The Outspoken Charm of Habano
DISTINGUISHED NAMES OF SEVERAL GENERATIONS OF AMERICAN FILM PERFORMERS HAVE SUCCUMBED, ONE AFTER THE OTHER, MORE OR LESS FREQUENTLY, TO THE SPELLS OF THE BEST TOBACCO IN THE WORLD
Robert de Niro and Sean Penn are not bound to Hollywood only by their love for cinema, nor by being among the most outstanding, demanding and ductile actors, winner of two Oscar Awards, nor even by those who, not pleased with being in front of the cameras, have ventured into producing and directing with good results and are encouraged by their support for progressive causes. Someone might think of a coincidence when you take a look at the cast of the comedy We're Not Angels. They are also distinguished by an unbridled passion for Habanos. No one knows for sure when they first experienced the delight of puffing on them with the familiar ring of smoke.
De Niro, one of the greatest performers in the history of filmmaking, comparable only to the wingspan of Marlon Brando -passionate about the tumbadoras he played in Havana del Chori- perhaps discovered the Habanos while playing the memorable role of the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather II and noticed that film director Francis Ford Coppola used to nervously light up one after the other. Al Pacino did not strip himself of the pleasure of smoking them during the breaks of the shoot. But it could also be that the famous New York Taxi Driver was tempted to try them in his fleeting visit in December 1985 at the 8th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema.
By then, he had filmed Roland Joffe's The Mission at locations in Cartagena, and he still had his beard and hair tied up in a small ponytail. When the person who brought him to the big screen, Brian de Palma, called him to characterize Al Capone in The Untouchables, he had no trouble smoking with the same delectation the mob chief did.
At a stroke of talent, California native Sean Penn soon stripped himself of the labels of "Madonna's former husband", "nonconformist" and "rebel without a cause" for a youth marked by the everyday life of tobacco and alcohol, as well as the rejection of the tabloids, but also for memorable performances that prompted the comparison with Brando and De Niro. An actor like Jack Nicholson, Penn's running mate in Los Angeles -he does not deprive himself of having a box of Habanos always nearbyonce declared his admiration for the intense work done by Penn, who enjoys directing more than acting because, according to him, "as a director you have the actors to do for you the dirty work, so that they ruin their lives because of the feelings you want to express".
Just like the Golden Age of Mexican cinema would have never been possible without the ingredient of the rumba girls imported from Cuba, the history of cinema would have been quite different if Thomas Alva Edison, one of those who tried to win the great race of inventions that culminated in the cinematograph of the Lumière brothers, had he not had
enough Habanos in his workshop while he managed to improve the mechanism of the early cameras. Chaplin, an undisputed genius, shared the taste for Habanos with another singular comedian, Groucho Marx, of whom it is rare to find a single photograph or comedy scene without a recognizable Habano pressed between his lips.
Would have made-in-Hollywood film noir ever existed without that foggy atmosphere of cigar smoking Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall contributed to, just to mention but one of the most representative couples of the genre? The outstanding names of several generations of American film performers have succumbed, one after the other, more or less frequently, to the outspoken charm of Habanos: from Paul Newman, Michael Douglas, Nicholas Cage, Australia's Mel Gibson and Hugh Jackman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Andy Garcia, Will Smith... and even Faye Dunaway, the big-screen blonde Bonnie.
Clint Eastwood cannot be ruled out either. Italian screenwriter and director Sergio Leone elevated him to the rank of legend with the dollar trilogy of his Western Spaghetti movies filmed in Almeria locations, so distant from the Grand Canyon of Colorado, that he tirelessly brought in a heavy smoker like John Ford. A character from the mythology of the big screen, James Bond, the Agent 007, has appeared more than once with a cigar in his hand, especially two of the most memorable actors ever to play that role: Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.
While filming Breathless (À Bout de Soufflé) in the streets of Paris back in 1959, an incorruptible Godard got used to the habit of smoking cigars made in Cuba and has never been able to do without them. His leading actor, Jean-Paul Belmondo, the "man from Rio", was also fond of smoking Habanos.
Many years later, he returned to work for him in locations in Cienfuegos and Old Havana in the movie Amazone (2000), perhaps as a pretext to know the process of rolling cigars in a few factories and stores. Let's remember that Humberto Solás placed the main character of Lucia's second story (1968) precisely in Cienfuegos.
None of the actors, actresses or directors who parade along this panoramic route has been able to break free from the irresistible charm of the Habano. Quite the opposite: they fully enjoy that pleasure that seems to come from heaven.
THROUGH DIFFERENT FACES, THE HABANO COMES TO THE BIG SCREEN TO INSPIRE AND PLEASE