From writing partners Ernesto and Marta Daranas and directed by the former, Sergio & Sergei is one of the most unusual, intriguing comedies to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival this year.
A Cuban film starring Tomás Cao, Héctor Noas and Ron Perlman—the only American actor on the production—Sergio & Sergei tells the story of the unusual friendship formed between a Cuban philosophy professor and a Russian cosmonaut who finds himself trapped in space following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“It’s based on an actual story that took place in 1991, where there’s a Russian cosmonaut that’s been sent up to the Mir Space Station for a three month period, and he’s now in his fifth or sixth month and he doesn’t know what the hell’s going on. He finds this ham radio aficionado who happens to be a professor of philosophy in Cuba—in Havana—and he goes, ‘Don’t you know what happened man? The wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed.’ And they sort of deduced that there’s nobody to get him down,” Perlman explains. “The country that sent him up there is disintegrated, and the new federation—the Russian Federation—is busted, they’ve got no money, so they couldn’t get him down if they wanted to. The Cuban guy gets in touch with this American journalist, who’s the reason why he has this ham radio outfit to begin with, and he says, ‘Man, what can we do?’ The American journalist is being followed by the CIA because he’s been doing all these exposés on the corruption in the Nixon administration, particularly in space—in NASA.”
“So he takes his own enemy and makes him a friend, and says, ‘We’ve got this situation. We can look like heroes,’” the actor continues. “And sure enough, NASA brings down this Russian cosmonaut.”
An executive producer on the project, Perlman’s character lived in New York, communicating with the other characters in the film through ham radio alone. But for the actor, taking on the project came with a desire to get the full Cuban experience. While all of Perlman’s scenes are New York interiors, New York was recreated on a Cuban interior set.
“They built a little loft apartment for Peter—supposedly, he’s in SoHo—and they put a backdrop on there with a New York street on it. They originally wanted me to scout locations somewhere in the states, and I said, ‘Well, I don’t think it’s necessary,’” Perlman recalls. “Sure enough, what they ended up doing was rather effective. And my ulterior motive was, ‘Why would I want to shoot a Cuban film in LA or New York? Let me come down there and shoot it.’”

To view Deadline’s TIFF conversation with Sergio & Sergei star Ron Perlman for yourself, click above.

Deadline Studio at TIFF 2017 is presented by Calii LoveWatford GroupPhilosophy Canada, and Equinox. Special thanks to Dan Gunam at Calii Love for location and production assistance; and Ontario Camera for equipment assistance. Video producer: Meaghan Gable; lighting and camera: Neil Hansen; design: Dialla Kawar; sound recording: Ida Jokinen.