Cheech Marin’s turn as a priest in THE PERFECT GAME may be counter-intuitive, but this icon of the counter-culture plays it absolutely straight as the strong but unassuming heart and soul of 1957 Monterrey, Mexico. He was equally unassuming when we spoke on April 1, 2010, though the topics included his own memories of the pride he and his fellow Little Leaguers in Southern California felt when the Monterrey Industrials made it to the Little League World Series back then. The pride in the film itself was also evident, though it was made in English, not Spanish, something I asked him to comment on. I also wanted to know why, despite the conventional wisdom against it, he ended up in a film surrounded by kids.
Aside from his life as a performer, Marin is also a world-class collector of Chicano art, and we finished the conversation with how he came to make his first purchase, and his obvious chagrin about who gets to make the call about what fine art really is.
THE PERFECT GAME is based on the true story of the Monterrey Industrials, a little league team that beat odds of many kinds to compete in the 1957 Little League World Series while coping with crushing poverty in their native Mexico, and battling racism, once they cross the border into the United States in order to compete. Marin is Padre Esteban, the parish priest who views his ministry as more than just saying mass and taking confession and whose persistence and gentle kind of tough love allows the team and its coach, Cesar, to believe in more than baseball, to also believe in themselves. and most importantly, to have hope. The film co-stars Clifton Collins, Jr. as Cesar, Emilie de Ravin as the newspaper reporter who hates baseball, but loves this team, Frances Fisher as a waitress with a clever sense of justice, and one of the most winning collection of kids ever to grace the screen, leading off with Jake T. Austin, Jansen Panettiere and Moises Arias. Marin first made waves as part of the iconic and subversive duo of Cheech and Chong, on television he has been the sartorially bold Insp. Joe Dominguez and currently can be seen on LOST as Hurely’s father. He is also a singer, childrens book author, and a renowned collector of Chicano art, with possible the largest collection of same in the world. received the inaugural Legacy Award for Arts Advocacy from the Smithsonian Latino Center. He currently serves on the boards of the Smithsonian Latino Center and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund