Jim Belushi is one of a long line of men who have donned fishnet stockings for Gloria Estefan. In their new movie comedy, A Change of Heart, Belushi plays Hank, a Fox News-loving Florida man whose worldview is rocked when his oldest daughter gets engaged to a Cuban immigrant and his youngest daughter comes out as a lesbian. The shock sends Hank to the hospital with a heart attack, and his life is saved by a transplant — from a beloved Puerto Rican drag queen. Hank is then forced to face his bigotry from the inside out.
Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio, teamed up with gay director Kenny Ortega (Hocus Pocus, High School Musical) to produce a heartfelt comedy with plenty of dance numbers and even a convincing drag performance by Belushi. We spoke to the Estefans in Miami at the premiere of the movie at the OUTshine (formerly MiFO) Film Festival.
The Advocate: This movie took over a decade to finally get made. Can you tell us about its evolution and how you got involved with Kenny Ortega?
Emilio: Kenny is one of my best friends. We’ve worked together for over 35 years and I adore him. He choreographed Gloria’s first tour. I’ve worked on a lot of films over the years. I worked on Top Gun, Birdcage, 3 Men and a Baby, Miami Vice, and because of that I get to see a lot of scripts. Every time they send you a script related to the gay community, and especially Latinos, it’s always the wrong message. I think that the gay community has brought so many contributions to the state of Florida, and this was the perfect setting to make a movie. There’s a lot of diversity in Miami, and we’re ahead of the times. We accept each other. We love each other. And when we brought this movie to studios, they didn’t want to do it. Now that we’re putting it in a lot of film festivals, we’re getting a lot of offers. We’re sending a great message about accepting diversity. We started making this film 10 years ago, and it’s still relevant with what’s happening in the world.
Jim Belushi’s character, Hank, really hit home for me because he is my Florida dad who loves Tommy Bahama shirts but hates the way the world is changing around him. What message do you hope to send to those who are reluctant to support LGBT or immigration issues?
Emilio: We have to learn from each other and we have to communicate. People may not always like change, but they have to accept that this is the world we live in. I love seeing people relate to this story.
Gloria: We’ve been surrounded by all kinds of people our entire lives. We’re all human beings, and I’m glad that the Supreme Court finally admitted that everyone has the right to love and marry who they want to marry. We had to reshoot some scenes because at the time it wasn’t the law of the land. We were happy to have to recut it and include a gay marriage proposal. Now we have a whole new issue because of the recent election and the immigrant angle; the movie speaks volumes and is even more timely.
The whole family threw their support behind this movie.
Gloria: The title of the film actually came from our daughter, Emily, and our son also has a bit part in the final scene as a DJ. We also wanted to do this in Miami because it was important to give work to the people and the production companies here, so even though it was a lot tougher to do everything here, Emilio stuck by it.
Belushi does one hell of a Wynonna Judd impression when he performed “Attitude” in the movie. You must know a thing or two about drag homages. Any favorites?
Gloria: I’ve seen a lot of great ones, but my favorite was when I did the music video for “Everlasting Love.” I was pregnant with my daughter, and I was so pregnant that I couldn’t even shoot close-ups. We went around the country and picked five of the top drag performers of me, so in the video they’re all in different outfits of mine playing me, but none of them are actually me! It was awesome and so much fun. I’m honored to be emulated by drag performers, and it’s immortalized forever in that video.