In the Lion’s Den with The Romanian Dramatic Marius Iliescu


In 1995 Marius Iliescu graduated Hyperion University, a private conservatory in Bucharest, Romania majoring in acting. Acting was a form of expression in a distressed society where life was not permitted to be free even after the anti-communist revolution of 1989, in which Iliescu took up arms. Iliescu would discover Stanislavksi’s psychological acting and approaches of physical actions, which would result in his travels throughout the European countryside (Vienna, Amsterdam, Avignon, Paris, Rome, Glasgow, Birmingham and Dublin) with the Greek play The Suppliants. The production was performed in French, a language that Iliescu speaks fluently.

In 1997, Iliescu performed the play at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City, that moment being conclusive in his choice to continue pursuing his career in the United States. In 2005, Iliescu graduated in Dance Performance and Choreography, becoming the principal dancer with the most captivating contemporary dance company in the middle of the United States, the Detroit Dance Collective, lead by the explosive Artistic Director Barbara Selinger.

Settling in the Chicago, Iliescu would pursue acting opportunities in Hollywood where he helped launch Ave Fenix Pictures, a movie studio founded by Mexican native, Mónica Esmeralda León, that has been hailed the first Latino film studio in the American Midwest. Ave Fenix Pictures is an independent film hub with two functioning branches, León covering Chicago and Iliescu operating Los Angeles. Iliescu debuted an iconic character in the award winning and nominated independent film Adios Vaya Con Dios, an Official Selection at the Bel-Air Film Festival and Runner up for Best Audience Feature Film Award. The movie stars and is written by Zachary Laoutides, about a half Mexican and Irish gang member trying to leave the violent streets of Chicago. The Mexican Irishman soon collides into Iliescu’s character, the sadistic Olmec gang leader, Tiger De’Leon, who finds satisfaction in torturing and sexually abusing his young recruits. Although the scene was short-lived, Iliescu directed the scene with real gang members and neighborhood locals. The scene was impacting and gained exceptionally good reviews from most critics. Critics and fans soon asked the questions – who is Marius Iliescu and where can we see more of him?

We caught up with the Romanian Dramatic and asked him how, where and when…

Ave Fenix Pictures is interesting because it came out of nowhere very suddenly. It has secured itself on the independent stage with the unique film of Adios Vaya Con Dios, where everyone seemed to contribute an artistic vision. How did a film from the streets get to Hollywood?

(MI): Streets dictate cinema. You can’t fool the streets, they dictate the successes of your film and they can feel the pulse of when a movie is real, that’s when a movie is able to transcend. This is what happened on the streets of Chicago; our successes was dictated by the voice of the streets.

You gave us a memorable performance in Adios Vaya Con Dios. I heard that Zachary Laoutides was actually injured on set and you were working with real street gang members. How did you direct the scene with injury and take real people off the streets coaching them into a noteworthy piece of cinema?

(MI): Somebody’s pain can by a catalyst through which all others unite. We all have pains of all kind: physical, emotional — When an actor is in this situation you help him go through it by raising the stakes in the scene. My connection to Zach’s pain created such a depth in between our characters — the effect felt and acclaimed by public and critics alike. In Chicago’s gang worlds ‘respect’ is more valuable than gold. If on set these people feel the ‘respect’ they will give the director all their life experience without restrictions. I needed exactly that to create the authenticity of the scene and implicit, the film asked for it.

Being a guy of average stature you made Tiger De’Leon into an intimidating goliath who felt larger then life. Where did you go mentally to mold yourself into that temperament?

(MI): To me acting is a slice of life larger than life itself. Even in the most banal moments, on screen must exist an element of surprise, an unseen depth, a rhythm change… Tiger De’Leon is a bomb with delayed effect. All I had to do is to find and fire my own wicks — Tiger De’Leon belongs to a powerful cartel family, which the sky is the limit. In his cognizance, no law applies to him and the fact that he’s not holding real supremacy in Chicago makes him violent. His own malice feeds his own misery, creating a venomous circle — ancient coming to manhood traditions and physical abuse. His name says it all; what’s the use of being a Tiger and a Lion if caged with limitation in Chicago?

What is your goal of expanding Ave Fenix Pictures in California?

(MI): Filmmaking with a message; recreating a positive image of the Latino community through film. California is the perfect place to work on those goals.

Rumor has it there’s an Adios Vaya Con Dios sequel in the works. Everyone wants to see Tiger comeback, but how and when is that going to happen?

(MI): I don’t know yet (laughs)…. Paraphrasing Zachary Laoutides, it’s a personal story to him that was never fully told. There’s more story to his character Rory King and more narrative surrounding all the characters in the film. I truly believe he wants to go back and show what wasn’t used in the screenplay. The movie became art house and that’s rewarding, but there’s too much culture and depth to be satisfied. I think Tiger’s brother is not too happy about what went down, and I hear the brother looks a lot like Tiger (laughs)!


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