We sat down with three of the stars of The Book of Life, Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna and Ice Cube. And since Ice Cube utters a line from one of his most famous songs, It Was a Good Day, we wondered right off the bat if directors and producers (like The Book of Life’s Guillermo del Toro) are always trying to get him to say that in his movies. After all, check out those Ride Along quotes and you might just hear him utter it there!
“It’s like every movie I do, I’ve got to make sure I’ve got all my rap lines because they’ll want one of them. I’ve said everything in a movie that I’ve said on a record it seems like,” Ice Cube admitted. “It’s something that directors get a kick out of and I have no problem with it. It they want a little Ice Cube flavor, that’s what I’m here for.”
Ice Cube plays the Candlemaker and the hip hop/movie star seems to think the casting is right on. “He’s a god,” he said and laughed.
Details, Ice Cube, details… “He’s over the Cave of Souls and he’s there making sure that all the souls that are remembered stay lit and keep burning -- that their flame keeps roaring,” he reported.
“I just wanted him to be fun; somebody you wanted to roll with and who you wanted to guide you through the rest of the story. I really wanted him to be interesting, dynamic, an all over the place kind of character. I had a ball doing it. Like I said, I’m available for Part 2.”
Saldana was drawn to the tale (teased in The Book of Life trailer) about a trio of friends, played by Saldana, Luna and Channing Tatum, who grow up in Mexico and find that their friendship is tested when the two boys fall for Saldana’s girl.
The Guardians of the Galaxy actress was drawn to the universal themes of the film, told through the lens of a Mexican folk story. “You deal with friendship. We deal with people trying to find their place without losing the respect of their peers,” Saldana said.
She was more than thrilled that U.S. audiences, in particular, are getting a story from the point of view of our neighbor to the south.
“You are dealing with the beauty of a culture that, even though we’ve been neighbors since the beginning of America and living with, there is so little that we know. The Mexican culture is so beautiful. There are 250 different indigenous dialects in Mexico; the fact that they celebrate their family should be nothing but an inspiration to all of us as a universal culture to bring levity to life and immortalize our loved ones who have died.”
The Day of the Dead-centric tale also shows the world Mexico’s unique way of celebrating those who have come before us. “What if eternity is that… keeping alive the memory of a loved one? It’s also an educational tool. It will give parents the ability to have that tough conversation with their kids and their younger ones, even though they understand more than we want them to,” Saldana said.
“So, by bringing this animated film about death, that brings so much peace and purity and color, you get to choose a way to cope with it in a way that doesn’t have to be heavy or burdened by it. Everything about this movie is positive and so enlightening for me.”
Luna was ready to have a tale rich in his cultural background go out to the world. There was just that one thing that he had to get over -- singing! “I felt very anxious for like two months. As an actor, we all tend to do this, ‘Of course I can do it!’ With a little bit of training, I’ll get there. But then Gustavo (the film’s composer) showed me the actual songs and they sounded very difficult!” Luna admitted.
But a little bit of paternal pride got him in the mood and he hit it out of the park. “I thought about having to tell my kids that Manolo’s voice wasn’t my voice and that kept me going.”
For Saldana, she was ready after having shot the biopic of a legendary musical icon. “I sang when I shot Nina (the story of singer Nina Simone) and I worked vigorously with an amazing voice coach so by the time I started doing the sessions I just sort of remembered all those things,” she said.
"It’s amazing what you discover you’re able to do once you really put your body and soul into a skill and you try nothing but to master it. You discover a lot about yourself. I realized that I’m not as bad or as tone deaf as I thought I was.”