‘Emilia Pérez’ Star Karla Sofía Gascón On How Movie Champions Trans Rights: “We’re Just Normal People” – Cannes

You know a movie has left a big impression at Cannes when the applause explodes in the press room as the cast files in. Such was the case Sunday morning for Emila Pérez.

Jacques Audiard’s latest movie follows Rita (Zoe Saldaña), an overqualified and undervalued lawyer who goes from repping guilty criminals to a cartel leader Manitas (Karla Sofía Gascón) who hires her to help him withdraw from his business and realize a plan he has been secretly preparing for years: to become the woman he has always dreamt of being.

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Gascón, who is trans, today spoke about the prejudice she has faced in the Latin America and Hispanic communities.

“People who are trans are subjected to insults or death threats because they exist. In Mexico, there are harsh phrases when addressing trans people. It can be gross,” the actress explained.

“I think we should be taken for what we are. We have to continue fighting for our rights. We have our body and we’re allowed to change it,” she said.

“We’re just normal people … I think in the world, you should be treated with respect.”

Gascón revealed that at first it wasn’t clear whether the actress would be playing Maritas, the male drug lord, before they transitioned. Ultimately, she got the gumption to pull it off.

Audiard became drawn to doing a movie about Mexico because of “all these problems — missing people, there are whole regions you can’t go because it’s not safe, there is the crumbling of democracy.”

Said Saldaña about playing a musical lawyer, “I surrendered to the work that we needed to do. There was choreography, every day it was a brand new day to absorb everything they were throwing at us. I just felt like the more I surrounded myself, more I got to understand Rita and what she was asked to give up, to obtain what she wanted.”

Audiard explained how he became inspired for the idea of the Mexican drug lord musical from a chapter in a novel about a trafficker who yearns to change his identity. “It occurred to me, it was an opera,” said the filmmaker.

Emilia Pérez received an 11-minute standing ovation at its world premiere last night, the longest so far at the 77th Cannes.

It marks Audiard’s seventh film at the festival after 2021’s Paris, the 13th District, 2015’s Palme d’Or winner Dheepan, 2012’s Rust and Bone, 2009’s Grand Jury Prize winner A Prophet, 1996’s Best Screenplay winner A Self Made Hero.

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