It’s my favorite place in the world, because it’s my home where I grew up and began making films, and I had this great childhood.
I grew up on Collins Avenue, the main strip in Miami Beach, in a house with my mom, my grandparents and my great-grandparents. As a kid I was surrounded by all these old people. Miami was just full of them back then.
I still vividly remember “Miami Vice” shooting on the streets … and I’d watch (director) Michael Mann. The first movie I was on was “Scarface.” I’d hang out on the set every day and make friends. Life is funny — Oliver Stone, who wrote “Scarface,” was at my house for dinner last week and we were reminiscing.
I go back to Miami every break I get and I still have lots of friends there. My grandparents now live with me in L.A. They’re originally from Eastern Europe and ended up in Cuba as they couldn’t get into the States, before finally moving to Miami. My whole family is Cuban-Jewish — very passionate, hard-working, highly educated people. I feel that Cuban blood running in my veins and I love Cuban food.
Miami’s changed a lot since I was a kid. It’s much bigger now, lots of tourists, crowds, new buildings. As a kid it felt like a small town to me.
My favorite restaurant growing up was Pumpernickel’s, this great Jewish deli, but it’s gone now. So is the Famous, this great kosher restaurant. That’s sad, but everywhere changes, I guess.
The guy who raised me, Al Malnik — he was like a father figure to me — owned this restaurant called the Forge, this fantastic five-star place, and his son now runs it, so I’m going to have the big Miami “Rush Hour 3” premiere party there, for all my friends. It’ll be great as I’ll probably also see people I haven’t seen in years, and they always tell me, “My God, you told me when you were just 10 you were going to be a big movie director,” so dreams do come true.
— As told to Iain Blair