It’s always fun for me to interview people but this time was especially fun because Tomas is a friend and fellow obsessive pop culture nerd. He’s also a screenwriter/producer who wrote last year’s MTV movie musical, The American Mall.
This Friday, May 15, the supernatural thriller he co-wrote and associate produced, Not Forgotten (see trailer below), opens at the Mann’s Chinese theater in L.A. The film stars Simon Baker (who has shirtless scenes), Paz Vega (Sex and Lucia, Spanglish), Michael DeLorenzo (New York Undercover), and features Claire Forlani (Meet Joe Black). It’s about a man who seemingly has the perfect life in a Texas border town until his young daughter is kidnapped. The incident is tied to his dark, secret past involving his faith in Santa Muerte (Saint Death), something he must invoke again in order to get his child back.
In between writing American Mall 2 and a post-apocalyptic teen comedy, Tomas agreed to answer my nerdy questions.
PCN: There are a lot of whores in this movie. Was it a fun set?
Tomas Romero: I believe they prefer the term “working girls,” but yes, the Mexican whorehouse scenes were just as fun to shoot as they were to write. It’s funny, though, I kept apologizing to the actresses on set, like, “I’m sorry I didn’t give you a name, Curly-Haired Whore or Grabby Girl #2, but I must say, you look awesome in that pink halter top.”
PCN: Oh, I’m sure that made up for it. The movie also includes lots of details about death cults. Research or personal experience?
TR: No, man, I gave up death cults in college. Seriously, though, we did loads of research and even though much of what my co-writer, the film’s director Dror Soref, and I unearthed about the very real cult of Santa Muerte was fascinating. I think the thing we found most interesting about Santa Muerte is that she is a street Saint, a down-and-dirty version of the Virgin Mary if you will. And though she is invoked most famously by criminals, gangsters, and prostitutes, she is also a very real part of many people’s lives in Mexico. We found several instances where policemen in these areas actually prayed to Santa Muerte for protection before their shifts. I mean, how cool is that?
PCN: Um, pretty cool, I guess, but she still looks super creepy. You started writing this script many years ago. Why do you think it came together now?
TR: Ha! If I had an answer for that, I’d have a lot more produced movies under my belt. I’m kidding, kinda, but the reality is that getting a movie made these days, even at a studio level, is very difficult and taking a truly independently-financed film from page to screen is next to impossible. Luckily for us, we had a small army of very talented folks behind the scenes. Not counting myself, there is like a baker’s dozen of producers on this movie and they all rocked.
PCN: How did they get the financing?
TR: Santa Muerte!
PCN: Dur! OK, you didn’t have children when you wrote this but now have a baby daughter. Do you look at your own script and say, “Oh, crap! I just created my worst nightmare!”?
TR: OMG, I know, I can’t even imagine. Some of the things we put poor Chloe Moretz—the crazy-talented young actress who plays Baker’s kidnapped daughter Toby—through in this movie, I was like, Please don’t watch this movie ’til you’re, like, 30. She was fine with everything, a total pro and hilariously funny to boot, but I was a wreck during all her scenes. And now that I have a daughter of my own—forget about it.
PCN: By scene 10, Jack and Amaya are in a steamy sex scene. Did you put that in before or after you knew you’d landed Simon Baker and Paz Vega?
TR: That scene was always there. The casting of Paz and Simon just made it that much steamier, so, yay for us!
PCN: My friend Carmen Serano is a gorgeous actress and model. Why’d you cast her as a gimpy prison warden with a unibrow?
TR: I know. What were we thinking? Clearly, Carmen would have made a much better whore. Ha! Totally kidding. Carmen was awesome to work with and her character does get some of the biggest laughs in the movie, so, unibrow or not, I think she’ll be very happy with how she comes off. Your other friend, Benito Martinez, is also fantastic in the movie. Benito plays a sleazy Mexican police chief like nobody’s business and the dude steals every scene he’s in! He’s great. OMG, and [your other friend] Greg [Serano] is so badass in the movie!
PCN: That’s hilarious, because I think Greg is goofy. And I mean that in the best way.
TR: He has this one great scene where he is grilling Jack and Amaya and he holds his own, baby. If this whole acting thing doesn’t pan out, which it obviously has since he’s been working non-stop, the dude would make a truly scary policeman! Yikes!!
PCN: You also wrote the story for MTV’s original musical, The American Mall. Any similarities between singing mall rats and chanting death-cult followers?
TR: Totally! MTV’s standards and practices made us cut the death cult chant from Mall but it was so cool! Seriously, the movies are a lot more alike than they seem. I mean, deep down, both films are about staying true to your authentic self at all costs, and the steep price you pay when you don’t. The female leads in both movies know this from the get-go, it’s the male leads that have to learn this lesson the hard way. And though the mechanics of their situation are very different, the journey both Joey in Mall and Jack in Not Forgotten take is essentially the same.
PCN: How do you feel about Not Forgotten opening on the same day as Angels & Demons? I feel like I should wear a giant cross around my neck if I go to the movies this weekend.
TR: You should totally wear your cross, because there is gonna be a whole lotta death cult and demon love going on at the movies this weekend.
PCN: Some people I know saw the trailer and said it’s too scary for them. Give them one reason to go see it anyway.
TR: Well, it is kinda scary, but, I think it’s important to differentiate between scary movies that exist solely to scare and scary movies that have a little bit more going on. Take for instance, The Exorcist. On the surface that movie scared the crap out of me as a kid—and still does, actually—but I kept watching because I really, deeply cared about what was happening to this poor woman and her daughter. Not Forgotten is kind of the same way. You might wanna cover your eyes sometimes, but at its core, it is a movie about a father struggling to hold his family together despite some spectacularly tall odds. And, Mexican death cult or not, who can’t relate to that?
Fun interview for a very scarey sounding movie!
“I’m sorry I didn’t give you a name, Curly-Haired Whore or Grabby Girl #2…” Love it!
Now it’s my turn to say sorry, though, because no matter how many times Simon Baker is shirtless or how great its message is, there is no way on this planet I’m going to see this scarey movie! It sounds excellent though, if you’re into that kind of thing.
I was creeped out just reading the script! And one of those people who said the trailer was scary? Me.
Am a Simon Baker fan, but not sure about seeing this movie. Will watch the trailer before deciding. Saw ‘The Exorcist’ when it first came out; didn’t bother me in the theater. But when I closed my eyes that night to sleep? Yikes, those ‘eyes’! Ended up keeping lights on at night for 6 months. Only reason turned ’em out cuz my Grandad was coming to visit. Yeah, call me wuss. LOL! But since then not really into these type of flicks. Maybe I’ll just see how brave I am…GULP!
At least you saw The Exorcist. I wouldn’t go anywhere near that! I got tricked into seeing The Changeling (with George C. Scott) and The Omen when I was young (nobody told me they were horror movies) and they Messed. Me. Up. I was terrified, couldn’t go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, too afraid I’d find a little boy drowning in my bathtub.
I saw ‘The Changling’ and ‘The Omen’ on tv. Seeing them on the little screen wasn’t too bad. Just watched the trailer for ‘Not Forgotten.’ Doesn’t seem too scary seeing it on ‘YouTube.’ When the trailer reaches the big screens nationwide, THEN I’ll decide for sure. Believe me, compared to movies like ‘Saw’, this one looks pretty tame.
I could re-watch The Changeling on a tiny little iPod screen and it would still scare the junk out of me, DonnaB. You’re way braver than I. And I can’t even talk about torture porn like Saw. The poster alone almost made me vomit.
I’ve been pretty scared to see this film, but not for the obvious reasons…I play the Gimpy Prison Warden with the unibrow! Enough said!
After reading this interview: “Okay then! I’ll watch it!”
Thanks Tomas and Elyse! I feel much better now.
I told you nobody could make you ugly! Plus, I like how you weren’t stereotyped.
What kind of crazy-ass film is this? Opens this weekend? When the heck are the trailers going to be out?
Truth is, I like a good scare from time to time and maybe I’ll check it out.
I appreciated Tomas’ comments about how hard it is to get a movie made these days. Congrats to Tomas for getting it done! For that reason alone, I will go see it.
BTW: Cool that you know all these crazy people.
Crazy is about right, BizMan5.
Now, see, THIS is the type of stuff I like to read about. Behind the scenes on a movies set is where I want to be spending my time.
Kudos to Mr. Tomas Romero for his success and for keeping it real along the way!
The original The Omen, The Changeling, and Exorcist are classic fright films–and if you were tricked into them, watch out for some of your so-called friends. I always like Baker’s work and Paz Vega is a latina actress we need to see more of [don’t know if I intended that pun] ;-). I think I’ll check this out. First time seeing the trailer, though. Are they putting any advertising $ into this?
Haha! Thanks for making me laugh! Indeed, I’m no longer in touch with the people who tricked me into seeing those movies. Which is too bad, since I can’t send them my therapy bills to treat my childhood terror.
Hey guys, Tomás Romero here. Thanks for all your kind words. I had a blast doing this interview with Elyse, so, thanks for reading it!
As far as NOT FORGOTTEN release dates go, the movie is playing now in Austin, Texas at the Dobie Theatre, Phoenix, Arizona at the AMC Deer Valley and opens this friday at the Mann’s Chinese in Hollywood and the Mann’s Plant 16 in Van Nuys. If it does well at these theatres, Anchor Bay is considering opening NOT FORGOTTEN wider in other markets.
So, if you live in any of these cities — especially L.A.! — make sure and check out the movie this weekend, amigos! And by all means, bring everyone you know! 🙂
When we start opening in other cities, I’ll totally let you guys know. And thanks again for all your rocking comments!
Oh yeah, and it’s not THAT scary…I have an easily-spooked friend who saw the movie recently and she just closed her eyes at the really creepy parts. Worked like a charm…
I closed my eyes and covered my ears through so much of Pulp Fiction, I ended up having no idea what was going on. I had to ask my husband, “Why is Ving Rhames so angry?” Ha ha!
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I enjoyed your nerdy interview, very cool and despite my obvious bias Tomas Romero came off lively and entertaining.
I am a big fan of Tomas!
Thank you, Mr. Romero! Bias or no, Tomas’s answers are hilarious. Thanks for reading!
I saw the movie the night it premiered in LA. It was awesome and I’m so proud of Tomas! Though it was definitely creepy and bloody in some scenes, it’s not the kind of scary that gave me nightmares. I mean, the little girl isn’t pleasuring herself with a crucifix or anything. So, anyone who is spooked, don’t worry — go see the movie. It rocks!