Even though he has retired from movies and the entertainment industry, Mexico’s biggest movie star Jorge Rivero says he still keeps an eye on Hollywood from his home nestled up above the city in Hollywood Hills. The 75-year-old actor starred in some 150 movies from the 1960’s to 1990’s. He starred in films featuring John Wayne and Charlton Heston in Hollywood. In Europe, he was directed by legendary writer/ producer/director Lucio Fulci, where he admitted he enjoyed it more there than in he USA.
Rivero, a handsome and muscular Mexican leading man ironically, in his first film he played a masked wrestler and his face was never shown. He became a sex symbol and a major box-office star. Later, he was called by Hollywood to star with John Wayne in Howard Hawks’s Rio Lobo (1970). Since the 1980s he has worked only occasionally in Mexican films and soap operas — he has resided Southern California for more than three decades — and appears in international productions, sometimes billed as “George Rivero.”
During the 1970’s, way before Antonio Banderas’, Gael García Bernal and others defined Latino actors, Rivero was a film hit during the days when Mexico was putting out 200 films a year. In Europe, his powerful, buff physique at six feet high attracted leading ladies all over the world like Spanish sex symbols Sandra Mozarowsky and Ana Obregon. The film superstar also worked with superstars like Miss Europe’s Pia Giancaro and Daniel Giordano during the height of his career in the 70’s. This Examiner met up with him at his Hollywood Hills home, where he resides with his wife, Betty for a look back at an amazing movie career.
Jorge, what are you doing these days and are you still acting in Hollywood?
“I kind of retired in a way and having a good time in retirement,” he said. “I have a very good life, I have a hell of a home. I travel when I can. I still have family in Mexico, where I go visit them and I travel around the world.” How did you get interested in the movie business? “I watch a lot of movies and always wanted to be an actor myself. So while I was attending the University of Mexico I asked around how to become an actor. A friend at the university told me he knew someone who represented actors and took me there. At that time, they were going to do a movie with Santo”, a wrestler guy with a mask. He was like Batman and Robin. So I was played Robin, of course, while Santo” played Batman with his mask, cape, and the whole outfit. That movie really put me on the map,” said Rivero.
What movie among your 150 films would you do again if you could go back to the future? “I would do them all and this why. It’s because each time I read the script. When I read the script then I decide to do the movie or not do the movie. It didn’t matter if the movie was good or bad. What mattered was good editing, good music, a good director, good actors and many other considerations. I liked them all,” explained Rivero.
How has Hollywood filmmaking changed? And what is it missing? “I will tell you what’s missing. Everything, because it is all done with computers right now. I saw the Three Musketeers and now they fly. This was the 15th Century, they were fighting with swords and they were flying. I don’t like computers so much or animation,” he explained. “It was different and were talking about different times. It was very nice when I made movies with John Wayne here in Hollywood. I also made a movie with Charlton Heston and other great guys here. It was different and there were no computers. In Italy, they shot movies between the way we did it in Mexico and the way we did it in Europe. So Italian movies in a Mexican style. I had to learn the Italian language and speak Italian, which was very easy for me because it’s very similar to Spanish so I picked it up very fast,” Rivero said.
Who was your favorite actor or actress to work with in a movie? “They were all good because everyone did their best on camera,” he said. How did you get interested in the movie business? “I watch a lot of movies and always wanted to be an actor myself. While I was attending the University of Mexico I ask around how to become an actor. So a friend at the university told me he knew someone who represented actors and took me there. At that time they were going to do a movie with ‘Santo”, a wrestler guy with a mask. He was like Batman and Robin. So I was play Robin of course, while ‘Santo” played Batman with his mask, cape and the whole outfit. That movie really put me on the map,” he said.
Who was your biggest inspiration in Hollywood? “I admired Richard Montalban, because he was the big actor of my past generation before me. Ricardo Montalbán, who was a Mexican actor, inspired me to get into acting and Hollywood. His career spanned seven decades, during which he became known for many different roles.” During the 1970s, he was a spokesman in automobile advertisements for Chrysler, including those in which he extolled the “soft Corinthian leather” used for the Cordoba’s interior,” Rivero said.
Montalbán played Mr. Roarke in the television series Fantasy Island. He played Khan Noonien Singh in the original Star Trekseries (in the 1967 episode “Space Seed”) and the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He won an Emmy Award in 1978 for his role in the miniseries How the West Was Won and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 1993.
Who was your mentor? What advice would you have for budding actors? “Jose Rosec, who was a great actor and was in American movies, too. He didn’t have very big parts, but I like him. I worked with him in my first western and he gave me great advice, said Rivero. “What happens today is a totally a different ball game. Now, everything is computerized. For example, they tell you, ‘you see those lines? Stand over there’ and the guy behind the camera, he’s reading the lines. When I went for a reading before computers arrived, there was a director, assistant director, a producer and an actor, who gave you the lines back. It was a big difference. You also had a small chat with the producer, who was ask, ‘where you from, and so and so on? And then the producer would say let’s do the scene.’ It’s A totally different ball. Now, the guy behind the camera would tell you to , ‘stand over there’, you probably have to cry, the camera guy looking behind the lens and looking down reading the lines, how can he do it? It’s not the same. I miss those days because it was personal. Now, it’s all impersonal, said Rivero.
What legacy or what would you like your fans to have or remember you in movies?“I was a very positive actors,” he said. “My fans have always been very nice to me, it doesn’t matter what the movie was. I have a good state of mind, always positive. My fans love that.
What’s your favorite motto you live by? “Be a good bull fighter in your life,” Rivero said. “Don’t confront people, let it go. Don’t fight and walk away. It always worked for me. My father used to say, “In life you have to be a good bull fighter. If you are bull fighter use common sense, step aside and let the bull go by you not through you. You don’t stand in front of the bull or he will shut you down.” Confrontations don’t take you anywhere.”