EXCLUSIVE: Gael García Bernal will don the mask and the tights of Cassandro, an independent feature from Oscar winning and two-time Emmy nominee filmmaker Roger Ross Williams.
Cassandro tells the true story of Saúl Armendáriz, a gay amateur wrestler from El Paso who rises to international stardom after he creates the “exotico” character Cassandro, the “Liberace of Lucha Libre,” and in the process upends not just the macho wrestling world but also his own life.
Armendáriz at the age of 15 quit school and began training for Lucha Libre, beginning his professional wrestling career in 1988 under the mask as Mister Romano. Ultimately he would abandon the character and take on the exotico character of Baby Sharon. Exoticos are male wrestlers who dress in drag.
Ultimately, Armendáriz would take the new ring name of Cassandro, from a Tijuana brothel keeper Cassandra whom he appreciated. In January 1991, after bad press that he was going to wrestle El Hijo del Santo in the UWA World Welterweight Championship, Armendáriz reportedly attempted suicide by cutting his wrists with a razor blade, but was saved. The title match occurred a week later and Armendáriz credits it as the match that earned him the lucha libre community’s acceptance. While Cassandro failed to win the UWA World Welterweight Championship from El Hijo del Santo, he managed to win his first title, the UWA World Lightweight Championship in October, 1992, by defeating Lasser, becoming the first exótico in history to hold a championship in UWA
Bernal, who Deadline’s Justin Kroll recently first reported is set to star in M. Night Shyamalan’s new secret movie from Universal, will shoot that movie first before stepping into the ring for Cassandro which is eyeing a November start in Mexico.
Cassandro will rep the feature narrative directorial debut for Williams, who took home the Oscar for his short docu Music by Prudence in 2010, and recently was nominated at the Emmys a second time, this time in Outstanding Documentary/Nonfiction Special category for the HBO docu The Apollo. That movie, which made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, follows the historic and famed Harlem NYC venue and its legacy.
“As a filmmaker, my own life experience has inspired my passion to tell inspirational stories about outsiders and uplift the voices of people we don’t normally see on screen. The true story of Cassandro, Saúl Armendáriz, was one I knew I wanted to tell from the moment I met him. I look forward to being able to bring Saúl’s story to a wide audience,” said Williams.
Williams wrote Cassandro with Emmy-winner David Teague (Cutie and the Boxer, Life, Animated) and Julián Herbert (Satelite). Motto Pictures’ Julie Goldman (One Child Nation, Life, Animated), Escape Artists’ Todd Black (Troop Zero, The Upside), and Ted Hope will produce. Williams’ recent work includes the Emmy-nominated VR Experience Traveling While Black and the Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning Life, Animated as well as Netflix’s The Innocence Files.
Bernal is a two-time Golden Globe nominee and winner for the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle. He’s part of a SAG ensemble nominee for Paramount’s Babel, and a BAFTA nominee for Focus Features’ 2004 The Motorcycle Diaries.
We hear that the filmmakers are in talks with Amazon to acquire Cassandro once complete, but that deal is contingent on several factors before it’s a negative pick-up. Amazon did not provide any comments for this story.
Williams and Bernal are both repped by WME. Williams is also repped by Granderson Des Rochers, and Bernal by Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush, Kaller & Gellman.
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