Gael García Bernal Blazes Trails as a Real-Life Gay Luchador in 'Cassandro' Trailer (Exclusive)

Gael García Bernal Blazes Trails as a Real-Life Gay Luchador in 'Cassandro' Trailer (Exclusive)

"Cassandro" is based on the true story of Saúl Armendáriz

The legend of Saúl Armendáriz, the so-called “Liberace of Lucha Libre,” will come to thrilling life thanks to Gael García Bernal.

Cassandro stars Bernal as the real-life gay luchador who performed in amateur wrestling matches on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border. Better known for his ring name, Cassandro, the El Paso, Texas-born Armendáriz blazed trails in the 1990s when he became the colorful “exótico” character he’s known for.

PEOPLE has the exclusive first trailer for Amazon Studios’ Cassandro, in which Bernal appears alongside costars Roberta Colindrez, Perla De La Rosa, Joaquín Cosío, Raúl Castillo and Bad Bunny. The film also features El Hijo del Santo, another real-life masked luchador, as himself.

“I was totally blown away by his story,” Cassandro director Roger Ross Williams, who also co-wrote the script with collaborator David Teague, tells PEOPLE. “For me as a storyteller, as a filmmaker, there's just a moment where a story hits you and you know this is right.”

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<p>Prime Video</p>

Prime Video

Williams’s previous work has been exclusively in the documentary world, including Life, Animated, Love to Love You, Donna Summer and Music by Prudence, the latter short film making him in 2009 the first Black director to win an Academy Award. (This year he is nominated for a documentary or nonfiction series Primetime Emmy for The 1619 Project.)

Making the leap from documentary to fictionalizing real-life subjects in Cassandro, says Williams, was daunting at first.

“I mean, how many documentarians do you know that have transitioned to scripted work? It's a different language. You have to learn to talk to actors.”

But that challenge — and the inspiration to be found in Armendáriz’s story — is what pushed Williams to develop the screenplay at Robert Redford’s Sundance Directors Lab. “This was something that was scary to me, that I was afraid of. I always dive headfirst into my fear."

<p>Prime Video</p> "Cassandro"

Prime Video


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The same can be said for Armendáriz. As the Cassandro trailer reveals, Bernal undergoes intense training in the ring as the fledgling luchador, encouraged by his trainer Sabrina (played by Colindrez).

Though his fellow wrestler and closeted lover Gerardo (Castillo) disapproves, Armendáriz discovers that as the empowered Cassandro, he can win over homophobic audiences by dressing in fabulous drag and mocking his stereotypically masculine foes.

“He triumphed over an entire macho industry, and he did it as his authentic self,” says Williams of Armendáriz. “Learning to love yourself is a big theme in Cassandro and a big theme in all of the lives of all of us, but especially gay people, the LGBT+ community. So I was just so inspired by that story.”

<p>David Becker/Getty</p> Saúl Armendáriz and Gael García Bernal at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival

David Becker/Getty

Saúl Armendáriz and Gael García Bernal at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival

The director adds, “Because it was this immediate instinct and it was so strong, and it was almost like the, I don't know, the Lucha libre spirits, the gay spirits, whatever, were speaking to me! I just was like, I have to tell this story.”

Cassandro, which premiered at this January’s Sundance Film Festival, is in theaters Sept. 15 before streaming on Prime Video Sept. 22.

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