El Paso author's novel adapted to the silver screen

El Paso author Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s 2014 hit novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, received a sequel this past October and is getting a film adaptation as well. The novels, written for young adults, are set in El Paso and details “two youths struggling with their sexual and national identities.”


The Dallas Morning News reports, “the first Aristotle and Dante novel, published in 2014, has won numerous accolades, including the Stonewall Book Award. This year, Time magazine called it one of the best Young Adult books of all time. The film adaptation is underway; its cast includes Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria and newcomers Max Pelayo as Aristotle and Reese Gonzales as Dante. The team of producers includes Derbez, Kyra Sedgwick and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also voiced the audiobook versions, including the sequel.”


Sáenz continues about the movie saying, “It’s a project that’s been in the works for almost six years now. I’m excited because when the director, Aitch Alberto, decided to make this movie about Latinos, we talked about how they always cast anybody but Mexican Americans. So what does she do? She casts all Mexican Americans and one Mexican. Aristotle and Dante are played by newcomers. Eva Longoria, who plays Dante’s mother, is Mexican American. And then we have the one Mexican, Eugenio Derbez, who plays Ari’s father. Kevin Alejandro plays Dante’s father, and Veronica Falcón plays Ari’s mother. I love her because I wanted a Latina Anne Bancroft, and Veronica is perfect. Her voice is wonderful. Really rich. It’s all true to the book, and that’s important. That just doesn’t happen very often.”


It’s no wonder that the author’s novel was selected for an adaptation, given the high acclaim it received. Sáenz spoke on dealing with the critical reception of the first Aristotle and Dante novel for Texas Observer saying, “I’m somewhat baffled by the acclaim, somewhat delighted, somewhat embarrassed, and extremely grateful. Many people express to me that all this acclaim is well-deserved. I’m not so sure about that. Maybe it’s like love. I never feel as though I deserve all the love I’ve received throughout my lifetime. Lucky for me, love has nothing to do with the word deserve. Maybe, like love, it’s a gift. When you receive a gift, the only gracious thing to do is say, ‘Thank you.’ Ari and Dante was that rare book that somehow survived an abysmal sales record and became something of an international sensation.


How do I handle all the acclaim? By seeing it for what it is. I remind myself that the acclaim is for my book—and not for me. Yes, I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and so have a thousand other writers. And a lot of those writers may well be much better writers than I am. I’ve been writing for 35 years in an industry that can be heartless. And I’m still here. I’ve had some very painful failures and I’ve seen some very dark days. And I’m still here. While it took me a long time to have this kind of success, success and notoriety are not things I am entitled to—it can all be as fleeting as a rainstorm in the desert. At least I have learned who I am. And when all this acclaim fades into memory, I will still be here, reading a poem by a poet I admire and trying to get my little Yorkie, Chuy, to stop chewing on my books.”


While there is no announced release date for the film, Looper stipulates that, “It's most likely that the film will be ready for release in late 2022 or even early 2023.”