NEW YORK — Andy Garcia can't understand why an episode of Mexican history as bloody as the Cristero War is barely known outside Mexico or even within the country.
That curiosity was part of the reason why he accepted the role of General Enrique Gorostieta in "For Greater Glory," a film the Cuban actor compares to epics like "How the West Was Won," ''Doctor Zhivago" or "Lawrence of Arabia."
"About 90,000 people died in three years (1926-1929). There was torture, priests being hung from telegraph poles. It was a very ugly moment in Mexican history," Garcia says of the conflict set off by the government's persecution of Roman Catholics. "The curious thing was I didn't know anything about it ... And when I started to ask some Mexican friends ... they didn't know anything about it."
In the film, which opens Friday in the U.S. after its debut in Mexico, Garcia plays an atheist and retired decorated general who accepts an offer to lead the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty in the war. He doesn't share their religious fervor, but he does believe in the basic right of freedom.
Garcia says he was intrigued by "For Greater Glory" from the moment director Dean Wright and producer Pablo Jose Barroso gave him the script and the book "La Cristiada," by French historian and columnist Jean Meyer, who lives in Mexico.
With a stellar cast that includes Eva Longoria as Gorostieta's wife and Ruben Blades as President Plutarco Elias Calles, "For Greater Glory" also stars Peter O'Toole — "Lawrence of Arabia" himself— as Father Christopher.