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Interview: Adrian Martinez talks Focus

The prevailing sense in Focus is that anything can happen – and anyone could be lying.

That is because the two leads, played by the exceptionally charming Will Smith and Margot Robbie, are con artists, and any or all of what you’re seeing could be a set up. The conceit makes for a particularly fun movie experience as you try to figure out who is playing who and to what end. It also looks to be equal fun behind the scenes in assuming the enigmatic roles.

“You really have to be authentic, particularly when you’re BS-ing. You have to be authentic, you have to come from an emotionally authentic place when you lie,” explained actor Adrian Martinez, who plays a con man and associate of Smith’s character. “It’s kind of like same thing with acting. You’re using real emotions to sell imaginary experiences. It’s one thing I have in common with con men: we’re selling something to be truthful for fictitious reasons.”

Martinez was in Toronto ahead of the release of Focus, sharing stories from the set, lauding the talent and unique qualities of Smith and Robbie, and of course sharing jokes. He’s part of the comic relief in this slick, often funny, and frequently unpredictable thriller.

As Martinez’ character Farhad is primarily a hacker, he didn’t have to learn too many sleight-of-hand moves. ‘The Gentleman’s Thief’ Apollo Robbins was part of the production, however, to teach the cast about deception and lying. “And I do want my watch back,” joked Martinez of having dinner with Robbins.

What’s also noteworthy about the film is that this is Smith’s first feature since After Earth, a critical and box office failure, and a story that he helped crafted while also starring in with his son. Martinez saw not only Smith’s energy and joy with Focus, but also his determination.

“You do the best you can and hope it plays out right,” said Martinez about choosing to make films, with respect to After Earth. “[Smith] has this relentless sense of really effing going for it. You feel that sense of determination to make it work.”

“He’s in another league in terms of work ethic.” Martinez added that while Smith would be working out early in the morning, he would be contemplating whether the multi-grain bagel might be the way to go.

Smith’s attitude seemed to seep everywhere else, as Martinez described a crew that meticulously planned so many intricate scenes while also allowing the actors to have some freedom when the cameras are rolling.

“I really appreciate what [co-director and writer] Jon [Requa] did; he really allowed for a safe atmosphere on set,” said Martinez. “We had takes that were scripted, takes that weren’t, and a sense of community and party in the air. There were times when Smith would just like party and start dancing, out of nowhere, like in New Orleans. We’re riding around in the Superdome at three in the morning, and he didn’t say it, but you get the sense has like, ‘get jiggy with it!’”

Martinez would also praise Robbie, saying she is that one out of a million person who is blessed with talent, beauty, brains, and composure. Of course, there are roles and opportunities for the big stars, and then there are roles and opportunities for supporting players, just as necessary and important. “Not everyone can look like Will Smith or Margot Robbie. You need that guy who can ground things, give that sense of humor.”

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.