Lou Diamond Phillips celebrated the anniversary of La Bamba by reflecting on how the Ritchie Valens biopic changed his life forever. Valens, the rock ‘n’ roll singer known for hits like “La Bamba” and “Donna,” passed away in a 1959 plane crash at the age of 17 just months after breaking out as a famous rock star. His heartbreaking story is told in La Bamba which was released in 1987.
On the movie’s 34th anniversary, Lou Diamond Phillips took to Twitter to remember La Bamba. He first retweeted an image of the poster with Phillips in character as Ritchie holding a guitar. The caption of the original tweet noted that La Bamba premiered in theaters July 24, 1987.
“And somebody’s life changed forever. Thanks, Ritchie,” Phillips added, also including the hashtag #Grateful.
Esai Morales also starred in La Bamba as Ritchie’s brother Bob. Speaking about La Bamba on its anniversary, another fan on Twitter tweeted that Morales “stole that movie” with his own moving performance with his role. Phillips responded to that tweet as well, concurring that Morales particularly shined in La Bamba while adding that the story was originally from Bob’s point of view.
“I agree,” Phillips tweeted. “But what may not be obvious is that the film was supposed to be told from Bob’s point of view, like Amadeus. He was the lead. Which is why Bob brings us into the story and Esai was top billed. The edit made that less clear.”
When another fan asked if Phillips still kept in contact with Morales, Lou responded: “Most definitely.”
Though Phillips had sporadic acting roles in the mid-80s, his breakout role was as Ritchie Valens in La Bamba. Written and directed by Luis Valdez, the movie starred Phillips, Morales, Rosanna DeSoto, Elizabeth Pe&ña, Danielle von Zerneck, and Joe Pantoliano. Along with covering Ritchie’s rise to fame and shocking death, the hit movie also delves into the effect that all of it had on his brother Bob Morales, along with the rest of his family and girlfriend Donna Ludwig.
In May, Phillips also celebrated Valens on what would have been his 80th birthday. In a Rolling Stone article honoring Valens, the actor said, “Ritchie was a rock and roll pioneer, and that is without qualification. His music touched an entire generation. Not only did [his story] speak to a community, it really represents the American dream for Latinos.”
It all started with La Bamba, and Phillips has continued to act frequently in the years ever since. Phillips went on to star in the Young Guns movies, for which a sequel is in early development, with some of his other movie credits including Courage Under Fire, Che, and The Night Stalker. He also had main roles on the TV series Longmire and Prodigal Son and has recently appeared on other hit shows like Blue Bloods, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and NCIS: New Orleans.
Phillips made a perfect Ritchie Valens and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in that role, though it’s just as true that Esai Morales was also amazing in La Bamba. Even 34 years later, the movie remains one of the all-time greatest biopics, thanks in part to the perfect casting. This story comes to us from Lou Diamond Phillips.