June 29, 2001

Jay Hernandez' story cheesey, but true; stars in the love story "crazy/beautiful"

Two Los Angeles high school students from opposite ends of the social spectrum fall for each other in Touchstone Pictures' provocative and sexy teen drama, "crazy/beautiful."



Jay Hernandez

Nicole Oakley (Kirsten Dunst) is the troubled daughter of a wealthy Congressman (Bruce Davison), and attends public school in the upscale seaside community of Pacific Palisades, California. As an act of defiance, she makes a play for the attentions of handsome Latino Carlos Nuñez (Jay Hernandez), a focused, straight-A student who endures a two-hour bus ride each morning from East L.A. to attend the more prestigious school in Nicole's exclusive suburb.

While Nicole's friends and family forecast doom for their relationship, her rebellious flirtation soon develops into true romance. However, her self-destructive tendencies threaten Carlos' ambitions, leading to an emotional and climactic confrontation.

"crazy/beautiful" is a testament to the power and intensity of first love, and reveals how, in coming together, two young but damaged souls can heal one another.

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Casting the leading lady was a smooth experience for the director and producers. The filmmakers agreed from the start that Kirsten Dunst would be ideal for the role of the rich white girl who is emotionally unstable but finds her soulmate in a poor Latino boy.

According to director Stockwell, "I had heard really strong word of mouth about Kirsten from other directors and producers. She's a great actress, and I don't think that the full extent of her talents had been tapped."

"The role of Nicole is completely opposite from any character I've ever played," Dunst says. "It's so raw and real and no one's ever seen me in this type of role before. The character has no ambition in life. She is very unstable and has so much baggage, which is completely different from me. I'm delighted that director John Stockwell and the other filmmakers had such faith in me for this project."

For the pivotal role of Carlos Nuñez, the disciplined and academically focused Latino boy from Boyle Heights who falls for Nicole, the filmmakers cast relative newcomer Jay Hernandez.

"Finding Jay, was the result of a coast to coast search," director Stockwell says. "Ironically, Jay was actually one of the first actors we saw in Los Angeles, but we didn't think we could just go with the first guy who walked in.We hired casting directors everywhere and went to New York, Chicago, Boston, Mexico City and even Spain, to find our Carlos. But nobody was able to achieve what Jay did. When he first came in to read for the role, he blew us away."

As producer Mary Jane Ufland recalls, while we were developing the script, Jay had been recommended to Harry and me as a potential Carlos. When we started the casting process he was the first person we brought in and felt immediately he was the perfect choice for Carlos. He not only looked great, but there were many parallels in Jay's life to the character of Carlos. So the fact that Jay was close to who we were asking him to play was a plus. He exudes confidence and charisma and acts with a tremendous sense of reality."

Producer Rachel Pfeffer agrees. "Jay is like a Latin Tom Cruise," she says. "He's very casual. There's nothing `actory' about him. He's just so easy. It was interesting that after doing a country-wide search for an actor to play Carlos, we found him in our own backyard!"

"I never had dreams of becoming an actor," Hernandez says of his journey to becoming one of Hollywood's hottest new stars. "The story of how my career began sounds cheesy, but it really happened. My parents and I were in an elevator in Hollywood. As the doors were closing a hand reached in because this guy wanted to get down from the building. As we were riding the elevator he looked at me and asked, `Have you ever done any acting or commercials or modeling or anything like that?' I said, no. He handed me his card and said, `If you're interested give me a call.'

"I didn't even think about it for about two weeks until my mom asked if I'd called the man back. She said I should at least see what it was all about; that it could be fun and maybe I could make some extra money. So I finally called him. He got me into acting classes and set me up with an agent."

Although Hernandez has only appeared in a few television and feature film roles, "crazy/beautiful" marks his introduction to a wide audience. Kirsten Dunst describes her co-star as "A pro. This is his first big role and he handled it wonderfully. He was so great to work with and a really wonderful guy. We had a lot of intimate scenes together, and it was nice to have someone there who I felt very comfortable with. He made everything so much easier."

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