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A Fiery Premiere, Mexico-Style

June 23, 2006, 9:03 PM EDT

Once Upon a Time in Mexico premiere party Guastavino's Sunday, 09.07.03, 7:30 PM to 11:30 PM
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At the premiere party for Once Upon a Time in Mexico at Guastavino's, the film's director, Robert Rodriguez, received a slew of compliments. But at the end of the night, the cowboy hat-clad Texas native offered up one of his own, complimenting how the events' planners transformed the cavernous space to match the film's Mexican setting. “They showed us pictures of what this place would look like [decorated for the event], and I thought, okay, we'd fit in,” Rodriguez said. “Because, you know, this is a French restaurant.”

Illuminated by red votives and red spotlights, the space looked like a Spanish cathedral. Event producer Chris Benarroch of Benarroch Productions worked with designer Roy Braeger to bring subtle touches to the bilevel restaurant, including papier-mâché dolls reminiscent of the decorations for the Day of the Dead (a celebration—featured in the movie—in which Mexican families remember the deceased), prayer candles decorated with pictures of saints and glittery red tablecloths. Light was integral to the decor, creating a scorpion insignia on the ceiling and the effect of flames licking up a wall. “Sometimes you don’t need to bring in a ton of decor to create a unique, exciting environment,” Benarroch said.

Guests entered the space to the sounds of a smiling Mariachi band. Del Castillo, the Latin band featured on the movie's soundtrack, later took the stage with brief performances by two of the film's stars, Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas. (After attending the screening, Johnny Depp skipped the party, but a half dozen Depp doppelgangers attended.)

The main event was the food. The impressive buffet included tacos, steak fajitas and sliced turkey mole. Stations throughout the room displayed ceviche, Caribbean crudités, and Mexican sweets such as churros. Featured drinks included a pomegranate margarita and a passion fruit tequila frappe. And an ice sculpture by Ice Art shaped like a guitar—in the film, Banderas' character wields one that shoots bullets—doubled as a Patron tequila shot slide for those wishing to get a little loco.

Repentance for this gluttonous Sunday evening behavior came in the form of a makeshift confessional. But those who stopped by may not have received the desired result.

“Is this the confessional?” we asked the man in the booth dressed as a priest.

“Or a kissing booth,” he replied. “Whatever you prefer.”

Michele Marchetti

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