Matt Bomer teams up with Irish director for new film

Picture: John Lamparski/Getty Images

Following the success of his Irish-set movies Handsome Devil and The Stag, filmmaker John Butler moves to the City of Angels for the endearing Papi Chulo. 

It tells the story of an LA-based TV weatherman, in crisis following the ending of a relationship, who forms a bond with a Latino labourer who works in his home.

It features two outstanding lead performances from actors Matt Bomer and Alejandro Patino, whose onscreen chemistry as Sean and Ernesto brings real depth to this buddy comedy.

For top US actor Bomer, working with Butler and the largely Irish crew in LA was a special time.

“I actually had such a phenomenal experience that I kind of stalked it for a bit after it was over,” he laughs, in advance of the film’s premiere in Dublin. 

“Because we shot in LA right near my house, I would go hiking in the places where Sean and Ernesto hiked and I took the kids on the paddle boats in the reservoir there. 

"At a certain point I was like: ‘OK, you’ve got to let it go now.’”

After being touched by the film’s script, he set about discovering more about the Irish filmmaker. 

“We met via Skype initially and then had lunch and we just hit it off. I had an incredible time and there were a lot of things about the character that I understood implicitly, or I had life experiences that I felt like I could bring to it.”

His character, Sean, is a gay man. Left stressed and isolated following the end of a serious relationship, he has an on-air meltdown during a local TV weather broadcast, and is placed on leave by his employers. 

Anxious at the prospect of downtime, he hires a latino migrant, Ernesto, to carry out casual work in his house.

“He’s really burying a lot. He’s affected this public persona of the chipper, nothing’s wrong, always polished meteorologist but underneath he’s really dying inside and he is sequestering himself off to his home.”

The actor realised that Butler knew the city very well. 

“He’d spent a lot of time in LA. And he had his camera crew there and his sound team and his producers. So he had a family there. 

"It was it was as much a part of me becoming a member of their family as it was them becoming a group of people who were filming in Los Angeles I would say.

“I think John’s sense of humour and outlook on life is really human. It crosses all territories but there is a smile about the work that I find particularly Irish. 

"It’s hard to put into words what it is but a certain joy that’s brought to the process and the film itself.”

Bomer has a soft spot for Ireland, having spent a summer working here during a formative period of his life when he was considering an acting career. 

He worked in Galway and Dublin, pulling pints in Galway’s Busker Browne’s — he went back behind the bar during a return visit last year which he shared on Instagram.

It was Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto who first told him of the positive vibes in the City of Tribes.

“He was a year ahead of me at school and he’d come to Galway and worked in a coffee shop. When he came back he was just glowing and he had the best time and I thought: ‘I’m going to do this’. 

"I thought this may be my only chance to travel as a young person unencumbered and work abroad.

“I got a work visa, worked on Cross Street, just with a bunch of other travellers and local Irish people and we had the time of our lives.

“I was there about four months and then in Dublin for a month. I initially intended to go to Israel and Aer Lingus lost my luggage. I got to London with no luggage and I got to go back to Dublin. 

"There was my bag behind the desk at Aer Lingus and I thought: ‘This is a sign that I’m meant to stay here’. I had an amazing experience.”

Bomer is an actor who has always enjoyed mixing it up, blending his career in films, including Magic Mike and TV shows White Collar and American Horror Story with high-profile theatre performances. 

Unusually, he says it was being cast in a superhero movie that never happened that give him his first big break. 

“I was briefly cast as Superman in the Brett Ratner version many years ago that I initially went on a cattle call for. 

"That project ended up falling apart. But all of a sudden people in Hollywood had some sense of that I was alive!

“And then that led to other work and I would say getting White Collar was a huge break. Then when Soderbergh was kind enough to put me in Magic Mike that was another break in the film world.”

He returned to strut his stuff as a stripper opposite Channing Tatum in Magic Mike XXL. 

Were the movies as much fun to shoot as they looked on screen?

“I think the way Steven shoots you have to really come ready to play. So there’s not a lot of playing around that way. 

Matt Bomer and Alejandro Patino in Papi Chulo from Irish director John Butler.
Matt Bomer and Alejandro Patino in Papi Chulo from Irish director John Butler.

"But at the same time there was a great sense of camaraderie and Channing created such a wonderful tone on the set. 

"It moved very fast. But even in that time we were able to have a lot of fun.

“I remember the day when we first actually had to start disrobing in the rehearsal room and I was like: ‘Ok, all right, here we go. We’re actually doing this’.”

He doesn’t know if the group will return for a third movie.

“You’d have to ask Channing and Steven. I mean it’s so multifaceted at this point, they have the Vegas show. They have a Broadway musical coming up. 

I always say we could always just hold out and do Magic Mike once we’re in retirement age, do a Grumpy Old Men version of it.

He has rarely been busier but the actor, who has three children with his publicist husband Simon Halls, is conscious of having plenty of home time.

“You know, if you’re lucky enough to be employed in our industry, inevitably it’s going to be somewhat of a gypsy existence and so I’ve always made sure that I was the satellite who would come home on weekends. 

"I would try to make sure it’s qualitative time that I have with the family. Parenthood is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. 

"It’s also one of the most challenging things but also hands down the most rewarding and I feel like I learn as much from our kids as they do from me."

Papi Chulo is in cinemas on Friday

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