Cassandro director praises ‘brilliant’ Bad Bunny and reflects on ‘important’ gay sex scene


Filmmaker Roger Ross Williams tells PinkNews about his new wrestling biopic Cassandro, Bad Bunny’s surprise involvement and the film’s “important” gay sex scene.

Academy Award-winning documentary maker Williams has long held a special place in his heart for famed luchador, Saúl Armendáriz, aka Cassandro.

Five years ago, he directed a short documentary, The Man Without The Mask, profiling the gay amateur wrestler (dubbed the Liberace of Lucha Libre) for The New Yorker.

As Williams’ fascination with this pivotal figure in queer Mexican history grew, it forged the path to his highly anticipated feature-length biopic, which brings the world champion wrestler’s unbelievable story of self-empowerment to life.

The film stars Gael García Bernal as Cassandro, Raúl Castillo as Cassandro’s lover Gerardo and Grammy-winning artist Bad Bunny as drug dealer Felipe.

“It’s a totally inspiring story,” Williams exclusively tells PinkNews.

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Cassandro explores the vibrant LGBTQ+ Mexican community, how one man rose victorious against the odds and the true impact of queer representation on the wrestling stage.

“It’s about a gay man who came to terms with who he is and wrestled on his own terms and rose to the top of a macho community as an out gay man,” Williams says.

“It’s so inspiring, how can I not want to tell this story?”

The raw, sultry and empowering biopic delves into the brutally complex world of Lucha Libre in the late 80s and 90s: a form of professional wrestling rooted in Mexican culture, distinguished by its drag-style costuming and performance, such as colourful masks, extravagant outfits and show-stopping manoeuvres.

Despite its affinity with queer culture, the sport has been traditionally populated by cis straight men. That is until stage-stealing Armendáriz arrived on the scene to shake up the institution’s preconceived notions of manhood, while embracing his identity as a gay man – adopting the identity Cassandro.

The film features a surprise career move for Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny (real name Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio), who dominated the music industry in 2022, reigning supreme as Spotify’s most-streamed artist and cementing his legacy as one of the biggest stars to come out of Latin America.

According to Williams, Bad Bunny’s prowess doesn’t end in the music studio.

“He’s such a good actor and he loves wrestling,” the director tells PinkNews. The musician-turned-actor has already caused a stir after Prime released a clip of Felipe’s scene-stealing kiss with Cassandro.

“He’s a big fan of Lucha Libre, so his people contacted my people,” Williams reveals. “When I heard, I was like: ‘Are you kidding?’ I couldn’t believe it.

“But he was a joy to work with. He is the sweetest guy and very serious. He takes his acting very seriously and I thought he was brilliant. You are going to see a lot of acting roles from Bad Bunny in the future, I guarantee that.”

Director Roger Ross Williams and Saúl Armendáriz attend the Cassandro New York Screening at Metrograph on 18 September 2023. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Making this film felt like the natural next step for Williams, who fostered a close relationship with Armendáriz (now 53 years old) while working on the documentary.

“I knew and spent time with him and his life. I’d already told his story,” Williams says. However, fitting everything into a feature film proved a tough task, he admits.

“I had to leave a lot out because there’s a lot more to his story. I can’t put it all in, like in a documentary. In a way, it has to be a simplified, very focused, emotional story about a mother and son and the yearning for this love from his father, which he never gets. But then learns to love himself.

“In the real Cassandro’s life there are lots of twists and turns and details that you can’t put into 140 minutes.”

But Cassandro does make time for the more explicit details of Armendáriz’s life as a gay man. The film features an intimate scene between Cassandro and Gerardo which, according to Williams, was shot on a closed set.

“It’s all about choreography and storytelling,” Williams adds. “The sex scene is a really important storytelling plot for the development of the character of Cassandro.

“I learned to do that at the Sundance Directors Lab, where [actor and Oscar-winning director] Robert Redford himself storyboarded that sex scene and plotted it out for me. So, I learned from the best.”

Cassandro premieres on Prime Video on Friday 22 September.