The letter L makes me think of South America. That’s became of Fernando Lamas, and llamas . . . and my old Roger Corman buddy, Lucho Llosa.
Seems that in the late 1980s, Roger was flying down to Buenos Aires to check on a production. Bad weather grounded him in Lima, Peru. Roger, never one to waste an opportunity, made some phone calls, asking who was Peru’s best filmmaker. Everyone said, “Luis Llosa.” So Roger contacted Llosa, made a deal, and hopped back on the plane.
Out of that initial contact came at least ten films shot on location in Peru: everything from a Vietnam War drama to a Jules Verne adventure saga to a kinky urban thriller to “Bonnie and Clyde in the future.” Lucho directed some of them, and produced them all, through the local company he called Iguana Productions. During that period, I learned a lot about Peru. Visually the country is a filmmaker’s delight, complete with jungle, towering mountains, grasslands, decaying colonial cities, and a seashore where the ersatz submarine we used as a set in Full Fathom Five could be parked. Unfortunately, this was also the era when a guerrilla faction called The Shining Path controlled great stretches of terrain. Concorde crews were sometimes detained by military police who accused them of representing Amnesty International. And Michael Moriarty was among the actors on one Concorde film who were briefly hassled by gun-toting revolutionaries.
Because Lucho – a very pleasant fellow -- sometimes sojourned in L.A., I learned a lot about him too. Most interesting to me was his kinship with Mario Vargas Llosa, a novelist and thinker with an international reputation. By the time Vargas Llosa won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature, I was far removed from the Corman orbit. But I well remember 1990, when Lucho was excited because, at a time of widespread political turmoil in Peru, “Uncle Mario” was making a serious run for the presidency. He came close, but ultimately lost to Alberto Fujimori, whose tenure was to be marked by bribery, scandal, and accusations of crimes against humanity. Today Fujimori’s serving a twenty-five year sentence in a Peruvian prison. (The clear assumption is that the very intellectual Vargas Llosa would surely have been an improvement. But given Peru’s many problems, perhaps he was lucky not to have won.)
Lucho himself briefly went Hollywood, directing big-budget, star-driven studio movies like The Specialist (uniting Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone) and Anaconda (uniting Jennifer Lopez and a large snake), before he returned to Lima to stay. Unfortunately for me, I’ve lost touch with him. What’s special is that his daughter Claudia has taken up where he left off. As a writer-director, she uses her Peruvian heritage to magical effect. I saw her debut film, Madeinusa, at the Palm Springs International Film Festival and I’ve never forgotten it. Her second feature, The Milk of Sorrow, made history in 2010 when it became Peru’s first-ever Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film. So the luck of the Llosas continues.