Diego Calva is having a true Hollywood moment. Born in Mexico City, Calva went to film school to study directing and screenwriting, before deciding he wanted to star in movies too. He landed his first leading role in an indie film called I Promise You Anarchy, largely thanks to his skateboarding skills. That led to a part on Netflix's Narcos: Mexico. And then Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle happened upon the actor's headshot, which led to him being cast alongside Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie in the Hollywood epic, Babylon.
Calva plays Manny, a dreamer and lover of films from Mexico, who travels to Hollywood in hopes of being a part of something bigger. "We have like a lot in common," Calva says. "When I first arrived to California and started having these adventures in Hollywood, like meeting Damien Chazelle and staying at his house, I was like so, so, so Manny. Every time I got confused at valet parking, somebody [would think] I'm the valet. That's so Manuel."
Below, Calva shares with A.frame five films that have inspired him throughout his creative journey, mostly comprising unconventional works from directors who take big chances on their art.
MORE: How Diego Calva Landed His Breakout Role in 'Babylon' (Exclusive)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese | Written by: Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese
That movie literally changed my life. I saw Goodfellas for the first time when I was already, like, 14 years old. I really relate with Henry, the character that Ray Liotta plays. And I think it has one of the most beautiful and incredible opening lines. "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster." When you're a teenager, and you're living in Mexico City, and have high testosterone levels, in those early years, I fell in love with Scorsese's filmmaking.
I think after Goodfellas, I went to see Mean Streets. From that day on, I have been a fan of Scorsese's movies. And I really liked Goodfellas, because it was maybe the first time that I saw gangsters as people. There's this moment when he starts showing all the photos of the weddings and all the birthdays, and they're regular people. I really like that. It's a movie that I rewatch, and rewatch, and rewatch. I like to study it.
Written and directed by: Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi
The Tribe is a movie that I really, really love, because it's a movie with no dialogue. It's a movie about a school for people that can't hear or speak. But that's not the main subject of the movie. It's about the relationship between all these students. They're living alone, and they have their own relationships. There's a very beautiful love story. The way the director creates all that environment, without dialogue, with really long takes, is pretty cool.
The colors in that movie are beautiful, because it's like a super gray landscape all the time. Very old Soviet in a way. But there's these beautiful moments when all the background became color. It's not like the environment was colorful, but they have some moments the light changes to create a little beautiful moment. For example, in all the love story, the light is blue on purpose. But it doesn't have logic, you know? Like, even all the lights of the cars are blue for a moment. And this director creates that, kind of like postcards. Pretty, pretty, pretty beautiful, in a very gray environment.
Directed by: Luis Buñuel | Written by: Luis Buñuel and Luis Alcoriza
This film was made by Buñuel in Mexico. He lived in Mexico for a long time, he did at least five movies of his filmography in Mexico, before he moved to France. And Los Olvidados is still one of the best radiographies of Mexican society in the '50s. It's the stories of a lot of people living in the street, but also some stories of very wealthy people. Buñuel always loved the contrast. And I think Mexico, mostly then and even now, it's a country with a lot of contrasts.
It was the first collaboration with Gabriel Figueroa, which I think is one of the greatest [cinematographers]. Gabriel Figueroa worked with a lot of directors and, in my opinion, he, and Manuel Álvarez Bravo have created the most beautiful imagery of the Mexican landscape.
Written and directed by: Leos Carax
I really liked that movie because it has some of the most incredible music scenes ever [with David Bowie's music], and it's Denis Lavant just running up the street. Leos Carax paints the street, so, it's like a long, long take. Also, the story, it's a little crazy. This movie is all about two lovers, running away from her father, and they're hiding on the streets and living under the bridge. It's a pretty cool film.
Written and directed by: Harmony Korine
I love the sound in Gummo. Director Harmony Korine recorded the sound of a [tornado], and you are hearing that all the time. And all the lines are recorded with a cassette, so the texture is pretty cool. The story follows a lot of different characters and is made of a lot of short films. But in the end, it's talking about, after all this destruction, how kids or teenagers live in that kind of environment. And if you realize this, there's never adults. That's something pretty cool that he created, like the feeling of being in a destroyed place, with no laws, and how they find fun.