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CINEMA

Mario Casas: Heart-throb 2.0

Having seduced fans via movies and Twitter alike, the star gets serious in new film ‘Grupo 7’

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Actor Mario Casas: “His way of dealing with fame is admirable.”

Film the TV series. Go to the gym. Head home. Repeat. You wouldn’t call Mario Casas’ current life particularly exciting if it wasn’t for the fact that every day he also has to avoid the cars that wait for him outside his home in El Escorial, outside of Madrid, and follow him wherever he goes. “I usually stay calm and don’t confront them,” he says, sat on a bench in Madrid’s Retiro park. “It’s not in my interest. A bad reaction is precisely what they will take pictures of and what will appear in the magazines. But above all on the highway, when they speed up so as not to lose sight of me, I get scared and feel anxious.”

When he gets up he puts on a thick woolen cap that covers him down to the eyes. It’s 25 degrees outside. Have they followed him to the park? “I don’t know, it’s possible. Perhaps we’ll appear together in Cuore [magazine] next week.”

It might be surprising to hear Casas talk about nerves. He is the actor of the moment, who, when in the right project — such as the hits Mentiras y gordas, Fuga de cerebros (2009) and Tres metros sobre el cielo (2010) — can provide producers with a bigger guarantee of a return than predecessors such as Antonio Banderas, José Coronado or Eduardo Noriega.

His new film, however, will probably help break two or three clichés about his heart-throb image. In Grupo 7, he plays a cop responsible for cleaning up a junkie- and drug-dealer-ridden Seville ahead of the 1992 Expo. It’s one of his most shocking performances.

Actor Antonio de la Torre was impressed by his co-star’s patience in coping with the fans who dogged the set — some of whom had to be digitally removed from the final film. “His way of dealing with fame is admirable,” he says. “Imagine what it has to be like being followed around and finding yourself in front of hundreds of hysterical girls when you turn the corner. I don’t know how he keeps his concentration at the same time as he devotes attention to his fans.”

Casas was born 25 years ago in A Coruña to 17-year-old parents Heidi, a housewife, and Ramón, a construction worker, but moved to Barcelona when he was six. After appearing in commercials as a child, he headed to Madrid at 17, where he divided his time between odd jobs and studying at the Cristina Rota acting school before eventually landing roles in TV series such as La Sexta’s SMS and Antena 3’s Los hombres de Paco. His family has now reunited again in El Escorial. “My house, which is always full of people, is what gives me oxygen,” he says. He has said that he will live there until he one day decides to move in with his current girlfriend — his Tres metros sobre el cielo co-star, María Valverde.

Casas represents a new kind of industry star: the professional heart-throb. One who allows the worship of his image without transferring it to his personality; who spares interviewers from pompous considerations about his roles; who cultivates his fame in the medium term in a way he considers healthy, without feeling guilty or that he has any responsibility to society. His personality starts and ends with his image and any extrapolation on his way of life or thinking is journalistic excess. Sure, he’s more likely to be found in the pages of Cuore or receiving desperate declarations of love on the social networks than at awards ceremonies, but the temptation to brand him as part of the industry machine disappears after three hours in his company.

Moreover, he seems reasonably comfortable in his role as an idol 2.0. It’s easy to find him playing the fool in YouTube videos or answering his 600,000 Twitter followers via webcam. “Mario is intelligent, he knows it is part of his profession, that his fans put food on his table and he looks after them,” says Alberto Rodríguez, director of Grupo 7. The film is released on April 4, while Tres metros... sequel Tengo ganas de ti comes out on June 22. Seeing Casas in his woolen cap, nobody would say it, but resting on his shoulders is one of the most visible pillars of the industry, Spanish cinema, on the verge of a coma.