because he mimicked his exact same movements.
Can you tell me anything about Blade Runner or were you warned that you’d be killed if you did?
I’ve been warned but I can tell you that we’re in the middle of shooting and everything is going fantastically. The director, Denis (Villeneuve), is a genius. It gives me pride to work with him. Everyday on set is a gift, watching how he works, how he creates, and how the film is coming together. I think it’s going to be sensational. I don’t think that any other director at the moment could be making this movie and Ryan is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. He’s a good companion and he’s truly a gift.
You started really young at age 14, but where you discovered or was it you that wanted to act?
Yeah, I started, I knew I wanted to be an actress but you always need (someone) to discover you. I began my acting career in the theater school in Cuba where I was for 4 years. In about my second year of school Spanish director Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón cast me and that was my first movie.
I imagine that due to Cuba’s political circumstances there were some difficult moments growing up…
I come from a modest family in Cuba, both my parents are workers, we’re no one’s children, no one’s cousins, we don’t know anyone. Of course we lived like any other Cuban family, with the food we were given and however we could, but look at me now, I'm here, sane, strong, big, and healthy. I didn't leave Cuba to make more money or to have more food or live a better life, I left Cuba to grow as an artists and become involved in more interesting projects. Unfortunately there are a lot of good Cuban actors who do what they can with what they have and with the limited access to things they need. I knew that the amount of movies made in Cuba weren't many and that I had a ceiling as an actress. That was the only reason why I left. I was very happy in Cuba and miss it every day. But yeah, my life has changed, I've learned a lot and I'm happy to have the liberty of travel and of course the power to use my job to help my parents that are still living in Cuba, and hopefully make their lives just a little bit easier.