Before the movie recording started americanme, its director and protagonist Edward James Olmos received this warning from his friends: he could piss off the bosses of the prison gang known as the Mexican Mafia, who would be represented in the film.
And that is what seems to have happened. On March 25, 1992, twelve days after its premiere, Charles Martinez, a gang member who was a consultant to Olmos died after being shot inside a public housing complex in Los Angeles, California.
On May 13 of that year, Ana Lizarraga, an ex-gang member who served as an adviser to Olmos, was shot in the head in front of her son and her boyfriend as she prepared to go out to the beach.
Y Manuel Moon, a former gang member who also gave his experience to the making of the film, was executed racketeering style inside his car on August 7 of the same year.
Four gang members accused of the murders of Martínez, Lizárraga and Luna were sentenced, according to court documents and news reports. At that time they were believed to be coincidences, but later, in criminal proceedings, it was revealed that it would be a revenge of the gang.
It is unknown how many crimes occurred due to the fury of the leaders or ‘carnales’ of the Mexican Mafia for AmericanMe. One of the actors who refused to be part of the cast, Danny Trejo, assures in his autobiographical book Trejo: My Life of Crime, Hollywood, and Redemption what at least 10 people were killed in retaliation and that some crimes happened in prisons where ‘La Eme’ operates.
“Olmos was coming off an Oscar-nominated performance in stand and deliver and now I was making a movie about a world I knew intimately,” Trejo said of the day Olmos, dressed as a gang member, offered him a role in the film. “But my initial excitement quickly turned to dismay. Ten pages into (the script), I knew there was going to be trouble.”
Trejo said in June 2021 in an interview with the newspaper Los Angeles Times that in the early 1990s he spoke on the phone with the then ‘godfather’ of the Mexican Mafia, Joe ‘Peg Leg’ Morgan, who was in prison and was personified in AmericanMe.
Trejo, an ex-convict who was starting out in Hollywood, had Olmos and Taylor Hackford’s proposal on the table, the film blood in, blood out, that portrays ‘La Eme’ giving it to her. Trejo decided on Hackford’s, and Morgan agreed.
Gabe Morales, a former prison officer and author of several books on prison gangs, told Univision Noticias that when Morgan was in New Folsom prison in northern California, he asked him about the feature film Olmos was making and if they were paying him. for interpreting it.
“He wasn’t happy with the movie and he told me, ‘No, but that’s fine, they’ll take care of it,’” recalls Morales. “I understood what he meant at the time. get his ‘blessing.’ But he didn’t want to get involved with the movie, especially because of the way they played Rodolfo ‘Cheyenne’ Cadena, who was like a son to Joe,” he said.
“Either you treat cancer or it eats us alive”
Olmos played Rodolfo Cadena, a Mexican Mafia boss assassinated in a prison by rival gang members in 1972, with the character of ‘Montoya Santana’.
For ‘La Eme’, Cadena is a martyr who was stabbed multiple times while trying to make an alliance with the Nuestra Familia and Black Guerrilla Family gangs, made up of Hispanic gang members from Northern California and African-Americans, respectively.
What apparently angered the bosses of ‘La Eme’, who control Hispanic gangs in Southern California, including the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Florencia 13, is that Olmos changed the original script to add drama and added events that never happened.
One of those scenes that bothered them was Cadena’s rape in a juvenile jail. The other occurs at the end, when ‘Santana’ he is stabbed to death by his own “carnals”.
The original text on which it was based american me It was written in the 1970s by screenwriter Floyd Mutrux. It was a Hispanic version of the legendary movie The Godfather, a romantic saga about the five Italian-American mob families operating in New York.
americanme, For his part, he would tell the story of the gang that would ultimately become an important ally of the cartels in the distribution of drugs in the United States and a headache for the authorities.
“I want to show that there is a cancer in this gang subculture,” Olmos said in an interview with the newspaper. Los Angeles Times in 1991. “They will say: ‘You have taken away our manhood with this film.’ I tell them: ‘Either you treat the cancer or it eats us alive.'”
Olmos doubted that the way Cadena’s life and death would be portrayed would have repercussions. Some media reported that the actor visited Morgan in jail and gave him a copy of the script to read. The veteran gang member’s only comment was “don’t take me for a limp,” since he was wearing a prosthetic leg. Apparently after the meeting he rewrote part of the script.
“Eme never forgets”
Floyd Mutrux, who was also one of the executive producers of americanme, he was upset by the changes made to the original text and never showed up to the recording set. “I gave one of my best pieces of work to someone who didn’t respect it,” Mutrux told the Times in the ’90s. “Eddie took away her heart, her dignity, her passion. He changed the movie. He just didn’t get it,” he added.
Olmos himself received a series of death threats shortly after the premiere, he contacted the FBI and went into hiding for a while. In May 1992, a member of ‘La Eme’ sent him a letter in which he told him he had heard interesting things about americanme, He asked for a copy of the script and wished him “health, happiness and success at the box office,” according to a newspaper note.
In addition, Morgan sued Olmos already Universal Studios in Los Angeles Superior Court in April 1993 seeking at least $500,000 in punitive damages. He argued that the film, through the character of ‘JD’, attributed crimes to him for which he was never accused and feared that they would deny him parole for that. A few months later Morgan died of cancer in prison.
By 1996, a 33-count federal indictment charged members of the Mexican Mafia with extorting money and property from Olmos for failing the gang with his film.
Olmos did not respond to messages sent by this means requesting an interview.
Gabe Morales, the author of the book The history of the Mexican Mafia, he says that this is still a “hot topic 30 years later” and assures that “many people died because of it”.
“It is said that ‘La Eme’ never forgets”, warns Morales.