The Mexican actor says he knew what he was getting into when he chose to work on "Mammoth" with Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson, whose previous films have covered such subjects as forced prostitution and amateur porn.
"I definitely knew that it was going to be a confrontational film, that it was going to be provocative in a certain way," Garcia Bernal told The Associated Press in Spanish during a recent phone interview from Cochabamba, Bolivia, where he is filming a new movie.
He said Moodysson's work "profiles people in a sharp, vulnerable way that many people can find irritating, while other many can love."
"Mammoth," which opened on Friday in the U.S., centers around a successful married couple in New York: Leo (Garcia Bernal), creator of a booming Internet site who begins to feel trapped in the rat race, and Ellen (played by Michelle Williams, ex-fiancee of the late Heath Ledger), a self-sacrificing surgeon who spends long shifts saving lives in the emergency room.
Their 8-year-old daughter, Jackie (Sophie Nyweide), spends most of her time with their Filipino nanny, Gloria (Marife Necesito), which leads Ellen to question her priorities in life. At the same time, in the Philippines, the nanny's family struggles to survive without her. During a business trip to Thailand, Leo unknowingly triggers a series of events that have dramatic consequences for all of them.
"I really liked this movie after reading the script," Garcia Bernal said, adding that the idea of working with Moodysson and Williams was also attractive.
And the birth of the 30-year-old actor's first child, Lazaro, in January, has given him a different view of how to interpret the role of a father in film.
"Becoming a father is a lot like, I don't know, going underwater. The first time you go into the sea it completely changes your relationship with the water. The same happens when you become a father, it changes everything that has to do with work, and much more so in my life. I don't know if it's better or worse, but it's definitely different."
The film brought along with it a unique set of challenges, Garcia Bernal said, including having to work with a Swedish crew, in Thailand, all while speaking in English.
"I think all movies are generally a challenge," said the star of film such as "The Motorcycle Diaries," "Amores Perros" and "Y tu mama tambien." But he said that's what attracts him to the movies he makes. "Maybe the ones that are the biggest challenges are the most appetizing for me."