Local kid hits Hollywood
By G. Romero Wendorf
Okay, I’ll admit it -- after my interview with movie-star-in-the-making Oscar Gutierrez a few weeks back while he was in town visiting family, I had ulterior motives asking him if we could take a picture together. My hope was, some Hollywood producer would see my mug, and think, hey, this guy Wendorf would be perfect playing the bad guy in my next movie. Broken nose, scar on his right cheek, shady looking character. Perfect to play the part of a mob hit guy.
But here it is, more than a week since Oscar posted our picture together on his Facebook page, and still no casting calls. One out-of-town detective called asking me for my whereabouts about a month ago, but aside from that, nothing.
Seriously, it’s fun to run into an honest-to-goodness Hollywood actor, Oscar Gutierrez, 19, who’s just made a big-screen movie, “Spare Parts,” with the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, George Lopez (former star of his own ABC sitcom, comedian and TV talk show host), and the multi-talented A-list actress Marisa Tomei, who, by the way, made a movie (Anger Management, 2003) with one of my all-time favorite actors, Jack Nicholson.
A San Juan kid in the company of such stars.
To his credit, Jack Nicholson has 12 Academy Award nominations (the most nominated male actor in history), along with three Oscars (two for best actor; one for best-supporting actor)
Tomei, by the way, has three Academy Award nominations under her belt.
And Jamie Lee Curtis? What’s there to say? Besides her acting talent, her dad is the legendary Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot); her mom, Janet Leigh (perhaps most famous for her shower scene in Psycho).
In fact, while interviewing Oscar Gutierrez in San Juan (at Irene’s Restaurant) late last month, I mentioned Jack Nicholson to him.
“Listen, the guy you just have to meet out in Hollywood,” I said, “is Jack Nicholson. A living legend at 78. Not to mention still a smoker of Marlboro cigarettes (too old to quit) and a die-hard Lakers fan. And he still chases after beautiful women. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, perhaps one of the finestmovies of all time, was perhaps Jack’s finesthour. And the scene in The Shining: “Here’s Johnny,” who can forget that?
Oscar and I are talking Hollywood actors, eating some of Irene’s classic breakfast tacos, while we discuss his movie, Spare Parts (2015).
“Man, these are good,” he says, digging into one of Irene’s tacos. And then he talks Hollywood.
“When I firstmet Jamie Lee,” he says, “she walks up to me and puts the palm of her hand on my cheek and starts rubbing it, and I’m thinking, what is she doing? And she finallysays to me, ‘You have the same skin Jack (Nicholson) had when he was young.’ And I thought, whoa.”
So I look at it this way, Jack Nicholson has rubbed shoulders with Jamie Lee, and Jamie Lee has rubbed Oscar’s cheek, and I’ve shaken hands with Oscar, so now Jack and I have a solid connection, you could say. Call me, Jack, and I can act. I act like a newspaper guy who knows what I’m doing. I can play any part. Just pick up the phone. Please.
But back to Oscar Gutierrez: How did a kid from San Juan (graduated from San Juan Middle School in 2009) end up in a major motion picture? And it wasn’t a small part. The movie is 115 minutes long, and Oscar was in the movie for pretty much the entire time.
Turns out, he had just graduated high school from a military academy in Missouri in 2013 and was back home in San Juan when a home-grown PSJA casting director, LA-based J. C. Cantu, came to town looking for an actor to play a part in an upcoming movie, “Spare Parts.” He hadn’t had any luck looking for just the right guy to play this particular part in either California or New Mexico, so he figured,why not check out the local talent back home in PSJA? Oscar went to an open casting call at PSJA High, and three weeks later, he got the call.
“It was a pretty amazing feeling to know I got the job,” he said. No doubt, considering that approximately 3,000 kids Oscar’s age auditioned for the part.
And yet, he didn’t have any previous acting experience, aside from a little bit of high school drama.
“I was really a sports guy in high school,” he said.
So, he’s what? A natural actor?
Still humble, Oscar said, “I hate to say it like that. It sounds too conceited, like I’m too full of myself.”
But humble he is. You can tell that after talking to the kid for only a few minutes. And this may sound like a cliché, but for only being 19, he comes across as far wiser than his years. He’s a reader, so maybe that explains it.
“I love to read about anything,” he said. “I’ve always loved to learn about things. I’ve been a learner all my life. My mom was the one who sort of drilled that into me.”
Which is a benefitnow because when he’s back in the Valley (he currently lives in LA with his mom, Cynthia Gutierrez, who also serves as his personal manager), he devotes at least part of his time visiting local schools, trying to motivate kids into pursuing their dreams and following a life devoted to success.
“Sure, not every kid is going to get the sort of break I got,” he said, “but no matter what you do in life, you can be a success. Every kid needs to hear that message. And I consider it a privilege to do my part in helping pass it on to them.”
This past January, the Cinemark theater at the Town Center in Pharr was part of the nationwide premier for “Spare Parts.” Oscar, his mom, his dad, Oscar Gutierrez Sr., family and friends were all there, sharing in the success of a local kid made good.
“My parents and family,” he said, “I owe a lot to them for making me what I am. Their love and support over the years, it’s made me who I am today.”
If you haven’t seen the movie “Spare Parts,” it’s based on a real story, and it got some good reviews. A group of immigrant kids enter a robot competition. With little to no money, they scour together spare parts and fashion an underwater robot, which eventually wins firstplace, beating out competitors with deeper pockets.
As far as his future is concerned, Oscar Gutierrez currently has a movie ready to hit the Silver Screen hopefully by this September. The movie’s name: The Devil’s Warehouse. And, too, he’s got a TV pilot in the works with George Lopez.
“We can’t say for sure yet,” he said, “but it looks real promising that CBS is going to pick it up. If that happens, it should be on TV by this fall or early next year.”
And, too, he’s in the middle of doing many other multiple auditions for a variety of projects.
He’s headed back to LA later this year, but he said he still loves to come back to the Valley.
“This is my home,” he said. “And it will always be my home. And it serves as a mini-vacation to help me get away. It helps me unwind. It will always remind me of who I am. A simple kid from San Juan who got really, really lucky.”
With a lot of natural acting talent thrown in, by the looks of it.
“The local community has been very supportive of both the movie and my accomplishments,” he said. “And for that, I can’t thank them enough.”