Lou Diamond Phillips on how ‘La Bamba’ introduced him to Hollywood — and the devastating second he shared with Ritchie Valens’s sister


Lou Diamond Phillips didn’t suppose he was the best match to play Frankie Valli.

That’s not a misprint. It was, nonetheless, an error his agent’s workplace made when first alerting the younger actor about auditions being held in Dallas for La Bamba — which, after all, was in regards to the tragically curtailed life and profession of Ritchie Valens — not future Jersey Boys topic Frankie Valli.

Born on a naval base within the Philippines and raised in Texas, Phillips was dwelling in Arlington, engaged on native commercials and tiny underground movie tasks in addition to instructing performing, when the decision got here in. “It got here out of the blue, man. A hundred percent out of the blue,” Phillips, now 59, instructed Yahoo Leisure throughout a brand new interview (watch above) selling La Bamba’s re-release into theaters as a part of TCM Big Screen Classics sequence.

Phillips impressed the casting director sufficient to be flown to Los Angeles for a display screen check, the place writer-director Luis Valdez initially deliberate to forged Phillips as Ritchie’s troubled brother Bob Morales, a job that may finally go to Esai Morales within the biopic. La Bamba follows Valens (born Richard Valenzuela), who shortly grew to become a rock ‘n’ roll sensation with three consecutive hits (“Come On, Let’s Go,” “Donna” and “La Bamba”) over an eight-month span between 1958 and 1959 earlier than he was killed on the age of 17 in a aircraft crash whereas on tour with fellow ill-fated stars Buddy Holly and J.P. “The Huge Bopper” Richardson.

Lou Diamond Phillips performs in a scene from the film 'La Bamba', 1987. (Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)

Lou Diamond Phillips performs in a scene from the movie ‘La Bamba’, 1987. (Picture: Columbia Photos/Getty Photographs)

Finally, Valdez determined he wished Phillips as Valens. “The night time that I switched from Bob to Ritchie, I keep in mind strolling down Pico Boulevard and going, ‘Oh God, now I gotta play Ritchie,’” recollects Phillips. “And I believed, ‘Oh, I am Ritchie. An unknown child from the sticks with an enormous dream to turn into an actor in movie and tv. I believed, ‘That is me translated by means of the lens of the ’50s and rock ‘n’ roll versus motion pictures.’”

Phillips grew to become extremely shut with the Valenzuela household, who took to calling him “Ritchie” throughout manufacturing and for the years that adopted.

That result in one significantly surreal second for Phillips on the night time they shot the harrowing sequence by which Valens boards the single-engined aircraft Holly chartered to fly them from Clear Lake, Iowa, to Fargo, N.D., whereas on tour. Valdez and producer Taylor Hackford cautioned Valens’s kin to not come to the Burbank Airport set that night time, however his youthful sister, Connie Valenzuela Jr., didn’t heed their warnings.

“She was 12 when he handed, so she was really affected by this, she had reminiscences, she was sufficiently old to really feel that loss,” Phillips explains. “She got here as much as me, and I knew one thing was flawed instantly. She regarded just a little timid. … However she referred to as me ‘Lou’ for the primary time in like 5 weeks. … And I felt, ‘Wow, one thing’s flawed.’

“It was like floodgates opened. She actually collapsed into my arms. She began pounding on my chest, saying, ‘Why did you go? Why did it’s a must to go?’ And I simply realized that being there on the set that night time, that was 30 years of ache that had a catharsis. And within the aBraveness Beneath Hearth of the films, she may stand on that runway and possibly cease it from occurring. … She had that second to lastly let all of it out.”

La Bamba grew to become an prompt stumble on its launch in 1987, paying touching tribute to the brief however impactful and groundbreaking profession of Valens. It additionally made an prompt star of Phillips, who would go onto seem in movies like Stand and Ship (1988), Younger Weapons (1988) and Braveness Beneath Hearth(1994), and who presently stars on the Fox procedural Prodigal Son.

Phillips thinks again to having a beer with Daniel Valdez — the director’s brother who was additionally a producer and co-star within the movie — the Thursday night time earlier than the movie’s premiere.

“He goes, ‘We’re about at hand you the keys to the sweet retailer.’ I keep in mind that to today.”

La Bamba will likely be again in film theaters as a part of TCM’s Big Screen Classics sequence April 18, 21 and 22.

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