Benjamin Bratt kept it all in the family for his new movie, La Mission, in theaters. Older brother Peter, 47, wrote and directed the film, about ex-con macho widower Che, who finds out his only son is gay. The title came from the San Francisco barrio where the two brothers grew up. Bratt's wife, model Talisa Soto, plays the teen's aunt.
We caught up with the former Law & Order star, 46, by phone from L.A.:
How was it working with your brother?
We've been best friends for as long as I can remember. We have the little-big brother dynamic very much in place. The director is the boss! But we've evolved; now we're at a place of real equality. I trust him implicitly -- as a storyteller, his holistic vision and his tone on the set.
How did you develop your character?
We [wanted] Che to be familiar to audi- ences everywhere. He's cut from the same cloth that characters Clint Eastwood has played or Al Pacino in Scarface. A man of force, a man who uses his fists to get the job done. You recognize Che as someone we know all too well. He's [an] alpha male with almost freakish confidence.
How did you come up with the plot?
The next step was to provide Che with a problem he couldn't shoot or punch his way out of. Giving a proud Chicano male a gay son is the ultimate catalyst. It examines how we define masculinity. But at the end of the day it's a story about a relationship between father and son. Hopefully, all of us have experienced love and maybe the loss of it. The universality of it speaks to everyone. Che had a lot of tattoos. You don't. It was a very judicious process. Three hours in a chair to apply them all. That's why we wrapped in just 26 days [laughs].
What was your ultimate goal?
Typical Latino fare that comes out of Hollywood is often one-dimensional at best, or at worst, doesn't capture our sense of authenticity. Latinos share a similar culture binding -- our religion and our language and our focus on family -- but there's as much variation in the Latin American community as there is in any other. Your old neighbors must be proud. It's been a lifelong dream to make a movie about our neighborhood. It's very near and dear to us, and we still very much consider ourselves a part of it.
What about your mom?
My mother is ever proud of her boys. To a point where it gets irritating. Her phone is ringing all the time! But it's that kind of attention you love to dislike. All kidding aside, she is extremely proud that her sons have basically taken her teachings and prin- ciples to heart. We listened to her, we heard her.