Scene Last Night: De Niro, Weitz, Bichir, Wolfe at Tribeca Film

Tribeca Cinema Series
Demian Bichir, star of "A Better Life," which opens in theaters in New York and Los Angeles Friday. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Actor Demian Bichir refused the spring roll he was offered last night at a Tribeca Cinema Series screening of his new film “A Better Life.”

“No carbs after six,” Bichir said, patting his flat stomach. He wore a crisp white shirt and a slim-fitting dark gray suit. A few women swooned -- and moved away from the bread.

Bichir himself had a few glowing moments with Robert de Niro who stayed for a photo.

The diet rule came after gaining 30 pounds -- and losing them twice. He plumped up for Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh’s “Che,” and after slimming down, gained back the pounds for Carlos Galindo in “A Better Life.” (Summit Entertainment LLC will release the film in New York and Los Angeles on Friday).

Bichir plays an illegal Mexican immigrant raising a 14-year-old son on his own in Los Angeles. The relationship evolves rapidly when Carlos’ truck, filled with his gardening tools, is stolen.

After the screening, Bichir and director Chris Weitz joined Tom Wolfe, who is working on a book on immigration, for a discussion. Wolfe said he was “astonished by the realism” of the film.

Weitz replied that he approached the project with a journalist’s paranoia to get things right, a mindset he didn’t need so much to direct the Twilight series. He showed the script to Father Gregory Boyle, who helps gang members find jobs, as well as to kids in the afterschool program Legacy LA, which aims to keep youth out of gangs.

No Sex

To immerse himself in the role, Bichir listened to “beautiful music from my own country” on La Nueva 101.9, an influential Spanish-language radio station in Los Angeles. He also bought his own set of on-screen gardener’s clothes to wear home every day after filming.

“And I needed to drive a truck,” he added. “I bought one from a paisano I stopped at a stop sign.”

Bichir -- who had a fun stint as Mary-Louise Parker’s lover in “Weeds” -- said he abstained from sex during filming. “We discussed how much sex Carlos was having, and we decided not too much,” Weitz said.

No Corona went into the making of the film. “I don’t drink on school nights,” said Weitz.

The screening was presented by Tribeca Enterprises LLC, which runs the Tribeca Film Festival, and was sponsored by Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

“The festival is 13 days, so we thought, what about the rest of the year?” said Patty Newburger, senior vice president at Tribeca Enterprises.

As for how to gain 30 pounds: It’s simply a matter of increasing calories. “I ate a lot of waffles,” Bichir said.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

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