Eugenio Derbez is a massively successful Mexican writer, director and actor — just ask his 8.4 million Twitter followers — but if he had it his way he’d only be an actor. Luckily that’s what he gets to do in “Miracles from Heaven,” playing an in-demand pediatric specialist with a penchant for clowning around. He winds up tending towards a young girl (Kylie Rogers) who has a rare, incurable abdominal problem, at the behest of her harried mom (Jennifer Garner).
How were you first approached about this project?
It was through Patricia Riggen, the director, because we’d worked together. This is my third movie working with Patricia, and when she called me for this project she said, “You can’t say no to this project. This is about a doctor who happens to be about your age, he is Mexican and he treats his patients with a lot of comedy.”
Did you get much time with your real life counterpart?
Yeah. I mean, not enough probably as I would’ve liked. He was in Boston working. I did all my research through the Internet, and then we talked a lot through Skype about how he works with the kids, how he treated them and why he used all this comedy to get to them. He was telling me that usually when the kids arrive at the hospital, it’s because they’ve been through a lot of pain and bad experiences already, so they are completely closed to any relationship with any doctor. So he started creating this technique to entertain kids before treating them so they would be more open to treatment.
Did you bring any of your own personal comic style to it?
Of course. Actually, here everyone is scared about lawsuits or whatever, but I have a collection of the most funny ties you can imagine. Like, tons of them. So I brought Patricia all these funny and unique ties, and she went, “But we don’t have the rights for all of them.” And I said, “But look at them! I bought them in Mexico, nobody’s going to sue you!” So we just used the Elmo tie, but it was enough.
Has being a director yourself, including on the hit “Instructions Not Included,” changed how you approach working as an actor?
It’s absolutely different. I’ve been directing myself my entire career, and when I come and work with another director I enjoy it very much. When I’m involved in every aspect, I’m always suffering. Every time I see my shows, I can see my eyes. I can see that I’m not acting — I’m directing. I’m more worried about the camera of the other actors than my delivery. So when I have the opportunity to work with people like Patricia, I completely relax. I’m very easygoing, I’m not one of those guys who are giving directions to the director.
How are things different for you here in the U.S. after the success of “Instructions not Included”?
Well, my life changed completely. A lot of doors opened here, and now I have a lot of offers to make movies. I signed a deal with Lionsgate, so we’re developing five movies in a row. And then I signed a deal with NBC Universal Television to develop a series. If you find the correct movie or TV series, the Latin audience will show up. There have been a lot mistakes when they’ve tried to reach that audience. They think that with just some immigrant or narcos themes, you can bring them to the movies, but it’s harder than that. You have to know the audience very well.