In March 2005, Brian Nichols escaped a courthouse while on trial and murdered four people. Police and news swarmed for a manhunt, but Nichols took a recovering drug-addict hostage in her own home. Ashley Smith and her captor talked for seven hours about life and God until he let her walk free and surrendered himself. The event made headlines around the globe. It’s the stuff of a bestseller, or a blockbuster.
The blockbuster came this year. Captive is now in theaters. Playing Captain Sergeant Carmen Sandoval is Chile-born Leonor Varela. “[Joining] Captive was kind of a no-brainer,” Leonor said. “I knew of the story and I was very curious about the script. When I read it I was pleased, its fluidity and its intelligence.”
Inherent to Captive was the difficulty of portraying a real situation. “Of course if you’re doing a character from real life it’s a greater responsibility,” Leonor said. “People will compare it. At the same time it’s an easier task because the research is there for you to take from. I just did another movie where I had to do exactly that–a real-life character–that I had a ton of audio material on. I did feet compelled to be as accurate as possible.”
She’s referring to the highly rated Lifetime TV movie called Murder in Mexico: The Bruce Beresford-Redman Story. In it, a man’s wife is murdered while they vacation in Mexico in an effort to rekindle their marriage. He becomes the primary suspect and faces extradition. Clearly, Leonor has a taste for the intense.
Leonor has always been up for a challenge. Born in Chile, she went to school in France before coming to American to work. Despite “eye-opening” projects in her career, she points to her children as what she’s now most proud of. Her three little ones are three years, two years, and seven months old. (“That’s why my voice is so tired,” she said. We didn’t notice.)
Right now Leonor is in Chili, serving as the master of ceremonies for an international ocean conservation conference and launching a book her friend wrote and dedicated to her. When she comes home, it’s back to researching her next role. “This is a movie about a woman from the 20’s – a real life character yet again.” Leonor said. “Her name is Tina Madotti. We’re doing a movie about her life and I’m playing her. It’s a passion project and I’m excited to see it come to fruition.”