Actor, Singer, Producer… Pro-Life Warrior…
Verástegui plays the role of José in Bella, an independently produced life-changing love story centered on an unwanted pregnancy. Verástegui’s life is a parallel to José’s life in that both men lost everything but wound up gaining it all. This role is one way Verástegui is telling the world that he is no longer a sex symbol but rather a sinner saved by grace.
“He [the director] wrote this film to [fit] me because he wanted to … destroy the stereotype I had before,” Verástegui told AFA Journal during a recent trip to AFA headquarters in Tupelo, Mississippi.
While he can’t change his past or erase the remnants of a career rooted in pop culture, Verástegui can begin anew, and he is doing just that by seeking to live a life that brings glory to Christ – right in the middle of Hollywood.
“It is clear to me [now] that I wasn’t born to be a movie star,” Verástegui said. “I wasn’t born to be famous. I wasn’t born to be a CEO of a company. I was … born to know and to love and to serve Jesus Christ.”
The old and the new
Verástegui grew up in a small town in Mexico, and when he was 18 he moved to Mexico City to pursue his dream of being an actor and a singer. He spent three-and-a-half years traveling all over Latin America as a member of the successful boy band Kairo. He made his debut as an actor in Mexican soap operas, which were seen in over 50 countries, according to Wikipedia.org.
“In Mexico, if you are an actor and you want to make a living as an actor, … you either do soap operas or soap operas,” Verástegui said with a laugh.
So that is what he did prior to coming to the U.S. where he launched his career as a solo music artist and was later cast in a 20th Century Fox film. He then moved to Los Angeles and began immersing himself in the American culture and English language.
In a quest for success and notoriety, he did it all.
“I started compromising all of the values that my parents taught me to the point that I lost perspective of what is good and what is bad,” Verástegui admitted. “Even though … I believed in God, I had no transformation.”
After 12 years in the entertainment industry, Verástegui realized he was empty – thanks to his English teacher whom the Lord used to change his heart.
His teacher was a devout Christian and as she taught him English, she also questioned him about the purpose of his life.
“Why do you want to be an actor? Why are you doing what you’re doing?” she would ask Verástegui.
After six months of conversation, God did a work in Verástegui, and he was broken over the sin in his life. He came to the stark realization that he had used his talents in projects that were poisonous to society, while hurting his family, himself and others in the process.
“But the one thing that broke my heart was when I realized that I offended God with talent that He gave me,” he added. “And it is the most painful moment in my life because I was 28 years old and handsome and I saw myself in a place where everything was so clear.
“It was a moment of grace where He revealed all the things that I was doing with my life. And thank God that He is a God of forgiveness.”
Christ changed Verástegui’s heart and became the center of his life, which could have meant the end of his career as an entertainer. But that didn’t matter to Verástegui.
“The price of changing my path was that I was never going to be able to work again,” he admitted. “I was at peace with that.”
In fact, Verástegui made a commitment to never be part of a project that would compromise his faith or values. As a result, he didn’t work as an actor for four years prior to Bella because “as an actor it’s very hard to control the message [of a film] from A to Z. The only way you can do it is if you become a producer.”
So Verástegui wanted to leave Hollywood completely. He wanted to run away to the jungles of Brazil to do missionary work among the poor and to discern God’s will for his life. But he soon found he could be a missionary without skipping the country. God used a friend to convince Verástegui that Hollywood was a bigger jungle where believers are needed to share the light of Christ.
“He convinced me to stay there even though it didn’t make any sense, …” Verástegui said. “[And] … that is when I was inspired to open up a production company to make films that will not only entertain but will make a difference … and light a candle in the hearts of people.”
The movie and the crew
In 2004, the Three Amigos, as they call themselves – Verástegui, Alejandro Monteverde and Leo Severino, created Metanoia Films, which is now owned by these three men plus Sean Wolfington and Eustace Wolfington.
“I didn’t know anything about the industry, I had never financed a film, I hadn’t even seen a script – but I knew within five minutes of our first meeting that we were going to give Bella a green light,” Wolfington said. “So my business partner and I put up the funding, and we all got along so well we decided to become permanent partners in Metanoia Films and to finance future projects.”
Metanoia is a Greek word that literally means conversion – “a change of heart or mind; a turning from darkness to light,” Severino said.
“When we were thinking of names it was the perfect choice because each of us had experienced great transformations in our lives, both personally and professionally,” Serverino explained. “It also describes our mission of making quality films that not only entertain, but inspire people to live better lives, to love more and to be light in an often dark world.”
According to Verástegui, Metanoia Films wants to use media to speak the truth. It is carrying out its mission with Bella – the first of a several films planned by the company. Bella was inspired by several true stories and was filmed in 24 days in New York on a three million dollar budget. Yet it won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival – one of the largest film festivals in the world.
“In Toronto you have a wonderful and diverse mix of people from different backgrounds and beliefs,” Monteverde said, “and the fact that they chose Bella for the biggest award says a lot about our film’s broad appeal.”
Other films that have received this honor have gone on to win Oscars.
But an Oscar is not the motivation behind this film. Rather, its purpose is to change the lives of hurting souls, which has already begun happening among viewers who have screened the film.
“But Bella is a film that appeals to everyone,” Monteverde explained. “The themes of love and sacrifice and family, the hope for a second chance in life after we’ve made mistakes – those desires are universal” and presented in a powerful way.
Saving Babies: (from American Family Association Journal)
Bella was our first film. So three weeks before I moved to New York to start shooting this film, Alejandor [Monteverde – the director] is calling me asking, “Are you rehearsing?” I said, “Brother, yes, but I need the actress to rehearse.” And we couldn’t find the actress [to play Nina] at that time. Two weeks before, no actress. And I’m in L.A. [thinking] how in the world am I going to rehearse, or how in the world am I going to do my character well if we find the actress two days before.
So I went to an abortion clinic. I thought it was going to be very easy and very simple. I was going to arrive, stop the first lady and [say], “Excuse me. My name is Eduardo. I’m making a film. Can I ask you a few questions? How do you feel? Hold on. Let me write it down.”
That’s what actors do. You go and you do your research, your homework and your tasks.
Now, when I arrived at that clinic, I was in shock. When I saw these 15- and 16-year-old girls going in, I didn’t know what to do. Of course, I didn’t even want to talk to them [anymore] because I didn’t even want to use their pain for my own movie. So it was very hard for me. It was the first time I was really facing the reality of something I wasn’t really aware.
I saw a little group of people trying to convince them (people going into the clinic) not to do it. So I approached that group and introduced myself to them, and they thought I was one of them. The next thing you know, one of the girls is telling me, “Talk to this couple. They don’t speak English. They’re from Mexico.”
I go, “Sure.”
The couple recognizes me from the soap operas [I did in the past]. Even though I did them like 10 years ago, they repeat them on television forever.
“Eduardo, what are you doing here?” [they asked]. I was thinking they’re going to think my girlfriend is inside. I cannot tell them about the movie either. What am I going to say?
We ended up talking for 45 minutes about faith, life, Mexico, dreams, food – about everything. I was trying to be delicate. I wasn’t trying to really talk. I was just praying, “Lord, please, help me. Help me to use my fame now to do something good and beautiful and to save this baby. I used to use my fame to do selfish things, and please, this is an amazing opportunity for me to do something to repair whatever I did in the past.”
I was just praying and closing my eyes. I gave her a little teddy bear just like in the film. I gave her my cell phone number and everything, and then she started crying and she left the place. She didn’t go in, so I thought maybe she was going to come back the next day because she was a little shy with me. I called her like three or four times, [and that was the end of it, or so I thought].
We found the actress, moved to New York, finished the film and came back to Los Angeles. A few months later I received a call from the man who was with her. He said, “Eduardo, I have great news. My baby was born yesterday, and I want to ask your permission because I want to call him Eduardo.”
I couldn’t even talk. I put my phone down. I was emotional more than I ever was in my life. I went to the hospital and I saw the baby. A few days later I was carrying the baby in my arms, and the way he was looking at me changed my life.
He changed my life because I didn’t plan to do this. I went there only to do my work as an actor. I never thought that by the grace of God I was going to be used as an instrument to save this beautiful baby. And it [the opportunity] is the most beautiful thing.
Saving a life
In Miami, [there was] another girl who was going to have an abortion. We talked to her. We showed her the film, and she cancelled he appointment. A few weeks ago the baby was born, and they call her Bella. Now it’s two babies we know.
I said to myself, “I will never, for example, kiss anybody until I’m married.” And everybody in Hollywood told me, “Well, that’s the end of your career. How are you going to work then? You will have to open your own production company and do your own films.”
And so that’s what I’m doing. It’s the only way. You can’t put yourself in another position where you’re going to be vulnerable because the next thing you know the director going to say, “You know what? Let’s change this. Ok take your shirt off. …”
Next thing you know, you find yourself doing things that you already said no to. That’s why it’s called legal adultery because it’s the only career where you are allowed to be with somebody else, and it’s ok.
one of the latest bits of news from his website:
…his dream to raise the necessary funds to open a pro-life medical center in the middle of all the abortion clinics in Los Angeles (LA). This dream is about to be realized. He announced the fact that plans are underway for his international aid organization, “Mantle of Guadalupe”, to build the largest crisis pregnancy centre in the United States on 15 January at a gala dinner in Beverly Hills. 300 guests at the dinner raised funds for the pro-life Mantle of Guadalupe medical center which recently opened in LA and provides free of charge pre-natal care, ultrasounds and natural family planning to women in need.
MEXICO CITY, October 24, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Mexican-American movie star Eduardo Verastegui has begun campaigning against California’s homosexual “marriage” law, and is incurring the wrath of Mexican homosexuals as a result.
Following Verastegui’s reported decision to lead the campaign for the Hispanic organization “Viva la Familia” (Long Live the Family) enraged members of “Tri Gay”, Mexico’s self-proclaimed “gay soccer selection” expressed their displeasure against the pro-life, pro-family actor and entertainer.
At a press conference on October 22 in the offices of Mexico’s Secretary of Health, the team denounced Verastegui. The vice-president of Tri Gay, Eduardo Velasquez, tore up a picture of the star.
Calling the action a “message of condemnation of his actions,” Velasquez said that the destruction of the picture was meant “as an act of rejection of all those who promote homophobia” according to Mexico’s El Universal newspaper.
Verastegui’s support of California’s Proposition 8, which would amend California’s constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman and overturn the judicial activist decision approving homosexual “marriage” in the state, is likely to have a serious impact on the voting in November. “Verastegui is very well known among Latinos for his role in ‘Bella’, and other telenovelas,” noted Maria Ramirez of Viva la Familia.
Verastegui is also participating in advertisements in favor of California’s Proposition 4, which would require parental consent for abortions for minors. Pro-lifers believe that they may narrowly win because of strong Hispanic support for the measure.
Tri Gay, which bills itself as “Mexico’s Gay Soccer Selection,” is composed of homosexual activists who seek to legitimize the homosexual lifestyle in Mexico. They participate in “gay” soccer tournaments including the “Gay-Lesbian World Cup,” and the “World Outgames” (scheduled for 2009 in Denmark).
Although it receives no government funding, Tri Gay was recently named “Embassadors Against Homophobia” by Mexico’s National Center for the Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS (CENSIDA).
There are moments in life that change everything. They are hinges, turning us toward perhaps toward joy, perhaps toward sorrow, but ensuring that nothing will ever be the same again. A rich new drama from producer Alejandro Monteverde, Bella, covers two such moments in the life of Jose (Eduardo Verastegui).
At the start of the film, Jose serves as a chef in his brother’s Mexican restaurant in New York. He hides behind a thick beard and mourns the sudden event that halted his life of promise as an international soccer star. There is hope in the ashes, however. Nina (Tammy Blanchard), a troubled waitress, provides Jose an opportunity for a new hinge, a new moment to set his life on a different track. The film follows Jose and Nina over a single weekend as they connect to each other and search for the best path for each of their lives. Neither can go back. The question is: How they will move forward?
Bella, a shoestring production that was quite literally filmed out of the trunk of Monteverde’s car, won the People’s Choice Award at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival, as well as a host of other awards. It’s not surprising. There’s a lot to love about the movie.
The story of Jose and Nina happens against a backdrop of Jose’s warm, middle-class, Latin immigrant family. Nina, a pregnant Caucasian woman alone in the world, crosses a metaphorical border into a world of salsa dancing, spicy food, and Spanish speakers. There is a warmth, intimacy, and humor in the family that transcends the culture barrier. They have the same magical qualities as a happy, connected family in Hoboken or Prague or New Delhi. Blanchard portrays Nina with a compelling mix of toughness, clarity, and vulnerability. To her, the love is as foreign as the language.
The best part of the movie, however, is Jose. Eduardo Verastegui, a Latin-American heartthrob often called the Brad Pitt of Mexico, deliberately chose the role because he was tired of playing banditos and Latin lovers. He wanted to play a hero; not a fantasy superhero, but a real man who cares for and sacrifices for those around him. Like the character he portrays, Verastegui displays his own heroism in opting for a movie with such noble ideals, even going so far as to ugly up his chiseled face, no easy task, to portray a man consumed by sorrow.
In spite his own tragedy, or perhaps because of it, Jose truly sees Nina when no one else does. He cares enough to notice the signs of her distress, and then chooses to involve himself in the troubles of a coworker he barely knows. It’s a big task, embodying a hero, and in the hands of a different actor and producer, it might have swung toward cheesy melodrama. The film, for the most part, resists the urge to oversell. Jose’s haunted heart, and his underlying decency, are entirely believable.
The pregnancy is an important factor in Nina’s crossroads. The film handles both Nina and the life inside her with honor, refusing to minimize the gravity of Nina’s fear or the value of the child. We watch Nina be torn by incompatible desires and fears, wavering between decisions she doesn’t want to make. She is alternately rational, irrational, resigned, and undecided. Jose stands beside her through the entire journey, affirming the life of both mother and child.
In the end, the choices that Nina and Jose make affect each other. Their moments of destiny merge, giving them both a chance to be redeemed. Bella is one of the best movies to come along in years. It offers hope that those pivotal moments, met with courage and compassion, can lead to the kind of joy that changes everything.
Here’s a teaser trailer for the short film that he acted in called The Butterfly Circus.
The Butterfly Circus is a short film created by Joshua and Rebekah Weigel in 2009. The production was completed in 12 days by a cast and crew of over 150 people, on locations in the Southern California regions of the San Gabriel Mountains, Riverside, Palmdale and Santa Clarita. The short garnered its first award as the Grand Prize winner of The Doopost Film Project, and then went on to win subsequent awards at festivals around the world. By July 2010, the film had already accumulated over 7 million collective online views primarily through posts on YouTube. It also featured Latino celebrity Eduardo Verástegui (Bella), Doug Jones who played the Fawn in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, the Silver Surfer in ‘Fantastic Four-Rise of the Silver Surfer’ and Abe Sapien in ‘Hellboy I & II’. Nick Vujicic, an international motivational and evangelistic speaker from Australia who was born without arms or legs, debuted in film and received the Best Actor award for his starring performance as Will at the 2010 Method Fest Independent Film Festival. Along with his many life experiences, Nick recounts working on the film in his book titled Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life (Random House, 2010). Director Joshua Weigel has stated that he will be working on writing a feature-length version of the script.
You can watch all of the short film version of The Butterfly Circus at this link.
Eduardo acted in the upcoming movie Cristiada which also stars Andy Garcia, Peter O’Toole, Bruce Greenwood, Nestor Carbonell, Bruce McGill, Catalina Sandino Moreno, and Eva Longoria.
You can watch the trailer at the official website.
CRISTIADA is a chronicle of the Cristeros War (1926-1929), which was touched off by a rebellion against the Mexican government’s attempt to secularize the country. The film follows the stories of ordinary people from across the country who chose to stand
Here are some youtube videos in which Eduardo speaks about saving a baby from abortion during his preparation for filming Bella:
Other youtube videos:
The following is a portion of the video “Dura Realidad” (Hard Truth), presented by Mexican actor Eduardo Verastegui in order to inform Hispanic voters about the issue of abortion and the position of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Sorry girls! I have not included any videos made for the sole purpose of ogling Eduardo’s physical appearance. You’ll find plenty of them on Youtube. Also: there are loads of Spanish-language videos that I have not included.
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