By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published August 2, 2007
A video shown at the 11th Youth and Family Encounter of Eduardo Veràstegui shows girls, young and old, crying over him, blowing him kisses, screaming and rushing to get near him as he greets his adoring fans.
But the video changes from the frenetic pace of fandom when the Mexican actor begins to speak of his conversion.
Veràstegui spoke to an enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Georgia World Congress Center for the Youth and Family Encounter July 28, following a special showing of his movie, “Bella.”
Known as “the Brad Pitt of Mexico,” Veràstegui was on the verge of superstardom. The 33-year-old actor, singer and model got his first taste of fame in the Latin boy-band Kairo and later found his niche acting in Mexican soap operas, known as “telanovelas.”
“In Mexico if you want to be an actor, you can either be in soap operas, or you can be in soap operas,” he joked.
He later moved to the United States to learn English and to pursue his acting career. He took on a few roles, including a Jennifer Lopez video, and the movie, “Chasing Papi,” but soon became disheartened by the parts he was offered. Many of the roles available for Latinos were those of liars, playboys and thieves.
“There were very few times you’d see a Latino get to be a real hero. I’m not talking about Superman or Spiderman, but a man with integrity, a man who stood up for what he believed in,” he told the audience.
Veràstegui said he felt empty and realized he had become an actor only for the “fame, money and lifestyle—all the pleasures that life offers you.”
His English teacher, a devout Catholic, spoke to him about God, and after one discussion, Veràstegui found himself “crying for days.”
“It broke my heart how I had offended God. I had taken all these gifts and all these talents he’d given me and had used them in the wrong way,” he said.
He spoke to a priest and told the priest that he wanted to go to “Brazil, to the jungle, for three years to discern,” he recalled with a laugh. “But he told me, ‘Hollywood is a much bigger jungle.’”
He decided he wanted to only be a part of movies that touch people’s hearts.
With that in mind, Veràstegui, together with director Alejandro Monteverde and producer Leo Severino formed Metanoia Films, a company committed to projects that entertain, engage and inspire. “Bella,” released in 2006, is their first project.
“We want to make movies that inspire people, that touch them, movies that light a candle in the hearts of the audience and inspire them to use their talents in a positive way.”
Veràstegui spoke of how they filmed the movie in New York in 24 days, and how priests drove two hours just to celebrate daily Mass on the set.
“We also went to Mexico and dedicated the film to Our Lady of Guadalupe,” he said.
The film was presented at the Toronto Film Festival last fall, where it won the coveted People’s Choice Award. It will be released in theaters this fall.
“Please pray for us to make a difference,” Veràstegui said. “Like John Paul II said, we cannot be afraid to use the media to speak the truth.”
Sean Wolfington, one of the executive producers of “Bella,” also spoke at the conference. He spoke specifically of Veràstegui and of the way he lives his life.
“A lot of people are impressed by his looks, but what is most beautiful about him is his soul. What is most beautiful about him is the way he lives his life for Christ and for others,” he said. “Like the man in the Gospel who had everything the world had to offer, Jesus asked him to give it up. But unlike that man, Eduardo said yes. ‘Bella’ is the fruit of that yes.”
For more about “Bella” visit www.Bellathemovie.com.