More Than a Movie: American Me

More Than a Movie: American Me

When Edward James Olmos set out on his directorial debut, American Me, he wanted to accomplish two things: to represent Chicano culture on the big screen and to save part of his community from gang violence. But when people were allegedly murdered because of their participation in the film and Olmos himself was allegedly extorted by the real life Mexican Mafia, it exposed the unintended risks of trying to represent someone with an agenda in mind, even a well-meaning one. On the 30th anniversary of the cult classic, host Alex Fumero and producer Nigel Duara delve into the true story of American Me and the legacy the controversial film left behind.

Episodes

November 24, 2022 27 min

We recap what we've learned, especially the whirlwind final months when we got to the bottom of what happened here.

We set out to find out what happened during and after the production of the movie American Me. It took six months, but we think we've determined who did what, and why they did it. Instead of fuzzy memories and street rumors, we finally talked to some of the people closest to the events. We put the events in co...

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A former member of the Mexican Mafia who was in the criminal syndicate at the time of the movie, explains how it all went down.

A former member of the Mexican Mafia explains the process of extorting Edward James Olmos and the fallout on the street after the release of the movie, including the reasons for the killings of people who participated. He explains how the gang works, to what they took offense, and why people died. 

 

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Danny Haro was Edward James Olmos' right-hand man during his extortion and the production of the movie

Danny Haro worked with Edward James Olmos throughout his career and was instrumental as the link between the filmmaker and the Mexican Mafia. He coordinated the delivery of the script to the prison and served as the go-between for Olmos and the Mexican Mafia. 

 

More Than a Movie: American Me is a podcast that digs into the hi...

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November 3, 2022 30 min

Antoinette Levine was one of the best-known location managers in Hollywood when Edward James Olmos asked her to get him into a prison. 

Antoinette Levine was one of the premier Hollywood location managers in the early 1990s, with a talent for finding gritty Los Angeles backdrops for directors like Tony Scott. When she pitched Edward James Olmos on her vision, he went for it — then asked her to get him into Folsom Prison. With some ...

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While American Me was being filmed, a documentary was being shot behind the scenes following the real-life gangsters who were working on the movie.

Filmmakers Susan Todd and Andy Young join the podcast to talk about "Lives In Hazard" the documentary they made behind the scenes about the neighborhood gang members and the inmates at Folsom who were integrated into the cast and crew. We'll hear about the real-life or death...

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Writer Erick Galindo grew up with American Me and remembers vividly the impact it had on the streets of L.A.

Podcaster and writer Erick Galindo doesn't hold back in the recounting of his childhood in East and Southeast LA in the 1990s. And in those days, the movie that every kid in the barrio knew backwards and forwards was American Me. Erick says he saw firsthand how the film impacted recruitment into gangs and the word on the...

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October 13, 2022 36 min

Milton Grimes represented a Mexican Mafia leader who sued the production of American Me for stealing his life story.

Milton Grimes represented Rodney King after his beating by the LAPD. He has served as a defense attorney in nine death penalty cases in 56 jury trials, and once got the call to represent notorious gang leader Joe “Peg Leg“ Morgan in his lawsuit against the movie.

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October 6, 2022 31 min

Actor Sal Lopez spent months close to Edward James Olmos on the set of American Me and remembers the day he was told that people from the movie were dying. 

Sal Lopez trained as a dancer, but his real breakout was when he went to his first casting call. Sal was part of the first wave of Mexican American actors to break into the mainstream, and American Me would be his magnum opus. But Sal was also in France at the peak of the movie...

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The actors who played Puppet and Little Puppet, Danny de la Paz and Daniel Villarreal, share their experiences on-set and in the aftermath.

 

Danny de la Paz (Puppet) and Daniel Villarreal (Little Puppet) weren't just actors cast in American Me — they were part of a family of actors and filmmakers assembled by Edward James Olmos over the years that culminated with two powerful performances in American Me. They also share how th...

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September 22, 2022 38 min

Actor Jacob Vargas shares his experience on and off screen with gangs, movies and American Me.

 

Jacob Vargas caught a big break when at the age of 20 he was tapped to play Paulito in American Me. Since then he's had a career most actors would envy and continues starring in TV and film even today. How has he thrived as a Latino in Hollywood? What was it like being a kid in LA growing up around real gangs? And what impact did Am...

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September 15, 2022 38 min

Edward James Olmos is one of the most decorated and respected actors alive, especially in the Latino community. Who is the man responsible for American Me, and why did he make it?

Most of us know Edward James Olmos as a legendary actor, but he's also an activist who for decades has worked on behalf of Latino causes from Hollywood to Washington D.C. But when both of those sides of him collided to make a movie that would stop gan...

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September 12, 2022 25 min

American Me was supposed to help end gang violence — instead, it may have led to the murders of at least three people.

Host Alex Fumero unpacks the story of American Me, a film directed by legendary Latino actor Edward James Olmos, and his choice to base the film on a real-life gang called the Mexican Mafia or La Eme. Did Olmos' decision to fictionalize the lives of these men lead to the murders of several crew members?

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