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New York Daily News

Rivera Hopes To Play Off 'Diaries' Success


3 February 2005
Copyright © 2005 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

He's an A-list, L.A.-based, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter now, but Jose Rivera is still a New York playwright at heart.

While most struggling scribes would sell their souls for an Oscar nod, Rivera - nominated last month for the script of the Che Guevera biopic "The Motorcycle Diaries" - is merely hoping the recognition will help move his theater career along.

"I'm hoping that because of this, more people will be inspired to look at some of my plays and [produce] them," says Rivera.

"I have three new unproduced plays that I still want to do."

No matter what the outcome on Oscar night, Rivera says he still wants to be known as a playwright - just one who happens to write pretty good screenplays, too.

Rivera, who was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Holbrook, L.I, is accustomed to recognition.

He's a two-time Obie Award winner whose lyrical, symbolic and often surreal plays, including "Marisol," "References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot" and "Adoration of the Old Woman," have been produced at some of the more established companies in the U.S.

He also studied with magical-realist writer Gabriel Garca Marquez at the Sundance

Institute in Utah and was a co-creator of the "Twilight Zone"- like TV series "Eerie, Indiana" in the late 1980s.

Yet Rivera says he wasn't prepared for the kind of attention he's received since the release last year of "The Motorcycle Diaries," which stars Gael Garca Bernal as a young Guevara embarking on a life- altering road trip across Latin America.

"After the film premiered at Sundance, it changed my life," says Rivera, 48.

"But things really started happening after it premiered in New York and L.A. That's when a good deal of the talk started about my getting a nomination. I was hoping for it, of course, but I really wasn't expecting it or counting on it too hard.

"I didn't want my expectations to be destroyed."

He's not expecting much at this month's Oscar ceremony, either.

"As far as I'm concerned, the nomination in itself is great," he says. "I really couldn't be happier. If there is a win, it would be cake on top of the cake."

Rivera has yet to receive any screenwriting offers in the wake of his nomination. That's fine with him, he says. He's busy finishing the script for his directorial debut, "Cloud Tectonics," a feature- length film based on his play produced in 1997 at Playwrights Horizons.

"There's nothing like the artistic satisfaction that you get after having completed a good piece of work," says Rivera, "regardless of the medium."

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