Luis Guzmán pushes ‘Pelham’ train

You’ve seen him in Out of Sight, Boogie Nights, Traffic, and Waiting – just to name a few. He’s been sought out by Hollywood’s most talented and successful directors for nearly two decades. You may have even heard his voice in the Grand Theft Auto video games. Yet actor Luis Guzmán is unaware of his ubiquity.

“I’m never going to have one of my fanaticals going on YouTube [yelling my name],” says Guzmán.

But a quick search for Guzmán on the popular video site results in 3,250 videos, most of which are interviews, candid moments, movie trailers, or scenes featuring the actor.

Several of those videos feature the trailer from The Taking of Pelham 123, in theaters now. Guzmán co-stars in the Tony Scott film with heavy hitters Denzel Washington and John Travolta.

The movie is a remake of a 1974 film and a 1998 TV movie, but Guzmán is quick to point out the differences. Unlike the earlier interpretations and the John Godey novel on which all three films are based, the new Pelham tells the story of a train being hijacked in post-9/11 New York, where technology and fresh memories of terrorist attacks change the given circumstances.

“The original Pelham 123 was one of my favorite movies,” Guzmán says. “But this particular one was reinvented to work the times of the day. The original movie was about hostages and money. In this movie, even though you’re holding hostages, there was a way bigger plan than $10 million.”

In the film, Guzmán plays one of the men assisting Ryder (Travolta) in taking New York subway passengers hostage. Washington plays Walter, the unsuspecting train dispatcher who finds himself negotiating with Ryder for the passengers’ release.

Guzmán, who has worked with Scott before, said he loved the director’s idea to have “four or five” camera simultaneously shooting every take.

“It’s amazing when you watch him and he’s watching all those cameras and talking to every single camera operator [saying], ‘Okay, move back. Go in. Widen the shot.’ That’s like being a conductor of an orchestra,” Guzmán said.

It may have been a stretch for Guzmán, a former social worker, to play a hijacker. But the New Yorker is no stranger to the metropolis’ subway system.

“I’ve rode trains all my life – till this day,” he says. “My friends say, ‘You’re crazy man. You should call a car service.’ But I’ll get there faster on the train.”