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Prof. Luis Peña Meets Acclaimed Actor From Border Town Drama

Chris Cooper and Luis Pena
Actor Chris Cooper and Prof. Luis Peña

This year Professor of Hispanic Studies Luis Peña attended the Austin Film Festival, where he had the opportunity to meet an actor familiar to him and his students–Chris Cooper, who portrays the main character in Lone Star. The festival dedicated two sessions to celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the film, which is about the border between the United States and Mexico, and immigration-related issues.

"Lone Star is one of the most sophisticated and multilayered portraits of the border," said Peña. "The film asks viewers to seriously reconsider notions of history, power and race."

Peña has been teaching Lone Star since 2000, when he first showed it in the senior seminar "Cultural Representations of the U.S.-Mexico Border."

"Each time I teach the senior seminar, Lone Star is there, demanding a critical and creative response from the students and me," he said.

He also teaches the film in the course "The Celluloid Border: Images of the U.S./Mexico Border in Film and Literature," and in independent studies related to topics including film, the border and ethnic studies.

Cooper was present at one of the film festival screenings of Lone Star. He commented on the filmmaking process, collaboration with other actors and his experience working with director John Sayles. A Q&A session followed for critics, writers and students of film and acting.

"I asked Chris Cooper a question about his preparation for the last scene of the film, which is a controversial one," said Peña. "He found me after the session and explained his answer in more detail. It was amazing to see how sensitive and sophisticated his response was, making references to Hollywood border film traditions, Greek tragedy, cultural translation, existentialism and border transgression."

Cooper then thanked him for seeing the film and asking the question.

"If I liked Chris Cooper before, after that I am a forever fan. Such lucidity and humility is admirable," Peña said. "So I continue learning from Lone Star and Chris Cooper, and I hope my students in the future do the same."