Lupita Peckinpah is a successful costume designer working on Mexican, Hollywood and international productions. She is also the daughter of the legendary filmmaker Sam Peckinpah and actress Begoñia Palacios, whom Sam met whilst they worked on the film MAJOR DUNDEE together in 1965 and married the same year. Their relationship was a loving, passionate but stormy one, reflected by the fact that they married and divorced three times up until Sam's death in 1984. Their daughter Lupita was born in 1973. I spoke to Lupita about her memories of Sam Peckinpah as a father and a man, and about her own experiences in the film industry.

Can you explain why you are known as Lupita?
Actually, my name is Maria Guadalupe but my nickname is Lupita. My name comes from the name of The Virgin of Guadalupe, the most important Virgin of Mexico. Mexicans feel very devoted to her. My grandmother had the same name, so this is kind of a lineage from my family.

What are some of your earliest memories of your father?

I lived with my mother most of my life, and my father died when I was only 12 years old, so it is kind of difficult to talk a lot about my memories with my father. I have only small memories about my father, but there are two memories that I really love. The first is that my father was a great cook in the kitchen. He loved to cook. I remember him cooking for us on vacations and one of those moments was in a villa in Rosarito, Mexico, and he cooked us a great Asian dinner. The other memory is of him taking me to a shopping center. I remember there were Eastern festivities and I remember he bought me almost all of the shopping center! As a kid it was all I could wish for, so I was very happy. It was like I was in a dream. I remember there were also chocolate eggs everywhere in the department stores, so I was like Alice in Wonderland, so little with all these clothes and dolls and all these toys around me. It was my best day ever!

What was his relationship with your mother like? How did she feel about him?

* Sam and Begonia.
My mother could never love anybody as much as my father, and could never forget the love of her life. I saw how she felt sometimes unhappy and frustrated in a lot of ways because they couldn't make it as a couple and as a family living together. She always lived with only his memory and unfortunately both of them were essentially very difficult people, and when they tried to live together as a family they were like dynamite. They were so in love with each other but they were two people who couldn't be together but couldn't be separate. There was a lot of passion and love between them. She lived in the past and agonised about losing him. My mother always respected my father very much and she always told me great and beautiful things about him. That's the reason why they decided just to see each other from time to time. They lived together for a couple of years in Malibu on Paradise Cove. They had this beautiful house next to the ocean and they called it 'La casa de los pajaros'. I don't know exactly when they bought this house because they got married and divorced 3 times. Maybe this happened during their first marriage. She never got married again and she never loved someone with that intensity again.

*Sam and Begonia.
I think the two of them were very unique human beings in general.They were two people who had pretty much kind of the same childhood and had a similar way of looking at life. I think they both were sometimes misunderstood by their parents and that gave them pain and a sense of guilt at times. I am not saying that they didn't receive lots and lots of love from their parents but their mothers where pretty tough I think. In both of their families, the mother was the central, dominant figure as far as I know. The 'mama' ruled the house. In our era, normally people do what they like professionally and not what their parents want them to do, but back then it was very different I guess, and in the house of my father the lineage was of judges. In the end, my father took another path, which must have been a difficult decision for him to take. I guess both of them had a difficult childhood in some respects, but in other ways they were very happy. For example, my father loved his time sent during his childhood in Fresno, California. They were in the mountains, hunting and enjoying the nature, and the calm, quiet and mystical style of life up there. I think that is why my father used to love to travel a lot to Montana, California where he had a ranch or cabin up there. He could escape up there to relax and enjoy the quiet and the nature.

Can you remember the last time you saw your father?
They both died very young, they both died at 58 years old and the last time my father came to Mexico to see us it was in Puerto Vallarta, and he suddenly got very sick one or two days before we were due to travel there to meet him. My mother got an emergency call to Mexico City to say that my father had gotten very sick. So she had to fly to Puerto Vallarta on a private plane with all the special support of medical assistance, and then travel to Los Angeles with him to a local hospital. All I can say is that those moments where they were together on that plane were the most painful moments for both of them because my father was actually dying on that plane. At least my mother had the opportunity to be with my father before he died. My mother was devastated but in the end at least I could feel happy for the love they felt for each other in this life and beyond, and that they could be together during his last moments. The ashes of my mother and father are spread in the ocean of Paradise Cove in Malibu, California.

*Sam and Begonia.
I wished I could have seen him for a last time on that trip that he made to Vallarta, but when he got sick, my mother and I were in Mexico City and that is why I didn't have the opportunity to be there and say goodbye but fortunately for me I had the opportunity to talk with him on the phone one day or two before he got sick, and I remember he told me that he loved me so much. Maybe for us that was our goodbye! I really remember that phone call so clearly in my mind. From his voice on the phone , I got the impression he really felt like something was going to happen. Maybe he had a premonition or something. That was my last time talking with my father.

How was he as a father?
It is difficult to answer this question because I only used to see my father on vacations. Obviously my father always tried to do his best, and he gave me all his love and more in those little moments. We used to travel a lot, the three of us, so he really tried to make the most out of our time together. My father was very sweet with me, but unfortunately for him on the other hand, it was not easy at all for him. My mother never let my father and I spend time alone together, like in Los Angeles for example, or to go on a trip together alone just him and me. I don't know why my mother was so strange about this situation. I think it had to do with her background or something. I wish she had let me travel alone with my father and spend more time alone with him. I really wish we could have gotten to know each other better. I grew up as I said with my mother so it was difficult for me to feel comfortable at all sometimes when I was with my father. It was a difficult situation because I could only see him from time to time and we never had a real life as a family together. I really don't know if my father lived with us at all. I never really asked my mother.

What was he like as a man?
*Lupita and Begonia.
My father was sometimes like a little kid.I can say he was very generous. He loved freedom, he was a poet, a visionary. He loved Mexico, he loved to read all the time (he used to say that books were his food for the day). My father was funny, mysterious, and he loved kids. He had this deep look in his eyes that sometimes people felt kind of intimidating. He was highly intelligent. A man who loved nature, animals and hunting. My father was sometimes a solitary man, with a lot of fears. He lived with shadows sometimes and was a difficult man to understand in many aspects. He was someone who would die for his beliefs. He was a great human being, a legend in his movies and in real life. He was a unique person, and my idol, the best father I could ever wish for and have. I really love him so much. I think I would need to write pages and pages to describe the great human being my father was.

Did you ever see his dark side?
I think we all have a dark side to our personality, but that some people expose it more than others. I think I have a dark side too sometimes, but I try to transform it into something positive.

Why did Sam love Mexico so much?

My father found love and freedom in certain aspects in his life here in Mexico. For him, Mexico represented liberty and freedom.He loved the culture, the women, the landscapes, the towns, the traditions, the folk music. He loved the humor of Mexico and Mexican people in general, whom he found to be warm and friendly. He loved the bohemian style and the intellectuals and painters. Actually he had good friends here in Mexico like El Indio Fernandez, Chano Hurueta, Jorge Russek and Alex Phillips Jr. He liked tequila and the Mexican festivities. He loved the bizarre contrasts in Mexico to his American life. Mexico is a great country in all aspects, with so many beautiful places to visit, both touristy and non-touristy, places where you have the possibility to explore. It's like an adventure with all its mystery and contrasts, so many places to visit. A lot of visitors fall so deeply in love with my country and they always want to come back. It really can change your life!

*Lupita and Sam.
What did you learn from your father?
I think I learned a lot of things from my father. I wish I could have learned more things and had more time with my father. I wish he were here now to teach me things in life, that he could see how great I am doing in all different aspects; to have him be proud of me about my goals and successes. I wish he could hold me and hug me and kiss me and give me love again, now that I am 38 years old. As I said I only had 12 years to get to know him and the distance between Mexico and L.A. didn't help at all. Of course I learned a lot of things in life about my father but mostly this was after he died. Now that I am older and I am more aware about life, I can understand more things about my father and what he taught me. I can also have more insight into my childhood with him.I understand now how important it is to focus only on the good things and remember the good memories and transform them into love.

What I have learned the most from him is to be a happy person who lives in the present, who enjoys the simple things in life, who trys to live in equilibrium, and who knows what pain is but learns how to transform it into love with the passing of the years. I had to grow up pretty soon and learn to be a mature person since I was very little, because of having two parents who acted like little kids from time to time. Nevertheless, I learned what love is from my parents and thanks to them I am who I am right now because of what they tasught me and what they believed in.

I am blessed with all the love I received from my mother and my father. They both gave me life and thanks to them I am here with my legacy from them. I just feel so happy that I had the parents I had. They always let me be myself and believed in me, allowing me to go with the flow and follow my dreams. For me this is the greatest gift, a treasure so valued that it doesn't compare to anything else.

How similar a personality do you have to to your father's?
Oh my God, I have inherited a lot from both my mother and father. But from my father I have his dedication to work and perfection; his generosity; his love for Mexico (my country); a sensibility for art, movies, and literature; a love for good living; a love of the ocean and of nature; a love of freedom; his rebel spirit; and a belief in the importance of justice, faith, love and sincerity. Like him I am sometimes a very solitary person, and am a bit of a restless gypsy. I have difficulties staying in one place. I also have his approach to life in that I strive to be happy and have the wisdom to enjoy the simple things in life.

Did you ever visit the sets or locations of his films?

The only occasion I remember is visiting him on the set of THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND (1983) in the early '80s. I remember a scene by a pool. I remember being in the hotel in an office waiting with my mother and my half-sister Kristen, and that I started making stories about some objects that were in the room! I think I must have been bored and I just did it to pass the time. That's really all I can remember.

Why did you follow Sam into the movies?
I don't think I followed in the steps of my father or my mother I just think it happened naturally. For a long time in my life I was against working in the film industry or having any relationship to his career. Actually, I studied Fashion Design, but because of people I knew and because of destiny, I ended up working on films. I never thought it was going to happen but it's my life now.

*Lupita and Anthony Hopkins.
How did you get involved in film costuming? Why do you love it so much?
I got involved because of the cinematographer Alex Phillips. He was a good friend of my father's and I remember I contacted him once and he introduced me to some people from TV. I started working when I was 22 for a Mexican TV channel. Of course I am more involved in the film industry now. I love so many things about working on films. I can show my creativity and I can help tell a story through my work on the costuming. I enjoy the creative process, being on the set and travelling a lot. I like to to meet intresting people and that I get to transport myself to all kinds of different eras every time I work on a project.I don't like to be sitting in an office, and thanks to my job I can move from place to place, and have a spontaneous lifestyle. I like to work with different directors, and each project is a very different challenge. I love the magic of the movies!

In what ways are Mexican and international films different to work on?
I would say that the most marked difference is the money, as my experiences on working on productions here in Mexico have taught me. Hollywood films and international films have much more money.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

*Javier Bardem and Lupita.
Dealing with producers here in Mexico can be difficult. Working conditions can be tough, especially on productions that don't have restrictions on working hours. Salaries for my crew and I can be low. The government doesn't support the film industry at all like it should. On the other hand, Mexico is my home country and I have lived here my whole life. I work mostly in Mexico and it has supported me in so many ways in my career, so I appreciate this. I'm not saying it's so complicated at all. I have met some lovely people in this industry, made some good friends and worked with some very good directors. 

Can you talk about your experience working on THE MASK OF ZORRO (1998)?
It was a great experience working with Martin Campbell and the actors on THE MASK OF ZORRO. It was the first movie I worked on, actually. I was 22 years old at that time so I was like a sponge, picking up all the information I could. It was so magical and epic working on the movie.I really thank the costume designer Graciela Mazon for giving me my first opportunity working on it. There were great locations and great actors. In all the early movies where I was a wardrobe assistant I was making my first steps and it was like going to school and learning all I know from the best teachers I ever had.

How about BEFORE NIGHT FALLS (2000)?
My best film experience was working on BEFORE NIGHT FALLS. The director Julian Schnabel is a very creative person. I really admire him as a painter and director. It was great to see how he could mix all the elements of the arts and put them all together in a movie,visually and intellectually. It is a great movie and we all had a great time working on it. We shot in some of the most beautiful places in Mexico like Merida, Guaymas Sonora and Veracruz. I worked for the Costume Designer Mariestela Fernandez and she was my best teacher ever, I learned from her everything I know.

And MAN ON FIRE (2004)?
I didn't work directly on the set of MAN ON FIRE, or have any interaction with Tony Scott, although I wished I could have. It didn't happen that way, so it was a different kind of experience and a great opportunity. I was more involved in the creative area of purchasing the fabrics and clothes, working for the Costume Designer Louise Frogley.

What are some of the other productions you have enjoyed working on?
NACHO LIBRE (2006), LA LEY DE HERODES (aka HEROD'S LAW, 1999), HOUSE OF WAX (2005), THE BOY WHO SMELLS LIKE FISH (2011) and some other features were great experiences.

When did you graduate to becoming a costume designer?
A few years ago. I now design the costumes for Mexican, American and international productions. I worked recently with the director Carlos Bolado on a movie called TIATELOCO, which will be released this year. I have worked here in Mexico for very good directors such as Roberto Sneider, Jorge Aguilera, Carlos Bolado, Olallo Rubio (THIS IS NOT A MOVIE, 2011), Fernando Lebrija, Leche Ruiz, Analeine Cal y Mayor, Gary Alazraki, Carlos Cuaron, Luis Estrada, Antonio Serrano and now I am working on a movie with the director Gustavo Moheno. Also I work a lot for foreign directors on publicity so most of the time if I am not working on films, I am working on publicity. I travel a lot and I have lived and worked in the States, especially in Los Angeles, with directors as Jaume Collet Serra (HOUSE OF WAX) and Jared Hess (NACHO LIBRE). I have also worked in publicity as well as fashion in the US.

Does your surname make your career easier or more difficult?
I wish it would be helpful sometimes but it is not at all, and to tell you the truth if they don't like your work you just don't get the job, as simple as that. So I think I must be good at what I do. 

Do people ask you about Sam all the time?
Yes of course, all the time and in all kinds of places, in the US and in Mexico, where he is also very loved! My father has a lot of fans and followers everywhere. I get asked questions by my friends, my co-workers, people in the industry, film directors I meet or work with. I remember when I was s working as a fashion designer in a retail fabric warehouse in Los Angeles, where you might think they don't know who Sam Peckinpah is, they asked me once about him and if I was his daughter.  

How different was the real Sam to the legend of Sam?
My father was a legend, both as a father and as a director. I don't think there are any differences between the real Sam and the legend of Sam. He was a legend in all senses of the word. For my father there was no separation between his movies and his real life. He put his heart and soul into his movies. As long as I knew him, he never lived any other way. His movies were his babies. Making films was his passion, he lived for it. He was never happier than when he was making a movie. I think that is the reason he is considered a legend, a rebel, a myth. He lived over the edge, he lived in a time where being a director was for real. That is why he will always be a legend. He died for his art, in a metaphorical way. He lived in very difficult times, when having a personality like his was not accepted by the system at all. Some people in the industry loved him so much, but some hated him as well. He was a rebel during a time when the independent industry didn't exist and he wasn't fully understood in his time at all.He was a great man! A beautiful poet and a genius. Not only was my father a revolutionary who helped transform the cinema of his era, but he he also changed the way we now look at the Western genre. I just love him more and more every day, I am very proud of being his daughter. 

Of all your father's fims, which ones are your favourites? How do you feel when you watch them?
My favorite films of my father are RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962), THE WILD BUNCH (1969), THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE (1970) and STRAW DOGS (1971).

When I watch the movies of my father I watch them as a spectator and not as a daughter. I just like them more and more each time I watch them. I try to invite friends to the house so we can watch them togther and I am really into the reactions people have watching my father's movies. It is very intersting. It's like an excercise for me.

I have unique feelings for each movie.

I love the photography, the music and the landscapes of RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY. It is a historical movie and a classical Western, with a great story behind it. For me, it is a very poetic and epic film.

THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE also has a great story and great actors. I really enjoy the performances of Jason Robards, Stella Stevens, David Warner, LQ Jones and Strother Martin. I find the story funny and unique with great humour and a message behind it.

THE WILD BUNCH is pure poetry, his masterpiece! It's ultraviolent, crazy and bizarre. It gives me all kinds of emotions. The Bunch themselves for me represent pure adrenaline and my father's sensibility. You just love their heroism. They don't have anything to lose so they just go for all. My father chose the perfect actors for the Bunch and I just love all of them - Warren Oates, Ernest Borgnine, William Holden, Robert Ryan and Ben Johnson. It's an epic film, a mix of sensations, and I just love so many things about it - the dialogue, the structure of the movie, the editing, the camera movements and the music. I can see a lot of the unique things about my father in this movie. The portrait of Mexico and Mexican people is done greatly. The performances of the Mexican actors are excellent. I just love El Indio Fernandez, Jorge Russek, Alfonso Arau, Chano Urueta, and Elsa Cardenas.

STRAW DOGS causes me turbulence. It is a unique film, and I love it. I really like the script, there are so many scenes that I just love. All the characters in this movie are amazing, so creepy and bizarre. I love their darkness, and what they reveal about our own dark natures. This film is pure poetry as well, and I love the themes of the movie and the way it is structured. The photography is great. The last scenes of the movie just drive you crazy, they transport you to this weird atmosphere with the music, the camera movements and the reactions of the characters.

In November I am going to a film festival here in Mexico, which is well known and important. It is called Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia, and they are going to do a retrospective of my father. They are going to show THE WILD BUNCH, THE GETAWAY (1972), PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID (1973) and BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (1974). It will be a nice opportunity for me to talk about my father and see his movies on the big screen again. I am really excited about it! I enjoy talking about my father and working on projects involving him. I worked on a documentary called 'The Wild Bunch - An Album in Montage', for Paul Seydor and Nick Redman a while back. You can see it in the special features of the DVD and Blu-ray.

I never got to talk about my father's movies with him, and if he did at some moment, unfortunately I just don't remember.

I love you dad forever and ever!!!!!!
I dedícate this interview to you wherever you are.
I will always love you so much.
Love, Lupita.

I spoke with Lupita by telephone and through email during September 2012. I would like to thank her for her time and for her candour.

Photographs marked * are courtesy of and property of Lupita Peckinpah.

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