Ana de Armas: As Simple as That
Ana de Armas’s life story reads a bit like a fairytale. It starts with her growing up in humble circumstances in Cuba, taking on her first acting role as a teenager, and going to Spain with three hundred euros in her pocket in search of stardom. When she moves to Hollywood, she speaks so little English that she has to learn the lines for her first film phonetically. Leading roles in Blade Runner 2049 and the surprise hit Knives Out follow. The comedy mystery also stars Daniel Craig, Chris Evans and Jamie Lee Curtis. After the shoot, Curtis writes an email to director Steven Spielberg expressing her enthusiasm for the young actress and telling him to keep an eye on her. Spielberg writes back, thanking her politely and stating that he already knows. Probably he had already met her before and was just as captivated by her presence. Like everyone who has ever had the pleasure of talking to her. Because it is hard to resist this mixture of professional ambition, acting skill and down-to-earth Cuban charm.
Ms. de Armas, you were born in Havana, then moved to Spain and later to Los Angeles. Do you need a lavish lifestyle to be happy?
On the contrary. The fact that I grew up in Cuba says it all. But don’t take my word for it: Everyone who’s been to Cuba raves about how the people there have so little but still share whatever they have, how they are so nice and volunteer to be their guides and are so happy and dancing all the time. That is really surprising to people who’ve never been to Cuba before.
What about yourself? What have you learned from growing up in Cuba?
When you grow up in a country like Cuba, you grow up much faster and learn what’s really important in life. Lots of people these days complain about things that I see as frivolous. I’ve learned what truly matters and what doesn’t. For that reason, I also really appreciate what I’ve got.
"When you grow up in a country like Cuba, you grow up much faster and learn what’s really important in life."
Your parents didn’t own a TV. What kind of a relationship do you have with modern technology today?
It took me a long time to get used to things like e-mail. I’d get scripts sent to me digitally and I had to print them out because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to read them. Besides, I always want to make notes on them. But I do need a smartphone for my work – especially GPS so I don’t get lost, but also as a translator. And when I’m in Cuba, I use it as a camera. It’s also good for listening to music, but those are really the only things it is useful for.
You probably don’t get lost in Cuba.
Of course not! Cuba is my home. That’s where my parents are and where my best friends live. Those are my people, my streets, my places. And if I want to see someone, I don’t need to call first. I just stop by. Everything just flows better there.
"Those are my people, my streets, my places. And if I want to see someone, I don’t need to call first. I just stop by. Everything just flows better there."
Ana de Armas
What are some of your most cherished childhood memories?
I have amazing memories from my childhood. I grew up in a little beach town close to Havana. There was this beach there with all kinds of crazy rock formations that I would run over barefoot. My mother always wondered how I could do that. I also have wonderful memories of my grandmother, who died when I was very young. But I still have very vivid memories of her cooking. She didn’t say, “This is the protein, this is rice and beans, this is the tomato salad.” Instead, she served a large meal with three salads and croquetas, tamales, frijoles, almost too much for three people.
Today you live in Los Angeles. Can you still live out the Cuban way of life there?
I believe so. I’m a person who likes to share, and that hasn’t changed. I enjoy having big meals for friends at home. I also need to leave the door open all the time so I can feel the air flowing through the house. It’s a Cuban thing. I can’t help it. I even had to buy a screen for the door, so my dog doesn’t run away. There are just some things you can’t change because they’re in your system. You need little things to be happy – like leaving the door open.
"There are just some things you can’t change because they’re in your system. You need little things to be happy – like leaving the door open."
Was it difficult to get used to Los Angeles? It is such a different place, after all, with a very different lifestyle and a less pronounced desire for simplicity . . .
It wasn’t easy for me at first, because this city is so busy and so big and everyone is always rushing about from one place to another. And the conversations are usually very superficial, which was hard for me to get used to. It’s funny when people ask you “How are you?” and the answer they expect is, “Fine, thanks, and how are you?” But if you answer honestly and say, “Well, not so good, actually . . . ,” everyone suddenly has somewhere else to be.
You could have chosen somewhere else to live.
I’m here because of my career. For a long time, nobody knew me. And I still have to introduce myself sometimes and explain who I am and what my aspirations are. So I do need to be here physically. That’s important. It’s one of my strengths to show who I am, and I have to do that in person.
You’ve also done a lot of photo shoots. Do you like those?
It’s fun, but I don’t take them too seriously. You get to wear fancy clothes or a pretty dress – and sometimes I can even give my opinion on it. If you’re lucky, the photographer and you have a connection and the vibe is good and maybe you’ll have a portrait that one day will be in your book. But like I said, I try not to take it so seriously.
And how did you ultimately settle in in L.A.?
By finding the right people to have around me. I’ve found a good group of friends. It’s something I’ve had to grow into, and it took time, but at some point I started to feel comfortable here. Still, I’m not sure how long I will stay in L.A. Maybe it’s just a temporary home.
“Los Angeles can be funny. When people ask you ‘How are you?’, the answer they expect is, ‘Fine, thanks, and how are you?’ But if you answer honestly and say, ‘Well, not so good, actually . . . ,’ everyone suddenly has somewhere else to be.”
Ana de Armas
Your career has definitely picked up speed, with roles in movies like No Time to Die. How did you get on with Daniel Craig?
He can seem somewhat reserved at first. I even thought he was a bit uptight when we first met, but then I experienced a real surprise: He has a really dry sense of humor and works very hard. He may be tired, or in pain from a broken bone, but he still gives it his all.
Bond girls have usually been seen as a somewhat superficial sex symbol. Weren’t you worried about taking on such a clichéd role?
But that wasn’t the case here. I was allowed to play a real woman. Two things mattered: intelligence and beauty. Sure, it’s a James Bond film, it follows certain rules. But times are changing. We used to have these Bond girls that you knew from the start were going to die at a certain point in the film. But it’s not like that anymore. The women in our movie are Bond’s equals. They’re not just some damsels in distress waiting for their knight in shining armor. I personally find that much more interesting.
Do you still have that little girl inside of you who used to run over those sharp rocks on the beach?
Absolutely. I still (…)