Petrônio Gontijo – Edir Macedo
Day Mesquita – Ester Bezerra
Beth Goulart – Mrs Geninha
André Gonçalves Barbosa – Ronaldo
Dalton Vigh – Judge Ramos
Eduardo Galvão – Mr José Maria
Leonardo Franco – Albino
Marcello Airoldi – Henrique
César Mello – Paulo
Raphael Vianna – Evandro
Otávio Martins – Minister Bittencourt
José Victor Pires – Edir Macedo – Youth
Enzo Barone – Edir Macedo – Child
What do you think of Edir Macedo’s story?
When I read his biography, I found it surprising. It is the story of a self-made man, a man who chases after his conviction. I think the film will interest the general public and anyone who doesn’t already know about the life of Edir Macedo. None of his achievements was easy and the film shows conflicting moments of Edir Macedo’s journey. He came from a religious family and, at a certain point, began to question their faith and went in search of a new religion. He knows other evangelical churches and had his experience in an esoteric centre, before founding his own church. Edir Macedo was convinced of what he wanted to be from the beginning, like anyone who really chases after what he believes. I’m sure the audience will identify themselves with the characters at different points throughout the movie. Who has not questioned their faith at some point in their lives?
What is your contact with Edir Macedo? I met Edir at the launch of the soap opera The Ten Commandments. Back then, he was only somebody I knew. But in 2017 I had a long meeting with him to get to know him better, to help me guide my work as a director. He made the whole team feel very comfortable to do the film.
How did you direct the more dramatic sequences of the film, like the scene of Edir Macedo’s prison? The dramatic and most important sequences have been worked in great detail in the storyboard – which is a guide for me and for the staff. These sequences took three days to be filmed, as there were issues of continuity. When we finished the process with all the comics in the storyboard marked, that was a great feeling of accomplishment for us, because we cannot always do everything we want.
How comfortable were you directing the actors, especially Petrônio Gontijo?
My style of direction always points to the humanisation of the characters. Petrônio Gontijo has this quality of humanising the characters he plays. I did not try to make a copy of Edir – I want the viewer to be moved by this story.
How did you get the invitation to direct the movie? Why did you choose not to direct the TV series Apocalipse to dedicate yourself exclusively to the cinema this year?
I was going to direct Apocalipse when I was invited by Paris Filmes to direct this movie. Because of the schedule, it was not possible to do both at the same time. So, I gave up on directing the TV series to dedicate myself exclusively to this great cinema project.
The Ten Commandments was a big hit in the cinemas, but Nothing to Lose is Paris Filmes’ first featured movie designed for cinema release. How did you get involved in this production?
I was invited by Paris Filmes when the project was still in the development phase of the script. I was very happy with the invitation because I already knew it would be a super production. It is a hard-working project. It is the largest Brazilian cinema project until now, in terms of funding, amplitude, and reconstruction of the time. The Paris Entretenimento producer was able to set up an amazing team to start this project with me. The goal was to do a project of international scope. It is very ambitious.
What is it like to portray a public figure like Edir Macedo?
The script was based on the biography of Edir written by Douglas Tavolaro. We are following the international format for production based on a great literary success. No doubt,Edir Macedo is a great Brazilian with an impressive trajectory. He is a man who fought for his conviction of being a pastor, and this kind of vocation is a very strong calling. I think the audience will be surprised because we show the different facets of this human being. In order not to run the risk of a documentary biography, we worked on the script to humanise this character. Edir in the movie does his search for faith, goes to esoteric centres… the young Edir dates, goes to clubs… You end up falling in love with his journey.
How did Edir Macedo’s story impact you?
I knew very little about the story of Edir Macedo. I only knew the widely circulated versions of his story. Reading the three books of his biography I could see that there was a lot that has not been publicised and analysed. It impacted me greatly and stimulated me even more to play the role. I believe that in order to reach a personal conclusion it is necessary to stick to all the facts about a certain subject. The movie allows the viewer to do this. The film gives the viewer the chance to draw their own conclusion.
It is not just a man’s story, but it is about how a man, sure of his convictions, manages to stand up, face adversity and grow, even when suffering a massacre – not only from political powers but from a large part of the public opinion.
How did you prepare yourself to play this role?
I tried to base my character as much as I could on the real Edir Macedo. I spent months watching all of his videos and seeing various of his speeches. Working with Luiz Mário (Casting Director) and with Day Mesquita was also crucial. We got together in the rehearsing room, which gave me the confidence to enter the set. The direction of Avancini was also essential to all of this. I read a lot and made contact with the people involved – with Edir Macedo and his family. Knowing the simple and objective person that he is contributed a lot to the beginning of my work. I was very well supported in this whole process.
Did he go through details of key moments in his life?
Yes, he did, but as he passed it to everyone through the book. He gave me total freedom of interpretation. I was able to create, participate and understand each situation. For that, I had all the support of Avancini on the set.
How was the characterisation work?
Very different. I must congratulate the staff. There are several things which we did with our own bodies as well. What was cool was that we could mix our interpretation with makeup work, to represent the passing of the time. It was a group effort. All of these things helped me to compose Edir Macedo and develop his character on the scene. To me, making movies used to be a distant thing. The last time I worked on a movie was in 1998, and since then I only made a handful of appearances, so this is a very important moment for me.
Would you like to tell us some curiosity about the work on the set?
Every day we had a lot of work. There were very strong scenes. Sometimes the simplest scenes are the hardest. Saying a ‘good morning’ can be harder than a big scene. The film required lot of concentration on my part and my colleagues’. It is a film that speaks of love, difficulties, correctness and mistakes.
And, especially, what this man did to face the adversities he went through. The film tells the story of this man who left Rio das Flores (in the interior of Rio de Janeiro) to win over Brazil and the world through his belief. It has a wonderful script, a sensational team and a safe direction from Avancini.
Who is Ester Bezerra?
Ester is Edir Macedo’s wife. I see her as a great partner in the life of this man. She is a very strong and sensitive woman. I think they are both very different, but they complement each other. Within this imperfection, they are perfect for each other.
How was your preparation to play the character?
The first time I went to read the script, actually, I did not think too much. I just read it to understand it. Then we started the preparation process, with the guidance of Avancini. In our rehearsal room, we prepared ourselves to recreate Edir and Ester’s relationship and the world that they lived in. We had to build their whole life. I had no contact with Ester and Edir. I met her briefly on the set. I did attend the church, and I met their daughter, Cristiane, who told me a little about their universe. In the beginning, I researched a lot about Ester on the internet. But most things were recent. There are not many records of the youth portrayed in the film, when she first met Edir. I was also guided by my intuition.
What was it like to act with Petrônio and be directed by Avancini?
Amazing. I already knew Avancini. I did two soap operas with him. During free time,
when we were waiting for the set to be ready, we exchanged a lot of ideas. I already did a soap opera with Petrônio, but I did not know him well. It was a good encounter. From the first rehearsals, he was a good friend. He is passionate, kind; a good professional and human being. I am very happy with this work, with these people; with the whole team.
Please, describe your character.
Mrs Geninha, Edir Macedo’s mother, is a very strong woman. She has the wisdom of a strong woman. She is a warrior, like all Brazilians. She symbolises the kind of woman who takes care of her children, who can take care of her household; and she lives her life with honesty of character. That’s how Mrs Geninha is: a figure of love, who does everything for her children. She sees Edir’s potential. She always supported him. Dramaturgically speaking, it is interesting to see the way that Edir overcomes the obstacles that life brings –
the way he turns it into force. Mrs Geninha can see the strength of Edir through compassion, sensitivity and faith.
How did you feel interpreting the same character in different stages of her life?
That was an extra challenge, a very special challenge about the character. It’s very interesting to recreate the passing of the time. She has a different vigour and posture in each phase. It is a work with voice and breathing. Also, we spent three hours to do the makeup and an hour and a half to take it off. The whole makeup team is very talented, and this ends up being a moment that you start getting into character. I come from the theatre, so this is the time in which you stop being yourself and enter into the character’s universe. It’s a magical time for the actor. I try to enter in the character’s state of mind. It is part of the process of interpretation.
Did you do any preparation for the movie?
We had a very nice preparation to build the relationship of Geninha with her ‘three sons’. I had three Edir Macedos in three different stages of his life. I had access to photographs.
I like it. In my preparation, I always look for images that inspire me. I looked inside of me to find the force of motherhood, which is one of her character traits.
How was your experience on the set?
This is an extremely elaborate production, with the best professionals involved in the process. When we go to the movies, we somehow want to learn about the humanity, so it is important to know a little about the history of this Brazilian. Acting with Petrônio was amazing, he’s a wonderful actor. I was able to follow the process of creating the character. We did activities together to build the relationship between the characters. We had the chance to have a time of experience to build a bridge between our personal universe and the universe of the character. Alexandre Avancini is a director who takes care of every last detail in everything he does. He is very meticulous, and he has followed the whole process. He was always very present.
Who is Judge Ramos and what is his role in the movie?
Judge Ramos is one of Edir Macedo’s archenemies. He is one of the villains of the film, along with Minister Bittencourt, of Communications (Otávio Martins), and Monsignor José Maria (Eduardo Galvão). The three are always together, plotting something to try to prevent the growth of the Universal Church, the concession of TV Record and even to put Edir in jail.
For you what was the most interesting thing in this production?
What caught my eye was the size of the production. Most of the scenes were filmed with two cameras, which is already a luxury in Brazilian cinema. The efficiency of the production is enormous. The film has professionals of the Brazilian cinema giving their best to tell a story. What moves the dramatics, in the cinema, on the television and in the theatre, is the history of the human being. The stories with which we can identify ourselves. Since this is a true story, it can inspire a lot of people.
How did you build this character?
He plays a role in the movie; in the story of Edir. He appears as an opponent. We do not know much about his story, we don’t have details about why he wants to block the Universal Church.
Have you had contact with any of the real people? Did you have anyone who helped you to set up the character?
No. Actually, this character is inspired by real characters, but I thought it was better not to have that reference. I thought it was best to stick with the archetype.
How would you describe your character?
Monsignor Jose Maria’s objective is to destroy Bishop Macedo. He is totally against the Universal Church and does everything to defeat Edir Macedo. The minister and the judge are both on his side. The three are always together trying to destroy Edir Macedo. He is a criminal and cannot bear to see the success of Bishop Edir Macedo. Every time he tried to harm the Bishop, he wouldn’t succeed, and this would make him angry. The development of the character was built with the help of Avancini. We built it together. I gave some ideas, he liked it and then we started developing the character.
Before being invited to adapt the books into the movies, had you heard about Edir Macedo?
Yes, I had heard vaguely about him. I remember reading about the construction of the replica of the Temple of Solomon in São Paulo.
What are the main differences between the book trilogy ‘Nothing to Lose’ and the movie script?
The script is very faithful to the books – which is not very common in adaptations. There were times when we had to eliminate details of the story or personal reflections that would not serve the script. In many cases, we have added dialogues to dramatize and portray
the relationship between the characters well. We worked hard to get this result and I look forward to watching the movie.
Did you do any research on the story of Edir Macedo?
I researched a little bit about Edir Macedo to get a view of the city where he grew up (Rio das Flores, in the countryside of Rio de Janeiro) and also places that were important in his youth. But it was a very generic geographic research. At the beginning of the script development process, I also watched many videos on YouTube and the news about the crowds present in his meetings, so I could visually imagine how the experience of participating such a great event would be like. But I based myself mainly on the books and I counted on the direct participation of the producers Douglas Tavolaro and Marília Toledo. My work was to convert the books into a film and I was very careful not to be influenced by biased opinions that could make the film partial.
What were the challenges in writing the Nothing to Lose script?
I think the biggest challenge was to structure the story from the books into the limits of a film script that, obviously, is a visual medium. There is a lot of material in all three books. We tried several creative approaches using flashbacks and jumps of time, but we came to the conclusion that this could be confusing to the viewers because the story takes place over several decades. Ultimately, we decided on a more straightforward approach, which would allow a better understanding of the passing of time and what was happening during any sequence of events. It was a matter of correctly adjusting the scenes to get a more cohesive narrative. The translation from English to Portuguese, as well as notes and comments from the producers translated from Portuguese to English in the course of our work, were also a challenge. But they were always very understanding and efficient. All these challenges have made this a very exciting project for me personally – working out of the Hollywood confines, working at a much faster rate between two languages and cultures and with three books as a source was a unique script experience.
How can the film interest the general public?
Just as most good movie scripts, the story of Edir Macedo has all the narrative elements of a protagonist that overcomes extreme difficulties. I also think there is something in this story that involves any viewer, no matter their religion or belief. For all of us, somehow, life is a series of obstacles of overcoming. And stories that inspire us to keep hope and persist to overcome anything are universal and accessible to all audiences.