Stuntman Turned Writer-Director Brings Latino Superhero to the Big Screen

Stunt coordinator turned screenwriter/director Ben Bray knows one thing for sure: Latinos need a superhero. Bray, known for such hits as “The Grey,” is bringing his version to the big screen in his newest flick, “El Chicano.” Bray knows a few things about superheroes. He’s directed episodes of “Supergirl” and “Arrow.” And it looks like there might be an audience for a Latino superhero. In 2017, Motion Picture Association of America released its annual Theatrical Market Statistics Report that said Latinos purchase the most theater tickets than any other minority. And yet, there has not been a Latino breakout superhero.

“El Chicano” tells the story of fraternal twins Diego and Pedro who survived the streets of East LA. As young boys, they witnessed the murder of a gang kingpin by a motorcycle riding El Chicano. As an adult, Diego is now an LAPD detective and new gang murders are now popping up with El Chicano’s MO. It’s up to him to unravel the mystery of El Chicano.

Inspired by the streets

Bray was inspired by his own upbringing of being raised in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley. Twelve years ago, he lost his youngest brother, Craig, to gang violence. As the oldest of six, Ben Bray took Craig’s death hard.

“I think what was really painful was watching my mother have to bury her son,” he said. Following Craig’s death, Bray thought he’d write a memoir. As he was writing, the idea started to morph from being a memoir into something else. “The superhero was created as a metaphor about not having a father,” Bray explained. “… I thought what would have happened if dad would have been more present in our lives?”

Through it all, Bray said, he was talking about “El Chicano” with longtime friend Joe Carnahan, who co-wrote and directed “The Grey.”

Writing to Heal

Then tragedy struck again for Bray as he and his wife lost a daughter in utero. Carnahan encouraged Bray to write as a way to heal. Bray took that advice, and later he partnered with Carnahan as a co-writer to help finish the script. Once they were ready for casting, Bray liked the look of Raúl Castillo, who plays Diego and Pedro, because he reminded him of a kid who grew up in the neighborhood. Comedian and actor George Lopez, cast as an LAPD veteran detective, also was an easy person to cast as Brays said Lopez was raised on similar streets that were portrayed in the movie.

Bringing people together

For Bray, he hopes that not only will Latino audience see a similar face on the screen, but that anyone, regardless of color, will be able to connect. “This has a universal message. It’s about family, it’s about culture – which can be adapted to any culture – it’s about remorse,” he said.

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