Director Luis Ortega received a very warm welcome at the Cannes premiere of his film El Angelwith Pedro Almodovar taking the stage to express his support, followed by raucous applause from the audience after the screening. Recalling this experience in a Cannes interview with Deadline, Ortega said, “When I presented, I never even dreamed of a situation like that. I come from making films that are like $10,000, and mostly working with people from the street – non-actors. So this is a big change for me and it was really surprising.”

In the film Ortega explores the fictionalized early life of one of his native Argentina’s most notorious criminals, Carlitos Robledo Puch – a role he boldly gave to first-time actor Lorenzo Ferro.

Puch was notorious both for being a murderous psychopath and for his angelic looks, and having chosen Ferro from “1000 kids,” Ortego set about training him for the part. “The most intense part of the process was six months before shooting,” Ortega said. “We worked every day with him. He would come to my house and we would dance. We started dancing every day. Every morning, just me and him dancing in my living room. I know he was feeling awkward because he was just a kid, and I would make him dance and move like a girl, and just be confident; just feel like a movie star.”

When deciding how close to stick to the real-life story of Puch, Ortega said some things were simply too horrific to include. “I heard he had shot a crib,” he said. “When he went to steal something, there was a baby crying, and he shot the crib and it hit the bar. It didn’t hit the baby. I was freaked out by that. I thought that was a scene from the bible or something, shooting a baby. That was a very important scene for me. I shot the scene and I took it out.”

Ortega has also explored various ways of presenting the subject before settling on the final concept. “One of my best friends went and met him 10 years ago,” he said, “and wrote a book about his interviews with him. Everybody was really shocked in the ’70s, because criminals were supposed to be ugly. This really beautiful kid came out, that he would kill people when they were sleeping. That was pretty attractive to me. At first, I wanted to film what the people were dreaming when they were being killed and how they would go to death without knowing it. How would a dream morph into dying? But it was too complicated and we didn’t.”

As for whether Puch will watch Ortega’s film from his prison cell, Ortega wasn’t sure. “I wrote him a couple of times,” he said. “He didn’t answer back. He sold my letters to the press. He’s a traitor, that’s his story. I should have known that.”

To see more from El Angel director Luis Ortega, click above.