- Category: Interviews
- Created: Friday, 26 August 2016 13:23
- Published: Friday, 26 August 2016 13:23
- Written by Lupe Rodriguez Haas
Edgar Ramirez portrays legendary boxer Roberto “Manos de Piedra” Duran in HANDS OF STONE, a biopic about his life as a boxer and his relationship with his trainer Ray Arcel played by Robert DeNiro. For Ramirez, it wasn’t just about learning how to throw jabs and dancing around the ring. Here are other valuable lessons Ramirez took away from the charismatic fighter.
When CineMovie recently sat down with Edgar Ramirez and the man he portrays, the two displayed a genuine love and respect for each other. It’s obvious from the interview that Ramirez holds the fighter in high-esteem and respect and vice versa.
1. Nurture vs Nature
Edgar Ramirez moved to Panama to train first off with Roberto Duran’s sons in the same boxing gym where Duran trained. However, Ramirez had to pass Duran’s test first.
“When someone is born. They know everything,” says Duran. “There’s nothing to show them. They learn quickly. Edgar knew how to dance and sing so I didn’t have to show him anything."
2. Suffering For His Art
An actor of Edgar Ramirez’s calibur could’ve easily chosen to train with top notch trainers in an air-conditioned gym, but Ramirez went method.
Ramirez trained with Duran’s people in a gym that was as hot as a sauna. The roofing material is purposely made out of material that would keep the training area hot. He braved the heat to encompass Duran’s experience and mental state.
“For me to understand the mentality of a boxer, I had to pass through the experience of the world of boxing,” states Ramirez. “You can imagine or imitate that let alone playing a legend like Roberto. I couldn't attempt the choreography based on his fights if I hadn’t first pass through the process of learning how to box. ”
3. Mind Over Brawn
Edgar Ramirez learned that boxing Duran style was not just about the physicality of the role, but psychological. Duran’s says his strategy was to ruin his opponent’s focus.
“I enjoy boxing. I would go in with a much stronger fighter but they would fall into my trap and lose their minds because they’d want to kill me.”
While Duran didn’t physically train Ramirez, he schooled him in the art of mental warfare.
“It’s very interesting to see how he handled the strategy and tactics. The pre-fight is just as important as the fight,” says Ramirez. “It’s a mental sport primarily. That’s what he’ll tell you. ‘If you train right, your mental state is ahead of your physical state.’ While the body seems to be the most important, it’s the mind you train more. He’s the king of psychological wars. That’s so interesting. He’s a very intelligent person.”
Roberto Duran was not only known as “Manos de Piedra” but many called him a beast in the ring for his furious blows. What Ramirez found was a very intelligent, passionate and gentle man.
Although Ramirez spent a lot of time with Roberto Duran and his family in Panama, Duran didn't set foot on set during production. His son Roberto was a producer on HANDS OF STONE and he trusted director/writer Jonathan Jakubowicz and Edgar.
“That speaks to Roberto’s sensibility and intelligence because he knows his presence is so fierce he would make not only me nervous but everyone on the set.”
Duran jokingly says he would've sent Edgar back to Venezuela if he didn't like something.
Ramirez also found the softer side of Duran which is a contradiction for a boxer considered one of the best fighters of all time.
“You watch Roberto in the ring and he’s able to transmit a fury and force that contradicts with his personal nature as a compassionate and tender man in other aspects of his life,” Ramirez proclaims. “He’s a family man. He’s been with Felicidad for over 40 years. She’s his rock and cohort. Those are not things you see when you see him fighting.”
In HANDS OF STONE, Duran is portrayed as living a lavish lifestyle when he rose to fame, but the man who came from extreme poverty and hunger says he didn’t let it affect him. He gives back to his community in Panama, and still resides in the Latin American country.
“I’m a happy man. I’m happy with life,” Duran emphasizes. “Fame hasn’t gone to my head. Whoever wants to be famous, be famous. For those who have money, may God bless them. But I don’t care for all that.”
Ramirez cosigns on Duran’s words since he got to see it for himself.
“The beauty that I learned from this experience and him, and I say that based on what he just said… is one of the best lectures I took away from him,” says the actor as he looks lovingly towards the man he portrays. “This movie is much more than just a film. It’s been a transformative experience in every aspect. However far you get in life, you are nowhere unless you don’t acknowledge where you come from is what I’ve learned from this man (he pats him on the back).”
The Venezuelan actor says the experience was very transformative emotionally and physically. Boxing is now a hobby and he continues training. Once you train as a fighter, you can’t go back to normal living.
Making HANDS OF STONE also changed Edgar Ramirez’s perception of the sports world specifically boxing and popular culture. Duran, according to Ramirez had an air of mystery to his personality. No one puts on a show quite like he did.
“It was an era of the sport that doesn’t exist anymore. That’s the beauty of the film, that we could capture the magic and mystery of an era that doesn’t exist anymore. We live in a time where there is less mystery and there’s less fascination. There’s less respect for the mysterious. In reality, the mysterious is what defines everything… in the arts, music, boxing….
Edgar Ramirez brings Roberto Duran's huge personality to HANDS OF STONE, now playing in movie theaters.