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Eugenio Derbez, the Mexican actor and director who earlier this year was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is a stellar businessman as well. Last year, with producer and director Ben Odell, Derbez launched a production company, 3Pas Studios, and is producing his first movie, How to Be a Latin Lover. The film is the English-language follow-up to Instructions Not Included, which starred Derbez and broke U.S. box-office records in 2013 for a Spanish-language film. In between moviemaking and celebrating his award, he spent a few minutes sharing his business secrets with AARP.
Congratulations on your star on the Walk of Fame. How did you learn about the honor? How did you react?
The news came during our flight as we were moving from Mexico to Los Angeles. During the flight, I'd even asked my wife if we were doing the right thing, not knowing the announcement was being made. When the plane landed, we turned on our cellphones and they started ringing like crazy ... we even thought there was an emergency, but everyone was calling to give us the news. To tell you the truth, it took me about three hours to believe it.
What does that star mean to you?
I think it's the culmination of many things — a lot of effort, a career with a lot of sacrifices, and an audience that has always been loyal to me. I want to celebrate with all the Latinos in the United States. What I've achieved here I owe to them.
Your mother was the actress Silvia Derbez. Do you think her influence was a decisive factor in your becoming an actor?
I think her influence was a decisive factor. I've always asked myself what my career would be like if I hadn't been the son of an actress, what my life would have been if my mother had been an accountant, a lawyer or whatever. Would I have ended up being an actor? Possibly not.
Your father, Eugenio González Salas, was an advertising executive. Did his profession help you become a terrific promoter of your projects?
Yes, a lot. Keep in mind that my father died when I was young, so I couldn't enjoy him 100 percent or completely understand his profession. I did inherit some of who he was; yes, I did.
Actors aren't always good managers, but you are. Where did your business side come from?
I love being a businessman. If I hadn't become an actor, I would have devoted myself to business. It's very appealing to me and complements my career. I think all actors need to know a little bit of everything to promote our careers better, to manage them.
Did you have any formal business education or did you learn by doing?
I would love to have taken some classes, because now I realize that I really need to know more. But it's been on-the-job training and reading on my own.
What lessons have you learned?
At the beginning of my career, I invested in many businesses because I was afraid of running out of money. I ventured into businesses like real estate and restaurants. I got very bad results. I learned two big lessons: First, you can't get into a business you don't know about and, second, you can't run a business from far away. These two lessons have stayed with me and I've learned them very well.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a company?
To study so they don't make the same mistakes I made, because my story has been a mess. I don't know how I made it work! (Laughs.)
Can you tell us something about your upcoming project with 3Pas, your production studio?
I'm now preparing for my next movie, How to Be a Latin Lover. I'll be shooting it in Mexico and Canada.
Why was it important to have your own studio?
I like that it gives me creative freedom. I can choose what I want to do because I like it, not just because it drops in my lap.
Let's talk about your family life. What's the difference between being a father now, at 55, and at 25?
Everything. Now I feel more present and I have more time to spend with my family, with my daughter. Before, I was working on my career and was less present, but now I can afford to be with my daughter and to watch her grow up.
How do you find time to be a husband, father, businessman, producer, writer, actor and more?
It's very complicated, very tough, but I've learned to value time more than money. My priorities now are based on time, and that's why I have less of a social life and am more selective about the projects that I work on.
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