One of the most powerful scenes in Stronger, with Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman, who survived the Boston Marathon bombing, was the scene where Jeff finally meets Carlos Arredondo, the man who saved his life. A photograph of the two of them at the scene became instantly iconic as a symbol of humanity, heroism, and resilience in the midst of unspeakable horror.
Arredondo is played by actor Carlos Sanz, who told that he and Gyllenhaal did not meet before they filmed the scene, to heighten the authentic feelings of uncertainty. “We agreed that Jake and I wouldn’t interact until we did this scene so we didn’t rehearse it at all. I was outside the bar, it was really early and [director] David Gordon Green comes out and he says ‘How do you feel about just shooting this thing?’ And I said ‘let’s do it.’ so when I walk in and I say to him, ‘Carlos,’ and he says, ‘Jeff,’ that’s the first time we actually connect. It had this kind of real organic quality to it that I think you’d really feel, at least I did on the day. This particular type of scene is so intimate that you feel like you’re in that third chair, you feel like you’re almost sitting at that table.”
He spoke about his audition, and how he prepared to tell the film’s most emotional story. “What’s interesting is that when I got the audition and I looked at the scene in particular I couldn’t get through it. Every time I started reading it I would get halfway through the scene and I would be just like, ‘Oh my God, this poor guy,’ and it took me quite a bit of time just to put together this idea of who this guy was. When I went to the audition my goal was just ‘don’t break down like you did in your office.’ I managed to get through the whole thing and I just put my head down and I let a little sigh of release out and when I looked up everybody in the room was crying and I thought. ‘Well, that’s how you do the job.’
“I spoke to David Gordon Green quite a bit mostly just about trying to keep it very real and grounded and centered.” He watched Arredondo interviews to get the accent right, but declined to meet him before shooting. “I did meet him I think it was the last or second to last day I was working in Boston but I didn’t want to meet him beforehand because it felt like I had a firm grasp on who this guy was and I didn’t want to do an impersonation. When I met him he was such a sweet, sweet man that I think it might have changed what I ended up doing….For me, mostly I always feel like every character I play is me. It’s a different part of me, it’s a version of me and what I have to find is the truth and the reality of every single moment. For this particular character I think the real connection was that love you have for your children and then when they’re gone the kind of devastation and the kind of fortitude that you have to have as a person to overcome that. I felt that there was not a moment in this thing where I didn’t really connect. So for me it was easy to latch onto every aspect of this character’s persona. We did the scene a myriad of different ways and each time it was more powerful. There were obviously different types of takes but the take that eventually makes the movie is probably as close to what we got at the audition than some of the other stuff that we did.”
He says that playing Carlos affected him as a person as well as an actor. “I kept thinking about how there’s a kind of a strength in caring and taking care of others. That’s what this guy is saying and that’s what he’s doing and that was his great lesson in his life and it reverberated for me when I was dealing with my mom and my brother and my family after my father died because I sort of have that role in my family. I remembered that and it’s interesting because now it’s sort of life imitating art and it is a part of who I am now.”
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on October 19, 2017.