Michael Peña Interview: Channeling Ricardo Montalbán for Fantasy Island [Exclusive Interview]

Michael Peña is Mr. Roarke in Columbia Pictures’ BLUMHOUSE’S FANTASY ISLAND.

Michael Peña
Michael Peña is Mr. Roarke in Columbia Pictures’ BLUMHOUSE’S FANTASY ISLAND.

Michael Peña did an excellent job showing respect to Ricardo Montalbán with Mr. Rourke.

In Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island, the film takes a horror-thriller remake of the television show from the 1970s. Peña portrayed Mr. Rourke with a sinister intent but maintaining the elegance and mysterious vibe.

Fantasy Island also stars Lucy Hale, Maggie Q, Portia Doubleday, Charlotte McKinney, Michael Rooker, Kim Coates, Parisa Fitz-Henley, and Ryan Hansen.

Jeff Wadlow directed the film from a screenplay written by Wadlow, Jillian Jacobs, and Christopher Roach.

LRM Online spoke with Michael Peña over the phone as he was on the press tour in Miami. We talked about Ricardo Montalbán and the island itself.

For more information about Fantasy Island, visit its Facebook page here.

Fantasy Island is playing nationwide in theaters today.

Read the exclusive interview below.

LRM Online: Let me get down to it. Why did you want to do Fantasy Island? In my opinion, this is not like the TV show at all.

Michael Peña: I think so. It holds to the same basic premise of the show with a bit of a modern twist to it. Some of the TV shows that were popular in the 70s, I don’t know if they would necessarily be able to live now. Audiences today, exposed to YouTube, social media with television have changed. You have to up the ante a little bit.

Older fans of the show will go into it with more understanding. If they did it like it was on the TV show, then it would be a PG movie. Not sure if anybody would see that movie. Hopefully, people like the modernization of it.

LRM Online: How did it feel to done the white suit to channel your own Ricardo Montalbán?

Michael Peña: At first, it was a great idea. As soon as I got to Fiji and they added hot lights, it was a horrible idea. You want it to be a way to pay respects and be an homage to Mr. Ricardo Montalban. It turned out to be a little tougher than that. I was sweating so much, especially the scenes where, you know, we were out in the house and by the beach. Um, it was tough. It was tough. I was trying not to sweat if that’s even at all possible.

LRM Online: How did you want to make Mr. Rourke your own then rather than making an exact duplicate of Ricardo?

Michael Peña: You hit it right there. For a fact, Ricardo made Mr. Rourke famous. Then I saw the iterations after him. To me, something was missing, something special that Ricardo did. Instead of looking at what he did like the character, I studied the man himself. I watched interviews with him to discover that Ricardo was very well-spoken and was a brilliant individual. He grew up in Mexico City and did a lot of theater with Shakespeare as well.

I thought, “Wow! That would be interesting.” I knew that this is the way that I wanted to do it. It made me a little nervous. Can I pull this off? Can I make it believable in a way? At first, when we started rehearsing, I planned it in my voice with my mannerisms. Quickly, I found out that something was missing again. It didn’t make it as feel as full if that makes any sense. In a way, the decision ended up freeing me was pretending that I was Montalban’s son as if I was carrying on his legacy.

LRM Online: What accent you finally adopted for Mr. Rourke?

Michael Peña: Specifically, it is a Mexico City accent. I spent a lot of time in Polanco, Mexico, which is a beautiful neighborhood in Mexico City. There were a lot of people called Chilangos. They’re very well-spoken. If you talked to Diego Luna, who’s not there, but he’s from Mexico City. He has a little bit of an accent in the same way, and he’s a smart guy as well. There are others like Rodrigo Prieto and Emmanuel Lubezki. They can materialize the abstract.

LRM Online: Of course on the trailer, you don’t have a sidekick. What did you think about that?

Michael Peña: I was okay with it. To be honest, I thought it was pretty cool. At the end of the day, it’s the island that’s the big star, and I’m the host. I never even thought about it until you brought it up now.

LRM Online: Let’s talk about the island itself. How was being there on the island, production-wise?

Michael Peña: Whenever you’re in a remote location like that, it’s never easy to film, because you have to climb to a lot of places to get the shot. There was one time where we had to hike for about an hour. Poor guys had to lug the cameras so that we didn’t feel like complaining at all.

It’s always a tough shot when you’re shooting in a beautiful place because it’s not been tampered by man. There’s not a lot of roads. If there were, we’d need too much CGI for you to cover it. Plus, you could tell if they’ve taken out a lot of trees here and there.

At the end of the day, I liked the way that it looked and even with the drone shots or crane shots. When I went to the premiere, there was like, “Ooh! Aah! Whoa!” Especially when you see it in the theater, I was impressed by what Jeff [Wadlaw] and the Toby [Oliver] were able to capture.

LRM Online: Let me wrap it up with one more question now. I’ll try to wrap it up with a fun one, but you probably answered it a billion times at all these press junkets. What’s your real fantasy, Michael?

Michael Peña: To be honest with you, my mom died when I was younger. My fantasy would be to spend her birthday week with her. I would be there with her for the week and do whatever she wants. We would have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then I’d like to hear how she’s doing and what she’s up to. And then I would leave and then come back next year.

LRM Online: That’s a beautiful, touching fantasy, Michael. Well, thank you. Thank you for speaking with me.

I look forward to the next time we’re having this conversation again.

Michael Peña: Thank you much. Appreciate it.

Fantasy Island is playing nationwide in theaters today.

ALSO READ: New Trailer and Poster for Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island

Source: LRM Online Exclusive

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