Diego Luna's Abel addresses issues surrounding absent mother during childhood - interview

  • The List
  • 12 January 2011
Diego Luna's Abel addresses issues surrounding absent mother during childhood - interview

30-year-old actor from Y Tu Mama Tambien tunrns director for debut feature

Mexican star and heartthrob Diego Luna has written and directed his first fictional feature. He talks candidly about family and loss to Kaleem Aftab

Having made the jump behind the camera, Diego Luna is in apologetic mood: ‘Making Abel I learned a lot about directors and I think I respect them much more now and so I want to apologise to them all.’

He does not go into any detail about which of the many directors he has performed for – including luminaries Julian Schnabel, Harmony Korine and Julie Taymor – he has to really say sorry to. However, the 30-year-old does reference the director that he is most associated with, Y Tu Mama Tambien helmsman Alfonso Cuaron: ‘As Alfonso says, directing is a very lonely process. It’s a long journey involving a lot of hellos and goodbyes and at the end it’s a journey you go alone as you are the only one there, and either you know why you are doing it, or you will be miserable.’

The Mexican-born star knows why he wanted to direct Abel. ‘The film in a way is a way to celebrate my father and how he brought me up.’

That seems like such an odd statement because Abel is the story of a boy who lives with his mother in a small town while his father is forced to go and find work in the big city and is noticeably absent. Luna’s mother died when he was just two and he has no memory of her. He explains, ‘My father had to play the role of both parents in my life. He had to run the house by himself and in the film I talk about that, and in a way the mother represents my father in so many ways.’

It was dad that brought him up, and he says he put the emotions he felt growing up into the film. ‘As a child I wanted to be adult. I started to work when I was six. It was all about being close to dad, to belong to his world and so for me it was much more interesting to go to the theatre and see the fantasies that they were creating. School was boring as I had to be next to kids my age.’

He adds, ‘Not having a mother set my mind in a particular direction. I like being on my own and I have a feeling that I became an actor and now a director because of the amount of time I spent fantasising about what it was like having a mother.’

The Mexican now has two young children and becoming a father has changed his attitude to life. ‘I have a feeling that we are pushing kids to be adults before they should. They have to deal with issues like death, violence, war, economic crisis and divorce. Today, as a father, I want to design the reality that they live in and I want them to be kids as long as they want.’

This concern translated to the filming of Abel and the treatment of Christopher Ruíz-Esparza, who plays the eponymous lead. ‘I think I ruined the career of that kid because if he wants to act in another film he will not find anything else so built around him.’

Abel is on selected release from Fri 7 Jan.


  • 3 stars
  • 2010
  • Mexico
  • 1h 22min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Diego Luna
  • Cast: Christopher Ruiz-Esparza, Karina Gidi, Geraldine Alejandra

The bizarre, but poignant story of a young boy with unexplained psychological problems, returning from hospital to his small Mexican hometown. After a period of silence, he suddenly begins to speak and is encouraged to proclaim himself head of the household. A comedy with serious undertones about parental abandonment.