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Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna Explore Brotherly Love in 'Rudo y Cursi'

So often has their longtime friendship been chronicled by the media that it’s easy to forget that Gael García Bernal and fellow Mexico native Diego Luna have spent the past eight years traveling independent paths to big-screen stardom.

Not that rumors of their closeness have been exaggerated.

Perhaps best known as the young stars of 2001’s Y Tu Mamá También, director Alfonso Cuarón’s highly eroticized road adventure, Bernal (The Science of Sleep, Babel) and Luna (Milk) have worked together on a series of off-screen ventures, including Ambulante, their traveling documentary film festival, and their production company, Canana Films, which recently released Sundance favorite Sin Nombre. And while they acknowledge choosing not to co-star again until the right project came along (despite several opportunities that seemed like pale imitations of their breakthrough hit), they are reunited as a pair of soccer-loving, beer-guzzling yahoos in the sharply amusing Rudo y Cursi.

The movie, whose title roughly translates to “Coarse and Corny,” marks the directorial debut of Carlos Cuarón, Alfonso’s brother and co-author of Y Tu Mamá. It appealed to the pair not simply for its disarmingly breezy script and the possibility of working again both with each other and Carlos, a trusted colleague and friend, but also because it allowed them to play tightly linked but fiercely competitive siblings. It is the kind of relationship they recognize in their dealings with each other, though both are quick to point out that the rivalry and petty jealousies of their youth are behind them.

“The first thing I remember in life was the doctor saying ‘It’s a boy,’ and then a few moments later I laid eyes on Gael,” Luna says with an impish grin. “I could only see four centimeters in front of me, so I guess he met me before I met him.

“It was 1978 when he came into the world, so I met him when he was one year old. Our parents were putting on a production of ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, the John Ford theater play, so that’s why I like to say Gael and I almost came from the same whore.”

It would be another few years until Bernal, now 30, and Luna, 29, first shared the stage – Bernal fondly recalls a childhood spent attending rehearsals with his parents, actors José Angel Garcia and Patricia Bernal, though it was Luna who began performing earlier – and neither has looked back since.

“I did my first play when I was six, and I remember having all these friends – I was six and they were in their 40s,” says Luna. “It all started with this workshop. This director had a simple idea for a story that someone was going to steal the constellations, and there was a group of kids that was going to find them. Then Gael came and joined the play.

“It’s funny, because there was this whole generation of kids that we grew up with, acting, playing football, working and winning together. It was wild. We still keep in touch with them. Sometimes it feels like we’re still there.”

Much has changed for the two actors since Y Tu Mamá introduced them to international audiences. They’re both family men now, and by their own admission far more grounded and mature, even as Bernal playfully launches rubber bands at his friend throughout a recent interview following Rudo y Cursi’s regional debut at the San Francisco International Film Festival. But it wasn’t always that way.

“I think we related to each other in the new movie the way we related to each other as teenagers,” Luna says, as Bernal nods in agreement. “The relationship we have now is more mature because it’s been so long. We share a company, we produce each other’s movies, we have friends, girlfriends and family in common.

“It’s such a rich history that losing time stuck in stupid competition is not something we’d allow ourselves to do today. But when we were 14? Definitely, there was competition, and that energy is in this film. But even then there was a difference, because we chose each other. When we’ve hated each other, we didn’t have to wake up and have breakfast together. These guys [in the movie], they’re brothers, and they wake up every day under the same roof, and it just reminds them how much they love and hate each other. We are here together because we want to be.”