Eugenio Derbez used to have a problem with commitment. Not any more.
At the age of 51, he’s got a new baby on his hands: Instructions Not Included (No Se Aceptan Devoluciones).
The film, about 90 percent in Spanish with English subtitles, tells the story of Valentin (Derbez), a playboy living the high life in Acapulco. After more one night stands that he can count, one of his conquests, an American named Julie, ends up pregnant. Not ready for motherhood, she leaves the child, Maggie, with Valentin at his bachelor pad.
But after some adjustment, the erstwhile rascal turns out to be a pretty good father, finding profitable work as a Hollywood stuntman and spoiling the little girl rotten.
Derbez, from the Soho Beach House, says life imitated art and vice-versa.
“I became a dad for the first time very young, in my 20s,” says the comedian, who has three children from three previous relationships. “I was a kid myself and afraid of commitment.”
All of Derbez’s kids are successful actors in Mexico, so he must have done something right. But Derbez didn’t exactly crack the whip with his brood.
“They would come and bring me bad grades and were afraid what I’d think,” he recounts. “And I said, ‘Yeah, I don’t care. I had bad grades too. Just tell your teacher I was mad and yelled at you.’ ”
Middle age has mellowed Derbez, who has made the successful crossover to American movies (hard to forget his dual role as Felipe the gardener/grandmother in Adam Sandler’s hysterically puerile Jack and Jill).
Last year, he wed longtime girlfriend, Mexican singer/actress Alessandra Rosaldo in a grand televised ceremony.
“It was a coincidence that I got married after finishing the film,” he explains. “Now I’m a happily married man. I finally faced my fears, my wolves. Now I’m the biggest fan of marriage and being a dad.”
The newlyweds wouldn’t rule out having another child. “I fell in love with fatherhood.”
Si, senor. Derbez’s chemistry with young costar Loreto Paralta was real. “She’s amazing. The next Dakota Fanning,” he raves of Mexican newcomer Paralta, who wasn’t easy to find.
“At the beginning, the script was written for a boy,” Derbez explains. “We needed blond hair, blue eyes, perfect English and Spanish, no accent in either language with lots of charisma.”
After unsuccessful scouts, Derbez reached out to Twitter. “I was desperate. A week before shooting I got the tip about her.”
The film touches on the joys and pains of parenting and one of life’s most massive responsibilities.
“I always wanted to tell a story like this after seeing movies like Cinema Paradiso, Life is Beautiful and Amélie,” says Derbez, who also directs. “Something touching but with comedy and a lot of heart.”