It’s not every day that an actor from Arlington gets to not only meet a film star but also work alongside one.
But that is exactly what happened after Lico Reyes — perhaps better known as one of the longtime leaders of the Arlington branch of the League of United Latin American Citizens — auditioned for a role in Nicolas Cage’s latest movie, the recently released Joe .
Reyes, whose start as an actor came when he was a junior at the University of Texas at Arlington, also works as a magician, singer, master of ceremonies and disc jockey. For Joe, he originally auditioned for the role of a character named Henry in September 2012.
Casting director John Williams said he enjoyed Reyes’ unique attitude.
“He had a very neat voice and look — kind of a crazy dude,” Williams said. “We look for people with interesting perspectives on life and different attitudes, and he came in and definitely had that.”
Reyes, who turned 68 this month, learned that he got a part in the movie and drove to Austin a few weeks later, only to discover it had been decided that he would play a different role.
Instead of Henry, David Gordon Green, the film’s director, had given Reyes the part of Blind George.
“The director told me that it was because he thought my acting and trouble to drive to Austin twice warranted a small part,” Reyes said. “So he wrote me into the movie.”
Reyes said he was given the opportunity on set to write his own script for certain scenes, including one of Joe’s dream sequences in which Blind George appears as a mystic.
“From what I can gather, [Green] liked my acting,” Reyes said. “He said he liked my skills and asked me to stay longer on the set, and wrote me in extra scenes.”
Those extra scenes allowed Reyes to share lines with Cage, whom Reyes described as “very intense and focused, with a walk like John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart.” While on set cracking jokes, writing lines and ad-libbing, Reyes said Cage once talked with him and said, ‘You know what Lico? You’re a much better poet than comedian.’ ”
Reyes took that as a high compliment.
“When you think about it, there is so much poetry in the rhythm of your delivery as an actor,” he said.
Before switching to UT Arlington, Reyes attended a Jesuit seminary with an eye on becoming a priest. Now he uses that knowledge in his routine as “Father Vito.”
Some of his other television and movie appearances include the lead role in the short movie Wally as a homeless man and a role in Pancho Barnes with Valerie Bertinelli.
Cage is Joe Ransom, an ex-con with anger-management and alcohol issues who runs a squad of day laborers that poisons trees slated to be knocked down and clears brush for a timber company.
But something happens to upset Joe’s routine. Into his life walks Gary, a gangly teenager looking for work. He lives in squalid poverty with a no-account, liquored-up dad and a sister who seems traumatized.
More than anything, Joe feels like a portrait of a lost rural world, one disconnected from the America seen on television every day. The realism is helped by the casting: The work crew is made up of guys who are not actors, including a homeless man who died after filming was completed.