“Menem”: exclusively, all the secrets of the new series about the former Argentine president

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Mariano Varela, the brain behind the long-awaited Amazon series about Carlos Menem, hand in hand with Infobae. (Video Opy Morales)

Infobae spoke hand in hand with Mariano Varelathe brain behind one of the most anticipated series: the biopic of former president Carlos Menem preparing Prime Video. In an intimate talk, the producer revealed fascinating secrets about the development of the project, the choice of the protagonist, his revealing conversations with the man from Rioja and his family, and the taboo topics that the production addressed. The producer told details of the ambitious launch which promises to shock the public with a particular look at the life of the former president.

Mariano Varela with Leonardo Sbaraglia (Infobae)

Varela said that the idea was born by chance, while he was eating with friends and Menem's name was mentioned as a possible character for a biographical series. “Somehow it was automatic, I said great. I remembered the 90s that I lived through and I remembered Argentina in the 90s.he expressed.

The producer then began an extensive process of documentation and interviews to delve not only into Menem's political figure, but also into his personality. “I got into it more and more. All my life I liked reading about politics, studying politics and Argentine history. And really not only did I find the potential of a wonderful character to build, but also an era, Argentina in the 90s″he commented.

Asked about how the series addressed both the aspects positives and negatives of Menem's managementthe project leader explained: “I didn't want it to be a series with a certain ideology, but I wanted to have a certain objectivity to be able to freely tell the positive and negative aspects of what Menem's presidency was like and what we experienced in the 90's era.

Carlos Menem in one of the many meetings with Mariano Varela in 2019, where talks and anecdotes from the former president nourished the biopic (Infobae)
Carlos Menem in one of the many meetings with Mariano Varela in 2019, where talks and anecdotes from the former president nourished the biopic (Infobae)

The creator of the series emphasized the importance of knowing both the Menem public as well as private: 'I decided to investigate beyond the strictly political because, ultimately, what interests me is telling people's stories. “I talked to showbiz characters, psychics and even witches who supposedly knew him.”

About the choice of Leonardo Sbaraglia to play MenemVarela admitted that having Leo in the series was a dream but at first he didn't imagine it because physically they were very different.

–How was the choice of the actors and especially that of Leonardo Sbaraglia?

–Casting was a considerable challenge. The idea of Leonardo Sbaraglia He came from Ariel Winograd. One day, while discussing who could play that character, we began considering actors with a physiognomy similar to that of Menem. We knew we would have to characterize any actor chosen to look like him. Winograd then suggested Leo Sbaraglia to us.

Mariano Varela and Leonardo Sbaraglia during filming. (Infobae)
Mariano Varela and Leonardo Sbaraglia during filming. (Infobae)

At first I thought about the challenge of turning Leo into Menem, so physically different. However, both I and Amazon wanted to have it. The challenge was how to transform it into Menem. I think it was the most crucial decision we made, and fortunately it was Leo, because His performance, as you will see, is truly incredible. and the transformation work required a lot of preparation time each day prior to filming.

The work of the characterization team was key, in fact, there were moments when I was talking to Leo and I couldn't distinguish if I was talking to him or to Menem; She immersed herself so much in the character that she became Menem. Wino (Winograd) had already worked with Leo successfully before and that was a plus.

As for the rest of the cast, we were building it and Amazon supported us in this adventure that we shared with Ariel to put together the best possible cast. When we think of Zulema MenemWe all agreed Griselda Sicilian.

Thus we began to create this universe of characters and managed to assemble an impressive cast, headed by Juan Minujin and Griseldaand complemented by other super talented ones like Marco Antonio Caponi, Agustín Sullivan, Cumelén Sanz (Zulemita Menem), Guillermo Arengo and Campi (Domingo Cavallo). I think we got a group of exceptional actors for the series.

Griselda Siciliani and Leonardo Sbaraglia as Zulema Yoma and Carlos Menem. (Prime Video)
Griselda Siciliani and Leonardo Sbaraglia as Zulema Yoma and Carlos Menem. (Prime Video)

The series addresses intense chapters such as the attack on the AMIA and the relationship with his family. When asked how he avoided judging those events, Varela responded: “I didn't want to judge them for two reasons. First, Judging history with today's mentality would be unfair. And secondly, there are facts that are still open.” We focus more on developing the characters and their conflicts and not so much on delving into historical events.

Regarding the reaction that Menem himself would have had when watching the series, Varela said:

–“I think it would be fun to see each other. He would laugh. But I think there will surely be things about the series that you are not going to like and others that you are going to like. Menem was a person with a great sense of humorhe laughed at himself in some things.”

Regarding Menem, Varela highlighted his charisma: “Menem was a seducer in every sense. “I think a lot of his success was due to his charismatic personality, the way he related to people and his ability to convince others.”

–What were the talks with Carlos Menem like?

–My meetings with Carlos Menem were informal; we sat down to watch football and we talked. I am neither a journalist nor a researcher, which I think facilitated a more relaxed atmosphere. I didn't have a camera or recorder, we simply talked, and those talks inspired ideas for the project. It did not have a structured interview approach; conversations just happened.

Then, he put into the project what he remembered from those talks. Although my memory may be inaccurate in some details, I think that was part of the charm and the “inaccurate story” I wanted to present to the audience.

2019: Varela's informal meetings with Menem, watching football and chatting with no equipment other than a television, captured the spirit of the series (Infobae)
2019: Varela's informal meetings with Menem, watching football and chatting with no equipment other than a television, captured the spirit of the series (Infobae)

Although he did not record those meetings, Varela did obtain a last interview filmed before Menem's death, in which he asked him about all kinds of topics. The producer assured that he never received conditions from the Menem family for the series and that he had “Total freedom" in his research and in the interviews with Zulema and Zulemita.

–Did you rely on conversations and consultations with Zulema and Zulemita Menem to develop the project?

–In my conversations with Zulema and Zulemita Menem, the dynamic was more concrete compared to the more relaxed talks I had with Carlos Menem. With them, I addressed specific topics and particular situations that I had previously researched. Zulemita, in particular, shared his perspective on the era in question. My questions to them were more directed and focused, seeking to understand his point of view on certain events and situations.

–What reactions do you imagine in general from the public?

–In relation to the public's expectations about the series, I consider that it is an issue that has worried me. However, if I had approached this project with outside opinions in mind, especially given the controversial nature of the main character, I would not have been able to pull it off. I anticipate a variety of reactions, from criticism to praise.

My hope is that the audience is surprised by the narrative, the aesthetics of the series and, above all, the enormous work of the cast, which I believe is superlative. Ariel Winograd is great and put together a dream team.

"Menem"lights and shadows of a decade that marked Argentina with fire (Federico Romero / Prime Video)
"Menem", lights and shadows of a decade that marked Argentina with fire (Federico Romero / Prime Video)

The person in charge of production highlighted that Amazon gave him and Ariel Winograd complete freedom to develop the story. Without restrictions. His approach focused on telling the lives of the characters from a human perspective, stripped of ideological tendencies. Varela expressed a particular interest in exploring the characters' thoughts and emotions at key moments, such as suddenly assuming the presidency. His goal was to understand the characters from their own humanity.

The series promises to show unprecedented facets of one of the most charismatic and controversial presidents in Argentine history.

Menem will join the thousands of films and television shows in the platform's catalog, including original Argentine production titles such as Barrabrava, Argentina, 1985, El Fin del Amor, LOL: Last One Laughing Argentina, Iosi, El Espía Arrepentido, Porno and Ice Cream and Maradona: Blessed Dream.

Mariano Varela with Ariel Winograd showrunner and director "Menem"
Mariano Varela with Ariel Winograd showrunner and director of "Menem"

The production was directed by Ariel Winograd and starred an outstanding cast including Leonardo Sbaraglia, Juan MinujinGriselda SicilianJorgelina AruzziMark Antony CaponiAgustin SullivanCumelen SanzAlbert AjakaViolet Urtizberea and other renowned actors. It was confirmed that the series will have its exclusive premiere globally, reaching more than 240 countries and territories around the world.

"Menem"power, family tragedy and secrets never before revealed (Federico Romero / Prime Video)
"Menem", power, family tragedy and secrets never before revealed (Federico Romero / Prime Video)

Set in the hectic decade of the '90s, the series promises to take the viewer by the hand through the tortuous path that Menem traveled from his origins to reaching the highest office of the country, passing through the initial economic prosperity of his government to the subsequent decline. the growing social conflict and the bloody terrorist attacks that shook the country. In short, a deep and unrestricted story about power, corruption, family drama and social tragedy.

“Menem is the latest example of Prime Video's commitment to presenting increasingly solid local productions that reflect the history and culture of each territory. “We are dedicated to showcasing the wealth of Latin American screenwriters, directors and actors to the world, and Argentina is a great example of a territory where high-quality production standards and a great focus on storytelling result in incredible films and series,” said Camila Misas, head of Originals for Argentina, Chile and Colombia at Prime Video.

The Menem series was created and produced by Mariano Varela and led by Ariel Winograd as showrunner and director. With production of Claxson and Yulgok. The script was left in the hands of an experienced team of writers including Mariana Levy, Federico Levin, Luciana Porchietto, Silvina Olschansky and Guillermo Salmerón. This launch is expected to be one of the tanks of Prime Video for 2024.

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