Showbiz Scoop: Latinos Cheer Oscar Noms

In a 1999 interview with Mr. Showbiz, Mexican-born actress Hayek referred to the so-called Latino explosion as "BS." She added, "Hey, I'm doing great, but I can't sit here and say, 'Yeah, we're doing great! Latino power!' That's not true. It's two of us. If I don't do it, if Jennifer [Lopez] doesn't do it, the movie doesn't get done." (Coincidentally, Hayek and Lopez are now developing rival films about Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.)

Rosie Perez, a 1993 Best Supporting Actress nominee, told Bigstar.com last year, "There's no explosion, I'm sorry. Four or five top box-office people do not make an explosion, and it's disgusting to me that people are perceiving it that way, you know? It's really sad."

Actress Elpidia Carrillo, whose credits include Bread and Roses, which just played at Cannes, and 1982's The Border, told Mr. Showbiz last year, "There is a certain fashion for Latinos as actors and performers. But if Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close, and Meryl Streep can play Latinos [in the 1993 film The House of Spirits], why can't we play Jews or blacks? It's always the same Latino characters: the prostitute, the drug dealer."

Academy Nom Doesn't Always Equal Respect When Rita Moreno became the first — and still the only — Latina actress to win an Oscar for 1961's West Side Story, her prospects should have brightened in Hollywood, but the actress says she kept being offered nothing but stereotypical roles. In the 1990 book Hispanic Hollywood, Moreno is quoted as saying, "I was offered them all — gypsy fortune-tellers, Mexican spitfires, Spanish spitfires, Puerto Ricans — all those 'Yonkee peeg, you steal me people's money' parts." She turned them down and turned to other avenues, including TV's The Electric Company and The Rockford Files, and Broadway. One of the only performers to ever win an Oscar, a Tony, a Grammy, and an Emmy, Moreno is now a regular on HBO's Oz.

Oscar Nominations Mean Progress Do this year's Oscar nominations change anything for the Latino community? "Well," says Pozo, "I don't think it's a dramatic change. The amount of Latinos in the business is very, very low. [But] this is a step forward. That's what the Academy, all these nominations, is reflecting."

Pozo, whose company is currently working on the campaign for DreamWorks' The Mexican and Universal's The Mummy Returns, adds, "Mainstream America is realizing that this is becoming a bicultural and bilingual country and that it is accepted to speak Spanish. About 15 years ago, when I was marketing Born in East L.A., speaking Spanish was not that cool. Now even Latinos that have forgotten how to speak Spanish are learning again."

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