I had never heard of cage fighting before I saw a sneak preview of Hector Echavarria’s new movie, CHAVEZ: Cage of Glory, opening in theatres nationwide September 13. I expected blood and sweat, but not the tears, mine that is. On the outside it may be rippling with muscle, but inside, CHAVEZ is a whole lot of heart.
Through the frighteningly realistic, gritty teeth-gnashing, hard-hitting, bare-knuckle punches and body slams against the rattling chain link enclosure, there’s a story that anyone with a family can relate to. Echavarria, a real-life martial arts megastar in Argentina, plays Hector Chavez, a small-time cage fighter who is desperate to get the funds to pay for an operation to save his dying son. Steven Bauer plays his brother, a priest, who stands by his brother against all odds.
Chavez gets knocked down and takes a beating, not just by his opponents but by the likes villainous gang leader, Mondo, played with evil zest by Danny Trejo, and the cut-throat promoter John Stone, portrayed by Patrick Kilpatrick. Despite the fact that all bets are against him, Hector stays true to his conviction that perseverance and faith will win out.
“The mantra of the movie is, ‘Never give up,’” says Echavarria. “If you always try your best, you will eventually succeed. You find this in every great person the world has to offer. It is okay to suffer and go through obstacles. Eventually you will succeed.”
While not a true story, the film’s message is one Echavarria has lived. A sickly child, his mother enrolled him in martial arts school to defend himself against bullies in the mean alleys of Corrientes, Argentina. His prowess made him a martial arts champion, and his celebrity grew into a starring role in the ultra-popular Latin American TV series Brigada, followed by the three-film series Los Exterminators, and a multi-picture action films deal with Lionsgate. His life exploits were developed into a children’s comic strip, along with a line of merchandise including cards, posters, clothing and action figures. In November 2013, he will host the first-ever Hector Echavarria’s World Martial Arts Championship and Expo in Buenos Aires, drawing more than 3000 competitors from 30 countries.
With his growing stardom as an actor, director, producer and Latino brand in the US, it is easy to see why Echavarria is often called the Hispanic Tyler Perry, a comparison which Echavarria accepts humbly as “a great honor.”
“We both are promoting the best that our culture has to offer. He never forgets who he is and where he came from. He stays connected,” says Echavarria.
His connectedness has earned Echavarria props from his fellow actors, whom he allows to shine under his direction.
“He’s not selfish,” says CHAVEZ co-star Steven Bauer. “He’s very respectful of other actors. He allows an actor to get to the scene, to work it out, to get to what the scene is about. He shows trust, and he’s also a lot of fun and always has a great sense of humor.”
At the preview screening of CHAVEZ, a gracious Echavarria smiled and signed autographs for fans and posed for photos, always finishing each interaction with a sincere, “Thank you.”
This pre-release press junket was just the beginning of a long schedule of appearances Echavarria will make as CHAVEZ: Cage of Glory rolls out in 70 Los Angeles area theatres and nationwide. As the crowd lingered and interviews and press photos dragged on, Echavarria’s energy never waned. As he was escorted into round 10 of interviews, it was clear: this champ is just getting started.